New Red Machine rises to top of Rankings
Ten straight wins put Cincinnati in No. 1 slot in weekly poll
There is a new machine in Cincinnati that has clipped past the competition in the National League and left one local broadcaster in a hairy situation.
Reds Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman said he would shave his head if the team won 10 games in a row. On Sunday, the first-place club obliged with a 7-2 victory against the Rockies to extend its streak to 10. Cincinnati has won 17 of its past 19 games.
The lesson? Never underestimate the power of winning, how it impacts a city and most importantly, how it affects the ranking of the strongest teams in baseball.
Do the Reds deserve to be on top of MLB.com's Power Rankings, or are the Nationals still the best?
The Yankees still have the best record in the American League. And what has happened to Josh Hamilton and the Rangers?
Is this the year the Pirates not only finish the season with a winning record but also find themselves in the playoffs?
You can tell us what you think by ranking the teams on your own, and you can see the results of your participation in the overall MLB.com Power Rankings, in which the fans' choices are accounted for. For the third season, MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. Three former Major League players -- Larry Dierker, Mitch Williams and Frank Thomas -- are part of the process, as are columnist Peter Gammons and Carlton Thompson, vice president and executive editor of MLB.com. Former general manager and current MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, along with MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach and Jesse Sanchez, are also part of the group.
Agree? Disagree? The power to rank the teams is yours.
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The new-look Reds have Joey Votto on the disabled list, Brandon Phillips hitting third in Votto's place and Brennaman on his way to the barber shop after they won their 10th game in a row on Sunday. What's more, first-place Cincinnati has won 17 of its past 19 games and is 11-2 since losing Votto.
The Nationals have won eight of their past 10 games, and are tied with the Reds for the best record in the NL. Stephen Strasburg, who is 11-4 with a 2.76 ERA and a Major League-leading 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings, will be shut down when he reaches his innings limit, and the Nats might be in the market for another top-notch pitcher to replace their ace down the stretch.
The Rangers need Hamilton to snap out of his current funk at the plate, and they need it to happen now. The Rangers lead the hot-hitting A's by just 4 1/2 games in the AL West standings, and the club will start a four-game series against the third-place Angels on Monday. The 2010 AL MVP is mired in a two-month hitting slump and is batting .115 in his past 17 games.
The Yankees have the best record in the AL, and Mark Teixeira is a big reason why the club has managed to stay on top. After hitting just .219 with four home runs and 14 RBIs last month, the slugger is currently hitting .309 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs with two games left in July.
The Pirates have won 33 games at home this season, the most in the Major Leagues. They have also been a force on the road, hitting home runs in a team-record 19 straight road games for a total of 40 homers in that span. Pittsburgh leads all Major League teams with 72 home runs on the road this season.
The Braves have won five in a row and are coming off a three-game sweep of the Phillies. Jason Heyward has 16 home runs and 15 stolen bases and remains on track to become Atlanta's first 25-25 player since Chipper Jones accomplished the feat in 1999.
Zack Greinke's impact with his new club was immediate -- he gave up two runs in seven strong innings against the Rays on Sunday -- and he is expected to pay dividends down the stretch. Greinke and company could use some help. The Angels' offense was shut out in back-to-back games over the weekend and has not scored in 23 consecutive innings.
The Dodgers have catapulted themselves into a first-place tie with San Francisco in the NL West after sweeping the Giants over the weekend. Hanley Ramirez has seven hits, including a double, a triple and a home run, with seven RBIs in five games since joining the Dodgers last week. Clayton Kershaw said, "We understand this is our year."
Baseball's newest darlings, the A's are 18-4 in July and in sole possession of the top spot in the race for the two AL Wild Card berths. They trail the Rangers by just 4 1/2 games in the AL West and keep finding a way to win. Yoenis Cespedes leads the team with a .305 batting average and 54 RBIs.
The first-place White Sox lead the Tigers in the AL Central, and they have temporarily instituted a six-man rotation after acquiring Francisco Liriano from the Twins. The new rotation should benefit rookie Jose Quintana and first-year starter Chris Sale by allowing them extra rest.
The Giants were swept by the Dodgers over the weekend and are now tied with Los Angeles for first place in the NL West. The club has scored three or fewer runs in five straight games and six of seven, including back-to-back shutouts. Losing third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the DL does not help.
The see-saw battle between Detroit and Chicago in the AL Central has the Tigers trailing the White Sox by 1 1/2 games despite winning six of their past 10 games. Justin Verlander deservedly gets attention for his prowess on the mound, but the club's bullpen has also been stellar, sporting a 2.54 ERA with a .234 batting average against in its past 65 games.
The Cardinals entered the weekend series against the Cubs winners of seven of their past eight games, but they left Chicago on a two-game losing streak and 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Reds in the NL Central standings. The Cardinals have struggled in close games this season, going 16-29 in games determined by two or fewer runs.
Rays pitchers have thrown back-to-back shutouts, while the club's pitchers have now posted 23 consecutive scoreless frames. The bullpen has been solid, led by Fernando Rodney, who has 30 saves in 31 tries with a 0.77 ERA.
The Red Sox won two of three from the Yankees over the weekend and are on the eve of a 10-game homestand they hope will propel them back into the Wild Card race. Carl Crawford has said a couple of times that he will need Tommy John surgery on his left elbow as soon as his 2012 season ends; he will likely be tested by opposing baserunners.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.