MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Can the red-hot Yankees beat out the Rays in AL East race?

Music to the ears for a good portion of baseball fandom is also pollution to another portion of fandom. I speak of the team that is still the most polarizing in baseball, the New York Yankees. If you’d like to argue any other team, you’re free to be wrong, but it’s simple reality that the Yankees have both the largest number of fans of any team in baseball and the largest number of opposing fans who love to hate them. 

And though they scuffled around mediocrity for much of the season due to poor play, injuries, COVID issues and seemingly anything else under the sun — like all the baserunning outs! — the Yankees are now the hottest team in the American League with nine straight wins. 

They are getting healthier, both meaning on the injury front and the COVID front. They added two big lefty bats at the trade deadline and both have already paid off in a big way. Luke Voit has gotten hot as well. The bullpen is starting to settle in and should continue to do so. 

Blah, blah, blah … enough of that. The real question is, can they make it a race in the AL East against the defending division and league champion Rays? The Red Sox apparently weren’t up to the task (jeez, what a demise). 

The Rays currently have a 4 1/2-game lead, but the real reason I’m focusing in on this one right now is due to the fact that the two teams square off for their final three games of the season, Oct. 1-3 in Yankee Stadium (unfortunately they don’t play before then). It only has to be within three games for there to be some serious drama, so the Yankees need only make up 1 1/2 games before then. 

Is that doable? Of course! That doesn’t mean it will happen, though, obviously. Let’s see how the schedules shake out, using current records of the remaining opponents and breaking down by individual games.  

Rays

Home vs. sub-.500 teams: 10
Home vs. .500+ teams: 7
Road vs. sub-.500 teams: 6
Road vs. .500+ teams: 14

Yankees

Home vs. sub-.500 teams: 7
Home vs. .500+ teams: 10
Road vs. sub-.500 teams: 9
Road vs. .500+ teams: 12

One spot to watch for each team: 

  • The Yankees have two games in Atlanta and then four in Oakland this week. 
  • The Rays’ closing road trip sees them face the Astros and Yankees. But is it possible those games won’t matter? Yes, it is. In fact, if you’re the Rays, that’s the task. Get the East wrapped up before that week. 

Regardless, it’s fun to dream on this one going down to the wire after the Rays had such a big lead earlier, also knowing they eliminated the Yankees from the playoffs last year. 

Biggest Movers

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Teams

 

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1


Giants

The Giants are on pace to win 104 games right now. That would be the third-highest total in franchise history, after the 1904 and 1905 New York Giants. We done questioning them yet? 80-44

2


Dodgers

The Dodgers have gone 15-4 in August and only gained a half-game on the Giants. Geography can be a pain sometimes. 78-47

3


Rays

Wander Franco has been hitting well for a bit (.315 over his last 27 games, for example), but he’s now riding a seven-game hitting streak in which he’s slashing .429/.484/.714 with five doubles and a homer. 2 77-48

4


Brewers

Just a heads up: Christian Yelich had two homers and six RBI on Saturday. He’s now 15 for 41 (.366) in his last 10 games. Hmm … 76-49

5


Astros

The A’s had a week where they had to deal with the White Sox and Giants. The timing was right to put some distance between them and first place. And though they did gain ground, the Astros lost three of four in Kansas City. File this one away if the A’s do come back and win the West. 2 73-51

6


Yankees

On Thursday, the Yankees went Voit-Rizzo-Judge-Gallo-Stanton 1-5 in the order and I hope this Beefy Lineup becomes a more common thing. 2 72-52

7


White Sox

Heading into the week, the White Sox had been hearing a lot about not being able to beat good teams. They went 4-3 against the A’s and Rays, so that’s not too shabby. 2 72-53

8


Athletics

It was a rough week in terms of wins and losses, but the worst part of all was watching Chris Bassitt take a line drive to the face. Get well soon, Chris. 2 70-55

9


Braves

The Braves have now won 13 straight road games. 4 68-56

10


Red Sox

The Red Sox took three of four from the Yankees July 22-25. Since then, the only series they’ve won has been over the hapless Orioles. 3 70-55

11


Reds

On June 30, the Reds lost to the Padres, making them 0-5 on the season vs. San Diego. They were 8 1/2 games behind the Padres in the NL standings. Less than two months later, the Reds have passed the Padres for the second NL wild card. 3 69-57

12


Mariners

Last seven starts for Marco Gonzales? 4-0, 1.87 ERA, 1.02 WHIP. 67-58

13


Padres

The Padres have now lost nine of their last 11. One of the two wins came against the Diamondbacks. The other was a miracle victory where the Padres were down to their last strike on Saturday night. 2 68-58

14


Blue Jays

So much for that, huh? George Springer is hurt again and the Jays have lost seven of nine. 4 64-58

15


Phillies

Rhys Hoskins returned Sunday and hit two homers, spearheading a series win in San Diego. I can’t help but think that sweep in Arizona will end up being a major regret, though. 63-61

16


Cardinals

The Cardinals had a chance to make a statement against the Brewers, lost the series and then lost a series to the Pirates. 63-60

17


Mets

After three games, they’ll be done with the Giants-Dodgers two-week gauntlet. They’ll then have 14 games against only the Marlins and Nationals. Can they salvage the season during that stretch? 61-63

18


Indians

They really do just roll arms off an assembly line, don’t they? Dreaming on a top four in the rotation of Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie is pretty pleasant. 1 61-61

19


Angels

Anyone else catch A-Rod call Jared Walsh “Brandon” on the Little League Classic mic’d up segment? I swear he said it and it’s not just my old 90210 fandom shining through. Anyway, Shohei Ohtani has 40 homers, 18 stolen bases and a 2.79 ERA. Enjoy. 1 62-64

20


Tigers

Happy 500th home run, Miguel Cabrera. I actually do remember number one! 60-66

21


Rockies

Update on the most absurd split in baseball history: The Rockies play like a 107-win team at home and 38-win team on the road. 1 57-67

22


Royals

Through last Wednesday, Nicky Lopez was hitting .277 with a .347 on-base percentage and it was almost time to start looking up stats for a productive and homerless season. Then he went deep on Thursday. Damn! 2 55-68

23


Twins

The rainout Sunday was cruel and unusual punishment by Mother Nature. Now the Twins have to go back to Yankee Stadium in a few weeks. Here they were almost done for the year! 2 54-70

24


Nationals

Heading into last week, the Nationals had lost 12 of 13 and were set to face two playoff contenders in the Blue Jays and Brewers. They went 3-2 on the week. Baseball at its finest. 1 53-70

25


Marlins

Sandy Alcantara has now gone at least seven innings and allowed no more than two runs 10 times this season. The Marlins have only won three of those games. 2 51-74

26


Cubs

After 12 straight losses, the Cubs messed up and won two straight — against the Reds, no less! — but then righted the ship and were humiliated in three games at home by the Royals. 54-72

27


Pirates

Gregory Polanco was once a top-10 prospect in baseball and showed flashes of that upside sometimes in extended stretches in the majors. Sunday, he was reportedly placed on waivers and it’s possible no one will claim him. He’s just 29. This is a tough game. 1 44-80

28


Diamondbacks

Man, way to choke away the number one pick, D-Backs! Through July 17, Arizona had a .277 win percentage compared to Baltimore’s .319. The D-Backs are 16-15 since then. The Orioles are, well … see comment 30. 1 42-83

29


Rangers

The current .350 winning percentage is the worst since the franchise moved to Texas in 1972. 2 43-80

30


Orioles

That’s 18 straight losses now. They are three away from the dubious franchise (and AL) record. 38-85



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