|Photo by USA Today|
By Steve Roney
The Braves and Tigers are each riding winning streaks of epic proportions, and are benefitting in different ways. The Braves have used their 13-game streak to put serious distance between themselves and the remainder of the NL East field, putting the division crown all but out of reach for the second-place Nationals. The Tigers, meanwhile, have used their 11-game streak to stave off the also-surging Indians and Royals.
Here's how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the league shaking out:
1. Atlanta Braves (70-45; LW: 7) - Hughes: They've won 13 straight games and show no signs of slowing down, but are they peaking too early?
2. Boston Red Sox (70-46; LW: 3) - Hughes: Jake Peavy fared well in his first start with the 'other' Sox and could solidify their rotation for the stretch run.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates (69-44; LW: 1) - Zuckerman: It's no longer a question if they'll snap the 20-year losing streak, only if they'll also snap their postseason drought. Looking good for that, too.
4. Detroit Tigers (67-45; LW: 5) - Zuckerman: Just when it looked like they might be in danger, Tigers take down Indians and roll off 11 straight wins.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (66-47; LW: 6) - Zuckerman: They're really feeling the loss of Molina, not just at the plate but behind it as well.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (66-47; LW: 2) - Hughes: Rookie Wil Myers has been sensational. Though it's only a quarter of a season, he already looks like one of the better young power hitters in the game.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers (63-50; LW: 8) - Roney: L.A.'s record before Yasiel Puig's debut on June 3: 25-32. Their record since: 38-18. Of course it's not all thanks to him, but it's also no accident.
8. Oakland A's (64-49; LW: 4) - Roney: That gust of wind earlier this week was the collective sigh of relief from the entire city of Oakland, as Bartolo Colon escaped a Biogenesis suspension. The way they must have been preparing themselves for life without Colon, his non-suspension is almost equivalent to adding an ace at the deadline.
9. Texas Rangers (65-50; LW: 11) - Roney: They're surging right now, but continuing to do so without Nellie Cruz, their leading home run and RBI man, will be extremely difficult.
10. Cincinnati Reds (63-51; LW: 9) - Zuckerman: A really solid team, but at this point they may have no choice but to settle for a Wild Card.
11. Baltimore Orioles (63-51; LW: 10) - Hughes: Chris Davis is back to hitting the cover off the ball, just in time for the pennant race to start heating up.
12. Cleveland Indians (62-52; LW: 12) - Zuckerman: Missed a golden opportunity to catch Detroit in the Central, but they're still in the postseason race.
13. Kansas City Royals (58-53; LW: 15) - Zuckerman: Just enjoyed their best prolonged stretch in years. Unfortunately it happened just as Tigers and Indians got hot, too.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks (58-55; LW: 14) - Roney: I know Ian Kennedy is having a down year, and in fact may continue to trend downward, but he came in fourth in Cy Young voting just two seasons ago, and they got very little in return for him. There's no such thing as "surplus" pitching, and even if there was, the Diamondbacks don't have it.
15. New York Yankees (57-56; LW: 13) - Hughes: Alex Rodriguez' return has been entertaining for all of us viewing it from the outside, but it hasn't helped them end their recent losing.
16. Washington Nationals (54-60; LW: 16) - Hughes: The division seems entirely out of the question at this point. Now the focus is on the Wild Card, but even that is easier said than done.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (53-61; LW: 20) - Hughes: They are a massive disappointment this season, and will likely have the same group together next year. Josh Johnson is their only big contract coming off the books.
18. Seattle Mariners (53-61; LW: 17) - Roney: They just gave Jason Bay his release, and the end might be near for the one-time slugger, derailed by injuries. Home run total in 2009, with the Red Sox: 36. Home run total in the four years since: 37.
19. San Diego Padres (52-62; LW: 22) - Roney: Regression from Chase Headley was to be expected, but he looks like he's not going to hit even half as many home runs as last season's 31 (he has eight as of this morning).
20. Los Angeles Angels (51-62; LW: 21) - Roney: They're not the worst team in baseball, not even close, but does anyone else have worse long-term prospects? The farm system is barren, save for C.J. Cron, who may be blocked at the major league level for years, and they have what feels like $1 billion committed to Pujols, Hamilton, Wilson, and Weaver.
21. Colorado Rockies (52-63; LW: 18) - Roney: It's odd for a team with two young superstars to be so mediocre, but injuries are a big part of that. Since the start of 2010, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez have missed almost 300 combined games -- and CarGo just hit the DL once again.
22. New York Mets (51-60; LW: 23) - Hughes: Matt Harvey has continued to pitch well out of the All-Star break and is probably just behind Clayton Kershaw in terms of NL Cy Young favorites.
23. Philadelphia Phillies (51-62; LW: 19) - Hughes: Locking up Chase Utley is something they probably had to do as he deserves to someday retire as a member of the Phillies.
24. San Francisco Giants (50-63; LW: 26) - Roney: Remember when this was the best rotation in the major leagues? Or, even further back, when Tim Lincecum and Brandon Webb were the class of NL pitching?
25. Minnesota Twins (49-62; LW: 25) - Zuckerman: Now pitching for Minnesota: Jamey Carroll! And he retired the side!
26. Chicago Cubs (50-63; LW: 24) - Zuckerman: At what point is it fair to question Theo's ability to turn this franchise around? Still nowhere close to contending.
27. Milwaukee Brewers (49-65; LW: 27) - Zuckerman: At least Kyle Lohse proved to be a solid acquisition.
28. Miami Marlins (43-69; LW: 28) - Hughes: Jose Fernandez, 20, has turned some heads this season as an NL All-Star, but 22-year-old Jacob Turner (2.68 ERA through 12 starts) is another keeper for the Fish.
29. Chicago White Sox (43-69; LW: 29) - Zuckerman: It hasn't gotten much attention, but things are a complete train wreck on the South Side.
30. Houston Astros (37-76; LW: 30) - Roney: With four more Astro wins, the '62 Mets will surely pop champagne Miami Dolphins-style (they do that, right?), but Houston is still on pace to eclipse last year's 107 losses for their third straight 100-loss season.