|Photo by USA Today|
There's a line of demarcation right now in major league baseball -- 39 wins. A quick glance at the standings shows that each team with at least 39 wins either occupies, or is within two games of, a playoff spot. Does your favorite team have fewer than 39 victories? They'd better play in the NL West, where San Francisco, Colorado, and San Diego are all within three games of first place -- behind the Diamondbacks, who have a record of 39-33.
Here's how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the majors shaking out:
1. St. Louis Cardinals (46-26; LW: 1) - Hughes: The Cardinals have one of the best pitching staffs and lineups in the majors, and have been fortunate to stay very healthy. Everything is going their way.
2. Boston Red Sox (44-30; LW: 2) - Roney: Not to kick a dead topic, but closer is my least favorite role in sports. Felix Doubront pitches eight innings, giving up three hits with no walks on just 93 pitches. John Farrell brings in Andrew Bailey to slam the door, and he gives up a homer on his second pitch, tying the game at 1-1. Infuriating.
3. Cincinnati Reds (44-29; LW: 3) - Hughes: Arroyo, Latos, and Leake are all pitching like All-Stars. If they can keep it up the Reds are as complete a team as anyone.
4. Atlanta Braves (43-30; LW: 4) - Roney: El Oso Boo-boo just hit the DL, sidelining one of Atlanta's most reliable power bats. Kudos to the Braves, however, for shelving him right away.
5. Oakland A's (43-31; LW: 5) - Zuckerman: Their stadium may reek of sewage, but this team smells awfully good right now.
6. Baltimore Orioles (42-31; LW: 10) - Roney: Manny Machado is on pace for about 70 doubles -- or, thinking even longer-term, about 40 home runs in a few years.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates (42-30; LW: 6) - Hughes: Pittsburgh may have the most underrated pitching staff in the game right now.
8. Texas Rangers (40-32; LW: 7) - Zuckerman: Joe Nathan (21 of 22 saves converted) has quietly resurrected his career in Texas.
9. Detroit Tigers (39-31; LW: 8) - Hughes: Their team batting average is .281, that's just insane. They have the best hitter in the game in Miguel Cabrera and may have the best bench as well.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (39-33; LW: 11) - Zuckerman: They're talented, and they've got a lot of fight in them. (Yes, pun intended.)
11. New York Yankees (39-32; LW: 9) - Roney: Old, slow, hurt -- somehow they're still hanging around. How is it that New York just never has an actual down year?
12. San Francisco Giants (37-34; LW: 14) - Zuckerman: Productive lineup, struggling pitching staff. Wait, are we really talking about the Giants?
13. Tampa Bay Rays (37-35; LW: 12) - Roney: Wil Myers has arrived, much to the delight of Rays fans and fantasy baseball prospect gurus everywhere.
14. Colorado Rockies (37-36; LW: 13) - Zuckerman: It's been a feel-good season so far, but the extended loss of Troy Tulowitzki is probably too much to overcome.
15. Cleveland Indians (36-35; LW: 17) - Hughes: Taking two out of three from the Nats was no fluke as Cleveland is starting to win like they did earlier in the season.
16. Washington Nationals (35-36; LW: 15) - Roney: Nats pitchers threw the equivalent of a perfect game last night -- they just started after Michael Young's two-run homer.
17. San Diego Padres (36-36; LW: 16) - Zuckerman: Very quietly lurking in the shadows, but don't underestimate these guys.
18. Toronto Blue Jays (35-36; LW: 24) - Roney: Don't look now, but the Jays are streaking right as Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, and Brandon Morrow are set to return from injury.
19. Kansas City Royals (34-36; LW: 24) - Hughes: Of their once top prospects that are now in the majors, it seems all have turned out to be good but none of them great.
20. Philadelphia Phillies (35-38; LW: 19) - Roney: Was Domonic Brown's power surge just a momentary flash? Phils phans better hope not.
21. Los Angeles Angels (32-40; LW: 25) - Zuckerman: Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton hitting a combined .237. Good use of money in Anaheim.
22. Minnesota Twins (32-36; LW: 20) - Hughes: With one of the worst pitching staffs in the majors, it will be interesting to see if former National Alex Meyer gets a shot this season.
23. Seattle Mariners (32-41; LW: 23) - Zuckerman: Oliver Perez (yes, THAT Oliver Perez) has a 1.07 ERA as a lefty relief specialist.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers (30-40; LW: 22) - Zuckerman: Puig-mania is in full force, but let's see what happens once the league has the book on him.
25. Chicago White Sox (29-40; LW: 21) - Hughes: Chicago had been a contender in the A.L. Central for the better half of a decade, but this year the bottom has fallen out.
26. Chicago Cubs (29-41; LW: 27) - Hughes: The Cubs are bad once again this year, but with Jeff Samadzija and Travis Wood they may have the young pitching to break out next season.
27. Milwaukee Brewers (29-41; LW: 26) - Hughes: With a lost season in the works, perhaps the Brewers sell off a few pieces at the deadline. They have some talent, it's just not working.
28. New York Mets (27-41; LW: 28) - Roney: Zack Wheeler looked great (though a little wild) in his debut -- the Mets may never hit again, but they could have two young aces for the next several years.
29. Houston Astros (27-46; LW: 29) - Zuckerman: Well, at least they signed No. 1 pick Mark Appel quickly.
30. Miami Marlins (22-49; LW: 30) - Roney: Giancarlo Stanton is going to be hitting a lot of solo home runs for the rest of the season.