MLB Power Rankings Week 25: NL West Providing All the Excitement

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2010

MLB Power Rankings Week 25: NL West Providing All the Excitement

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 16:  Jonathan Sanchez #57 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during a Major League Baseball game at AT&T Park on September 16, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Ima
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    As the season winds down, more and more teams are getting closer to clinching a playoff berth. The Yankee, Rays, Twins, Rangers, and Reds are all sitting very comfortably in the driver's seat as their respective magic numbers drop by the day.

    This is not quite the case in the wild, wild NL West.

    The Padres' struggles have opened the door for both the Giants and Rockies. Now only 1.5 games separate the three teams.

    The Rockies, seemingly dead in the water two weeks ago, are pounding teams in September and are now a legitimate contender.

    The Giants pitching staff has righted the ship and might just run away with the title if the Padres don't figure out how to score more runs.

    And at this point in the season, that isn't going to happen.

    Two of the three could conceivably make the playoffs as the Braves are starting to fall apart. They have relinquished the NL East lead to the Phillies. Now they are just hanging on for dear life in the wild-card hunt.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 15:  Jose Tabata #31 of the Pittsburgh Pirates fields a ball against the New York Mets on September 15, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    The Pirates were 48-98 after their loss to the Mets earlier last week. The Pirates were 50 games under .500 for the first time since they finished the 1953 season with a 50-104 record.

    But they righted the ship (get it...Pirates?) and swept the D-backs over the weekend.

    Now they are only 47 games under .500!

29. Seattle Mariners

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Chone Figgins #9 of the Seattle Mariners scores against catcher Matt Treanor #20 of the Texas Rangers on a double by Franklin Gutierrez #21 in the sixth inning at Safeco Field on September 19, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo b
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    From Elias: Felix Hernandez beat the Rangers as he struck out eight batters to take over the AL lead in strikeouts (four more than Jered Weaver) while lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.35.

    Over the past 20 seasons there have been 13 pitchers who led their league in both ERA and strikeouts; 12 of them won their league's Cy Young Award the year they did it.

    The anemic Mariners offense is the reason Hernandez will be denied the Cy Young.

28. Arizona Diamondbacks

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    SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 29:  Rodrigo Lopez #13 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 29, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Rodrigo Lopez earned the win as the Diamondbacks beat the Reds Thursday.

    Lopez had been winless in his previous 11 starts, the longest such streak within a season for any pitcher in Diamondbacks history.

    Lopez was 0-7 with a 6.53 earned-run average during his winless streak.

27. Kansas City Royals

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 15:  Pitcher Bryan Bullington #41 of the Kansas City Royals in action during the game against the New York Yankees on August 15, 2010 at Kauffman stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Royals should be much better than their record.

    They have the THIRD-best team average in baseball at .275, yet somehow they rank 23rd in baseball with 573 RBI.

    In other words the Royals don't have a clutch bone in their collective bodies.

26. Baltimore Orioles

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    BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Ty Wigginton #23 of the Baltimore Orioles is chased by Robert Andino #12 after driving in the game winning run in the eleventh inning against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards on September 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Adam Jones is having a stellar month of September. He is hitting .410 with 10 RBI with a 1.118 OPS. This is after Jones hit .304 in August.

    Encouraging sign for next year.

25. Cleveland Indians

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Jason Donald #16 of the Cleveland Indian scores a run against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on September 8, 2010 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.   The Angels won 4-3 in 16 innings.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Im
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    From Elias: Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest for an Indians rookie since Cory Snyder's 17-game streak in 1986. No Cleveland rookie has fashioned a hitting streak longer than 17 games since Larry Doby hit safely in 21 consecutive games in 1948.

24. Washington Nationals

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    ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Danny Espinosa #18 of the Washington Nationals turns a double play as he leaps over Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 15, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Nationals all but announced this weekend that Nats' skipper Jim Riggleman would be back on the bench in '11.

    Adam Dunn reached the 35-home run mark for the seventh straight season Tuesday night.

23. Chicago Cubs

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    CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 05: Tyler Colvin #21 of the Chicago Cubs hits the ball against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on September 5, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Mets defeated the Cubs 18-5. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Tyler Colvin's injury on Sunday wasn't pretty. A broken bat hit him right in the face.

    Lots of blood later, Colvin was in bad shape and ended up in the hospital.

    It begs the question...what do to about the current MLB bat? Does a more serious injury need to occur to fix this?

22. Milwaukee Brewers

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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 15:  Prince Fielder #28 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits a soft line drive to left field in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros on September 15, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Brewers were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday.

