Breaking News

Giants, Braves, Phillies return to playoff contention

Giants, Braves, Phillies return to playoff contention

MLB Power Rankings: Giants return to NL West contention originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO — If you’re a team that gets incredibly hot at the start of the year, baseball fans start wondering if a historically great season is unfolding. If you do it in September, you might carry that momentum to a World Series title.

If you do it in June, people don’t notice quite as much, but it can be just as important. Just when it looked like division leaders were pulling away from the pack, a few teams that had been languishing in the middle caught fire.

The Atlanta Braves were the most notable example, winning 14 straight to remind the New York Mets that the NL East race didn’t end in May. The Philadelphia Phillies took off after firing manager Joe Girardi, and they’re now firmly in the playoff race. In the American League, the Cleveland Guardians keep winning series after series, and they’ve just about run down the Minnesota Twins, an early surprise.

Even the Giants would qualify to an extent. They’ve had a few clunkers over the last couple of weeks, but also swept the Dodgers to jump right back near the top of the NL West. The Giants are still third in their division, but with some easier opponents coming up, perhaps not for long.

For now, here’s our latest look at all 30:

30. Washington Nationals (24-46): The Stephen Strasburg contract has the potential to go down as an all-time miss. Strasburg finally returned from the IL and then made just one start, and there’s concern that he’s having a recurrence of thoracic outlet syndrome, which cost him most of last season. Since signing a $245 million contract in 2019, Strasburg has made eight starts. He turns 34 next month.

29. A’s (23-45): By rule, even the worst teams get one All-Star, but the A’s don’t need that rule. Righty Paul Blackburn (2.26 ERA in 13 starts) would make it on merit alone.

28. Kansas City Royals (23-42): Sal Perez might get some Hall of Fame buzz when his career is over. He’s up to 210 homers, 18th all time for a catcher, and with three or four more good years, he’ll finish right about where Buster Posey and Yadier Molina are in career WAR.

27. Cincinatti Reds (23-43): Giants people are hoping that Pham Fest is not a big deal next Friday, but there’s no avoiding it. Tommy Pham’s first game at Oracle Park this season is going to draw a lot of attention.

26. Pittsburgh Pirates (26-39): Jack Suwinski got them a win Sunday and made some history, becoming the first rookie to hit three homers in a game and have one of them be a walk-off.

25. Chicago Cubs (25-41): Alexander Canario, one of two prospects they got for Kris Bryant, tore up High-A but has just a .720 OPS in Double-A so far. The power is impressive, though. He has 15 homers in 58 total minor league games this year.

24. Detroit Tigers (26-40): Another reason not to give up on Joey Bart if you’re a Giants fan: Spencer Torkelson, the top pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, has a .190 average and just four homers in 60 games. These things sometimes take time.

23. Colorado Rockies (30-37): The team that wins the NL West might be the one that fares best at Coors Field. The Rockies swept the visiting Padres over the weekend, helping out the other two contenders.

22. Baltimore Orioles (30-38): One of the most interesting things about baseball is how a reliever can put up a spectacular season completely out of nowhere. Jorge Lopez, a 29-year-old righty, has a 0.79 ERA in 29 appearances.

21. Seattle Mariners (29-39): They got outscored by 51 runs last year but won 90 games. As this season is showing, that kind of luck is not repeatable.

20. Chicago White Sox (31-33): Carlos Rodón has been a co-ace for the Giants and Luis González has been a revelation, so the White Sox are probably really, really nervous that it was Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris who ended up with Yermin Mercedes.

19. Arizona Diamondbacks (32-36): With four more strikeouts, Madison Bumgarner will reach 2,000 for his career. He’ll be the 86th player in MLB history to reach that mark.

18. Texas Rangers (31-35): The offseason spending spree has been a bit of a bust so far. Corey Seager has 15 homers but a .305 OBP. Marcus Semien has gotten into a groove after an awful start, but is still sitting on a .626 OPS.

17. Los Angeles Angels (33-36): With a huge start to the season — or a normal one, by his standards — Mike Trout has bumped his career OPS up to 1.004. Only 10 men have ever retired with an OPS over 1.000.

16. Miami Marlins (29-35): At a time when managers are more careful than ever with their pitchers, Sandy Alcantara is a throwback. The young righty is on pace for 254 innings this season.

15. Milwaukee Brewers (38-30): A year after ranking second in the majors, their starters are in the middle of the pack with a 3.80 ERA. Corbin Burnes, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, is the only one under 3.50.

14. Tampa Bay Rays (36-30): Wander Franco has been fine, but the Rays did not give the former top prospect nearly $200 million to just be fine. After a strong rookie year, Franco has a .726 OPS as a sophomore.

13. Cleveland Guardians (34-28): After taking two of three from the Dodgers, they’re within one game of the lead in the AL Central. Overall, they’ve won 15 of 19.

12. Philadelphia Phillies (36-32): Their plan is finally starting to pay off a bit, with Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper having combined for 33 homers already. Now, if they could only get Nick Castellanos to join the party.

11. Boston Red Sox (36-31): They’ve gotten very little attention because of a slow start and the Yankees being the best team in baseball, but they lead the AL Wild Card race and Chris Sale is about to start a rehab assignment.

10. Minnesota Twins (38-30): Dereck Rodriguez made one appearance in the big leagues earlier this year but has spent the rest of the season with Triple-A St. Paul. In nine appearances — six of them starts — Rodriguez has a 6.29 ERA but is averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

9. Giants (37-28): If you watch them every day, it’s hard to feel like they’re a contender right now. And yet … they’re just three games out in the NL West and rank ninth in the majors in run differential. They haven’t hit their stride yet offensively, but this would be a good time for it. The four-game series in Atlanta is going to be a tough one.

8. St. Louis Cardinals (38-30): Paul Goldschmidt has a .424 OBP and a .624 slugging percentage, which is 54 points higher than his previous career high. Seven years after he finished second in MVP voting for the second time, he’s threatening to take another run at the award.

7. Toronto Blue Jays (38-28): After allowing 19 total runs in his first 10 starts, Kevin Gausman has given up 14 in his last three starts and thrown just 12 total innings.

6. Atlanta Braves (38-29): They’re 15-2 in June and ran off 14 straight before dropping a weekend series at Wrigley Field. That cut five games off the Mets’ lead in the NL East and got the reigning World Series champs back in the Wild Card race.

RELATED: Watch Mercedes’ epic celebration after being claimed by Giants

5. San Diego Padres (41-27): They briefly grabbed the NL West lead and then had the worst weekend of anyone. On top of getting swept at Coors Field, they lost MVP candidate Manny Machado to a sprained ankle. Machado’s MRI apparently gave them the best possible news, but still, they figure to have a stretch here without Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.

4. Houston Astros (41-25): Mauricio Dubon had just a .451 OPS going in Houston before a breakout game Sunday night. Dubon had a walk and two hits, including a monster shot to left, his first as an Astro.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (40-25): They’ve lost 11 of their last 18 and just lost Mookie Betts to a cracked rib, but they’ve kept their lead in the NL West, and they have by far the best run differential in the National League. Only the Yankees (+143) and Dodgers (+114) are in triple digits.

2. New York Mets (44-24): It didn’t get a lot of attention, but the addition of Mark Canha was one of the better ones of the offseason. The former A’s outfielder has a .296/.385/.402 slash line while playing all three outfield spots.

1. New York Yankees (49-17): They lead the majors in homers and also in ERA. That’s a combination that has them as a clear No. 1 as the season approaches the midway point.

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast