Orioles soar to top of Power Rankings
Showalter's upstart crew flying high after sweep at Fenway
We're just over a month into the 2012 campaign, and it seems the season has already gone to the birds.
That's a good thing if you live in Baltimore. It's actually a great thing.
The Orioles have the best record in the American League and are off to a fantastic start. Manager Buck Showalter has his club believing this could be the year the O's fly back into the playoffs and perch themselves among the most powerful teams in the game, and it's hard to blame him.
Just don't forget about the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays yet. The AL East powers appear poised to make this another memorable season in the division.
The Rangers remain at the top of the class in the AL West, but the A's are surging, and a showdown with the Angels in Arlington this weekend could set the tone for the month.
Speaking of power, everyone already knows how good Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp is, but the baseball world is buzzing over the immediate impact of 19-year-old Nationals rookie Bryce Harper.
The Dodgers and Nationals are among the most successful teams in the game at the moment, and Kemp and Harper are a big reason why fans are feeling their power from coast to coast.
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 is yours.
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The AL East-leading Orioles are coming off their first sweep of the Red Sox in Boston. The Birds are off to their best start in seven seasons, they enter Monday with the best record in the game and have won four consecutive extra-inning games on the road.
The Rangers have lost four of their past five games but still lead the AL West by 3 1/2 games. The Texas offense should get a boost with the return of Adrian Beltre to the starting lineup this week.
The Dodgers are still in first place and have new ownership, but they have some issues. Kemp did not start on Sunday due to a tight left hamstring, hot-hitting Jerry Hairston has a strained left hamstring and Juan Uribe's wrist is still hurting. Closer Javy Guerra has three losses to go with three blown saves and a 5.84 ERA in 14 games.
The Rays have lost two straight for the first time since a four-game losing streak a week into the regular season, and they now hit the road for an eight-game road trip against the Yankees, Orioles and Blue Jays. Sunday was just the second time in the past 43 games the Rays lost when scoring at least five runs.
Harper has already made his presence felt, and the timing of his emergence could not better. The Nationals suffered a huge blow on Sunday night when right fielder Jayson Werth broke his left wrist. Werth will miss at least 12 weeks.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is looking for creative ways to keep Allen Craig in the lineup, and it's paying off. Craig has recorded an RBI in each of his four games since returning from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. He racked up three RBIs on Sunday to give him seven in those four games.
Since being swept by the Mets to open the season, the Braves have won six of eight series, with one split. The starting pitching has been erratic lately, but Freddie Freeman's bat remains consistent. The first baseman has batted .356 with six homers and a .712 slugging percentage in his past 18 games.
Derek Jeter leads the Major Leagues with a .397 batting average, Nick Swisher is off to a hot start and Curtis Granderson continues to be a force on both sides of the ball. The loss of Mariano Rivera obviously is a blow, but David Robertson and Rafael Soriano are ready to step in.
The Indians won two of three from the Rangers over the weekend, and that should surprise no one. Jason Kipnis is riding a 10-game hit streak, batting .421 (16-for-38) with seven RBIs in that span. Indians starters have registered quality starts in eight of the club's past nine games, posting a 2.89 ERA during that stretch.
Yunel Escobar has been a mainstay in the lineup and has produced big-time since he was moved to the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Overall, Escobar is hitting just .254 with one home run and 12 RBIs, but he's hitting .450 (8-for-16) with five RBIs in his past five games.
Miguel Cabrera is playing like a candidate for the AL MVP award once again, and his production could push the Tigers to the top of the division by the end of the week. The slugger has hit safely in 13 of his past 17 games, dating back to April 17. During that stretch, he is batting .333 (23-for-69) with three doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs.
After a sluggish start, Miami is back to .500 at 14-14, and Giancarlo Stanton and Omar Infante are a big reason for that. Stanton is riding a season-high nine-game hitting streak, while Infante has had a hit in 10 of his past 12 games.
Center fielder Andres Torres is starting to meet the expectations placed upon him. The veteran has at least one hit in each of his six games since returning from the disabled list, and he has at least one RBI in five of the six contests. It appears the Mets will be without shortstop Ruben Tejada for a spell after the infielder strained his right quad in Sunday's 3-1 win over the D-backs.
Second baseman Brandon Phillips continues to struggle at the plate, which might shift him out of the cleanup spot. Phillips, who missed five games last month with a sore left hamstring, is hitting .184 with just three RBIs in his past 10 games and has a .215 batting average for the season.
The loss of Pablo Sandoval, who has a fractured hamate bone in his left hand, is a huge blow to the offense, but the pitching has picked up the slack. Giants starting pitchers have limited opponents to three earned runs or fewer in 17 of their past 18 games.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.