    What a disapointing season for the Brew Crew. The explosive offense was handcuffed by the awful pitching staff. The 4.69 team ERA, which is 26th in baseball, isn't getting the job done.

    If Prince Fielder is traded this winter...GET A GOOD PITCHER!

21. Los Angeles Angels

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Juan Rivera #20 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at bat against the Seattle Mariners during the game at Angel Stadium on September 12, 2010 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Scott Kasmir won for the first time in six weeks. He was 1-9 in his previous 12 starts.

    Kazmir made his first appearance at Tropicana Field since being traded to Los Angeles by the Rays in August of last season.

    Bobby Abreu hit his 20th home run of the season on Sunday. He now has nine 20-homer, 20-steal seasons, third most in major league history. Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonds both reached the plateau 10 times.

20. Houston Astros

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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brett Myers #39 of the Houston Astros hits a sacrifice fly to center field against the Cincinnatti Reds scoring Humberto Quintero from third base at Minute Maid Park on September 19, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Ge
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Astros season may ave been over by May, but they have played exceptionally well down the stretch.

    On August 21th the Astros were 53-69. Since then they've won 18 of 27 games.

    A big reason why is Hunter Pence. His 45 RBI since the All-Star Break are third-most in the NL. Pence leads the team in home runs with 24 and he's tied with Carlos Lee for the team lead in RBI with 85.

19. Florida Marlins

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 25:  Logan Morrison #20 of the Florida Marlins scores a run off of a single hit by Hanley Ramirez #2 (not shown) in the seventh inning against the the New York Mets on August 25, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Que
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    Move over, Fish. The Marlins are getting bumped from their own stadium for a series next June.

    Bono has the building booked, so the Marlins have to look for an alternative venue for the June 24-26 series against the Seattle Mariners next season.

18. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Third baseman Russ Mitchell #9 of the Los Angeles Dodgers commits a throwing error allowing Miguel Olivo (not pictured) of the Colorado Rockies to score in the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Los A
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    This week the Dodgers announced that Don Mattingly will be taking over the managerial postion from Joe Torre after the season ends.

    It was a rough last season for Torre, who had to constantly deal with the distraction that is the ugly divorce proceedings of his owner, Frank McCourt.

    At this point it's clear the Dodgers have completely given up on the season. They are 5-12 this month and the team energy has been non-existent. LA is counting down the days of the season and it's painfully obvious.

17. New York Mets

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: David Wright #5 of the New York Mets fields a ground ball in front of Jose Reyes #7 against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on September 19, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nic
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Rookie Jenrry Mejia has been shut down by the Mets for the season with a strained muscle in his shoulder.

    Mejia began the season in the Mets' bullpen before getting demoted to AA in June to resume working as a starter. He had returned to the Mets and was making his third start.

    Mejia, the organization's top pitching prospect, is a contender for a rotation spot next spring training. Mejia went 0-4 with a 4.62 ERA in 33 appearances (three starts) in 2010.

16. Oakland Athletics

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    OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Coco Crisp #4 of the Oakland Athletics is tagged out by Adrian Beltre #29 of the Boston Red Sox after Crisp tried to reach third base after tagging up on a fly out to center field at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on Sept
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Chris Carter went 0-for-3 on Sunday. Carter is 0-for-30 in 10 games in the majors. It's the longest hitless streak to begin a major-league career by a non-pitcher since Vic Harris went 0-for-his-first-36 for the Rangers in 1972, their first season in Texas.

    Other than that you're doing great.

15. Toronto Blue Jays

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    BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Edwin Encarnacion #12 of the Toronto Blue Jays is congratulated by Travis Snider #45 after hitting a home run in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on September 13, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Phot
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Jose Bautista is a beast.

    He leads baseball with an impressive 49 home runs. That’s 10 more than second place! Bautista also has knocked in 114 RBI, second-best in baseball.
     
    Where has all the power come from?  His previous career high is a mere 16 homers and 64 RBI. This guy is due for a huge pay raise next year.

14. Detroit Tigers

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 19:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers runs the bases after his first inning two run home run against the New York Yankees on August 19, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Im
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Jim Leyland became the 18th manager to work 3,000 major league games on Sunday night.

    Leyland has a 1,486-1,511 record over 19 years with Pittsburgh, Florida, Colorado, and Detroit, leading the Marlins to the championship in 1997 and the Tigers to the American League champs in 2006.

    Leyland is just the fourth manager to reach the milestone with a losing record, joining Connie Mack (.486), Bucky Harris (.493), and Gene Mauch (.483).

