It’s hard to believe that the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati is less than two weeks away. Let’s see how your favorite teams as well as the teams you couldn’t care less about are doing.
Now this is a pennant race. The top four teams are separated by one game. The Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays are tied for first, the New York Yankees are ½ game back with the Toronto Blue Jays one game back. And then there are the Boston Red Sox. More on them in a moment.
The O’s (18-11) and Jays (18-9) had the strongest months. Toronto tied a team record with 11 consecutive wins, but the O’s ended the month having won 7 of their last 10 games. The Rays were 17-12 in June, but have lost 7 of their last 10. Ditto for the Yankees. Still, it’s anybody’s race.
Well, maybe not everyone. The Boston Red Sox are looking up at the rest of the division, six games out of first. But perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel. After losing 7 consecutive games between June 9-15, they have gone 9-5 since to finish the month at 14-14. So the Sox aren’t out of it, but they will have play like they have for the past couple of weeks instead of the way they played between mid-April and mid-June to contend. The jury is still out on that question.
A month ago, the Minnesota Twins led the Kansas City Royals by ½ game. The Royals were king in June going 15-11 while the Twins fell to earth. After a 20-7 May, the Twins went 11-17 in June. Still, the Twins are only 4½ games out. The Detroit Tigers, on the other hand, had a second consecutive losing month going 11-13. After a 15-8 tally in April, the Tigers are 24-29 since and are six games back of the Royals.
After a 17-12 May, the Cleveland Indians went 11-15 in June and are now 10 games back of the Royals. But the Tribe isn’t nearly as disappointing as the Chicago White Sox. After acquiring the likes of Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson and Jeff Samardzija, the Chisox were expected to contend. In June, the Chisox went 10-16 and are in the cellar in the AL Central, 11½ games back of Kansas City.
To give you a sense of just how frustrating things are for the White Sox, Chris Sale has struck out 10 or more batters in eight consecutive starts tying a MLB record set by soon to be inducted Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Yet Sale has very little to show for it, going 2-2 in six starts last month and 3-3 since the streak started.
There are now calls for Robin Ventura to be fired. However, it has been argued that owner Jerry Reinsdorf doesn’t have the heart to do it. Ventura was hired to manage the team in 2012 and very nearly took them to the AL Central title. Since then, the Chisox are 169-230 over 2½ seasons. Methinks Reinsdorf will kick Ventura upstairs after this season and hire a new manager for 2016.
Although the Houston Astros were a so-so 15-14 in June, they are still in first place in the AL West and lead the Los Angeles Angels by four games.
The Angels also had a so-so month in June with a 14-13 mark. But a resurgent year by Albert Pujols has kept them in the race. Yet the Angels are bedeviled. It appears that General Manager Jerry DiPoto has resigned. DiPoto has feuded with manager Mike Scioscia for years. Classic moneyball. DiPoto wants the Angels to play according to statistical analysis and Scioscia tells DiPoto where he can stick it and now apparently Pujols has as well. I still think trading away Josh Hamilton back to Texas was a bad idea and will come back to bite them.
Speaking of the Rangers, they were 14-13 in June as well. After a 19-11 May, they have fallen to earth losing 7 of their last 10 games. But they are still only five games back of the Astros. The Seattle Mariners (11-16) are mired in mediocrity and are 9½ out. Although the Oakland A’s were 15-12 in June they are still in last place 11 games back of Houston.
After a slow start last month, the Washington Nationals have won 9 of their last 10 games and lead the New York Mets by 3½ games. The Nationals pitching, led by Max Scherzer who nearly threw back to back no-hitters, has been incredible. At one point, Nats starting pitching held their opponents scoreless for 48 consecutive innings.
The Mets, on the other hand, have had trouble scoring runs. In 15 of their 27 games in the month of June, the Mets scored 2 or fewer runs. Even the Mets pitching isn’t that good. The Mets are 25-30 since May 1st. Still, they are in the thick of it.
As recently as June 21st, the Atlanta Braves were two games out. But the Braves have lost 6 of their last 7 games and they are now 7 games back of the Nationals. The Miami Marlins (12-15) played a little better in June. But now that Giancarlo Stanton is out 4 to 6 weeks with a broken hand, the team is expected to unload starting pitchers Mat Latos and Dan Haren as well as veteran jack of all trades Martin Prado.
The Philadelphia Phillies were so awful that Ryne Sandberg bailed. At this time a month from now, Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley should be in new uniforms. Makiel Franco has shown some punch, but doesn’t have much around him. The Phillies have just hired Andy MacPhail, who will be the team’s new President next season following Pat Gillick’s retirement. MacPhail’s task to turn around the Phillies will be a long term commitment and might not bear fruit until after he leaves as was the case in Baltimore. In the meantime, Phillies fans will just have to suck it up and remember the glory days when the team won 5 consecutive NL East titles and a World Series in 2008.
Despite getting unfavorable press over hacking the Houston Astros database, the St. Louis Cardinals are more than fine on the field. The Cardinals went 19-8 in June and own MLB’s best record at 51-25. They are 8 games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates whose 43-33 record (17-12 in June) would be good enough to lead both the NL East & NL West.
The Chicago Cubs are still contending, but have lost six of their last seven games to finish June at 14-13. Overall, they are 10½ games back of the Cardinals. All Cincinnati Reds fans have to look forward to is hosting the All-Star Game and have one last look at Brandon Phillips, Johnny Cueto, and Jay Bruce because there’s a good chance they will be shipped off at the trade deadline. The Reds underachieved again in June going 13-14 and now find themselves 16 games back of St. Louis. Even the Milwaukee Brewers finished June with a .500 record (14-14), but are 21½ games back of the Cardinals.
After a strong April & May, the Los Angeles Dodgers went 15-15 in June. They still lead the San Francisco Giants by 1½ games. The Giants played .700 ball in May (21-9) but fell to 12-14 last month.
The team that arouses my curiosity is the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D’Backs went 14-14 and are six games back of the Dodgers. But with Paul Goldschmidt having an MVP caliber season, one good week and the D’Backs are in the thick of the race.
The San Diego Padres went 12-15 in June and are 5-9 since firing Bud Black. The Padres are only one game back of the D’Backs, but I see these two teams going in completely different directions.
As for the Colorado Rockies (12-17), I wonder if manager Walt Weiss is on borrowed time.