13. Chicago White Sox

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    CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 14: Manny Ramirez #99 of the Chicago White Sox strikes out with the bases loaded in the 7th inning against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on September 14, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Twins defeated the White Sox 9-3. (Ph
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Manny Ramirez has been less than stellar for the White Sox. He has hit .266 and only has one RBI since coming over at the beginning of the month. The late season aquistition has not gone according to plan.

    The White Sox currently sit a season-high 9.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. Stick a fork in them, the White Sox are cooked.

12. St. Louis Cardinals

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    ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 19: Starter Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium on September 19, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Padres 4-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Image
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    One of the oddest stats during this season was in full force this week. The Cardinals were swept by the Cubs during the week and haven't won a series against a team with a losing record since the end of July.

    On the flipside, they took three-of-four from the Padres over the weekend. They haven't lost a series against a team with a winning record since early July.

    So I guess it's a problem that they had one of the easiest schedules in baseball.

11. Boston Red Sox

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 15:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 15, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Adrian Beltre has been a monster for the Red Sox in his first season in Boston.

    He's hitting .329, which is good enough for third in the AL, with 28 homers and 98 RBI.

    September has been really good to Beltre. He has a .383 average with 10 ribbies. Beltre has at least one hit in all but one game this month.

    Tough love in the AL East. If the Red Sox were in the AL West, NL Central, or NL West they would be right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Instead they are stuck in third place.

10. Colorado Rockies

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Colorado Rockies hits a double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third inning at Dodger Stadium on September 18, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Rockies defeated the Dodgers 12-2.  (Phot
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Troy Tulowitzki contiues to knock the cover off the ball. He has 14 home runs in his last 16 games. He has 33 RBI in the month of September—that's good enough for seventh on the Mariners roster for the entire season!

    The Rox show have been unbeliable once again in the month of September, but time is running out. Only 1.5 games, the Padres and the Giants stand in the way of a NL West crown.

    But they need to keep winning, only 13 games remain.

    The Giants come to Denver this weekend. Needless to say, this might be the biggest remaining series in baseball.

    Jorge De La Rosa has been solid for the Rockies of late. He has won his last four decisions. Lefties are hitting under .200 against him and has gone at least six innings in each of his last six starts.

9. Texas Rangers

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    ST. PETERSBURG - AUGUST 17:  Outfielder Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers misses this pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on August 17, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Josh Hamilton has finally turned into the all-world slugger most experts had predicted when he was selected No. 1 overall by the then-Devil Rays.
     
    This season he has combined power and average, hitting .361 while hitting 31 home runs and knocking in 97 RBI.
     
    He ranks first in baseball in batting average and in slugging percentage with .635. He ranks second in MLB in OPS with 1.049.
     
    Big problem though.

    He hasn’t played since Sept. 4th with aching ribs. An MRI over the weekend revealed three bruised ribs and some inflammation, but the Rangers still have no potential timetable for the slugger's return. The Rangers will need him if they want to have a shot in the postseason.

    Hamilton received two cortisone shots this week.

8. San Diego Padres

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    ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 19: Yorvit Torrealba #8 of the San Diego Padres attempts to tag out Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on September 19, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Padres 4-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vishw
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    From Elias: Matt Stairs' ninth-inning homer in a Padres win was the veteran's ninth pinch-hit home run over the last two seasons, a major league record. Stairs had been tied with two players who hit eight home runs off the bench in a two-season span: George Crowe (1959-60 Cardinals) and Dave Hansen (1999-00 Dodgers).

    Time to worry about Mat Latos?

    The Cardinals scored three runs in the first inning and another five in the second to send Latos home early. Latos allowed two runs in the first inning against the Giants in his previous start after giving up a total of only two first-inning runs in his 26 previous outings.

    His ERA has jumped from 2.21 to 2.84 over the last two starts.

    Is the innings workload beginning to catch up to the 22-year-old pitcher? He is at 168 on the season.

7. Cincinnati Reds

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    HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 19:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnatti Reds scores in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros on a single by Jay Bruce at Minute Maid  Park on September 19, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Reds are sort of coasting along with such a big division lead. The magic number to clinch is down to eight and the Reds have begun to rest their players more often than usual.

    The burning question in Cincinnati involves the closer situation.

    Francisco Cordero has been awful of late, blowing multple saves. Jay Bruce had to rob a potential game-tying home run that would have given Coco another blown save.

    Fans are clamoring for the young phenom Aroldis Chapman. He has been next to unhittable since joining the Reds August 31st.

    But stick with the veteran. Cordero may be going through a slump, but he has been there before. He has 35 saves and went two months earlier this season without blowing a save.

    Have patience, because he will rebound from this rough stretch.

6. Atlanta Braves

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: Craig Krimbel #46 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates the win with teammate Brian McCann #16 against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 19, 2010 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo b
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    From Elias: Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out the side and earning a save.

    It was Wagner's third save this season in which he faced at least three batters and struck out every one of them, tying him with Carlos Marmol for the major-league lead in that category. 

    They are beginning to fade down the stretch. A 9-9 month is not good enough. The Braves have fallen three games back of the first place Phillies in the NL East. After holding the top spot in the division for most of the season, the Braves are fighting for their lives just to secure the Wild Card spot.They have the ability to do it—the Braves play the Phils six times over the last two weeks starting Monday.

    Time to step it up Braves.

5. San Francisco Giants

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 16: Chris Ray #47 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates with Eli Whiteside #22 after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers during a Major League Baseball game at AT&T Park on September 16, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo b
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    The Giants control their own destiny in the NL West. They are currently a half-game up on the second-place Padres. They also play both the Padres and the Rockies in the final two weeks.

    Pablo Sandoval has really struggled of late.

    Sandoval is 3-for-32 in September.

    "You've got to keep confidence in him just like he has to keep confidence in himself," said manager Bruce Bochy.

    "More than anything, he gets out of balance up there. He gets overanxious, over-amped. He can hit, but when he doesn't, he puts added pressure on himself."

    Sandoval had been benched four times in a seven-game span last week. A .330 hitter last season, he is going through more than the typical sophomore slump.

4. Philadelphia Phillies

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 01:  Jimmy Rollins #11 of the Philadelphia Phillies catches a throw to second base against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 1, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    The Phillies are red hot. They are 15-3 this month. They have scored at least seven in eight of those games.

    Huge series with the Braves awaits. If they take two of three then the race may be over.

    Ryan Howard now has five straight seasons with at least 30 HR and 100 RBI. He is the fifth player whose primary position is first base with at least five straight 30-HR/100-RBI season since RBI became official in 1920.

    And he made a cameo in the latest season of Entourage. Big things going on for Howard.

3. Minnesota Twins

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    CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 14: Manager Ron Gardenhire #35 of the Minnesota Twins congratulates Jason Kubel #16 after a win over the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on September 14, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Twins defeated the White Sox 9-3. (Photo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Danny Valencia homered Saturday for the Twins against the A's.

    It's just their 45th HR at Target Field this season.

    The ballpark has not been a hitter's park to say the least. If the Twins keep this "pace," they will have one of the fewest amounts of homers by a team in their first season at a home ballpark in the modern era.

    Saturday's win gives them 49 at home. In the last 80 years, only three teams won 50 home games while hitting 50 or fewer HR there that season. It hasn't happened since the 1979 Astros won 52 games at the Astrodome while hitting 49 homers there.

    The Twinkies swept the White Sox this week, virtually clinching the division in the process. Business as usual for the Twins.

2. Tampa Bay Rays

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Relief pitcher Rafael Soriano #29 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates his save against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 15, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Intresting stat. From Elias: The Rays edged the Angels, 4-3, in 10 innings on Saturday, the sixth straight one-run game played by Tampa Bay. That's the longest such streak in the Rays' 13-season history and it's one shy of the longest stretch by any major-league team this season. The Diamondbacks played seven consecutive games decided by the minimum margin, from May 30 through June 6.

    The Rays are still neck-and-neck with the Yanks for first place in the AL East. Beating them two-out-of-three this week was big, but the four game set at Yankee stadium this week is momuental.

    A split would be OK, but taking three would be huge both mentally and in the standings. Beating the big bad Yanks would be a huge boost for the postseason for the small market Rays. If they can get out of the Bronx alive, the schedule really lightens up.

    The remaining cupcakes are the O's, Royals, and Mariners.

1. New York Yankees

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    BALTIMORE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Kerry Wood #39 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on September 19, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Andy Pettitte is back.

    He returned to the mound after a two-month absence on Sunday. His six innings of three-hit, one-run ball are good enough for a quality start.

    What's up with Mariano Rivera? His last four appearances: two blown saves and a loss, 3.1 innings, five hits, three runs.

    Kerry Wood has been great of late for the Yanks. In 20 apperances as a Yankee, he has only allowed one earned run and that was 18 apperances ago!

    Looks as if Wood will be a major piece of the Yankees bullpen in the playoffs.