Three up, three down: Braves humming on hill
The Braves are challenging records in terms of ERA. Having won four in a row and sitting atop the National League East, the Braves have a 2.04 ERA, fourth best in Major League history for a team that's played at least 15 games in April. Eleven pitchers on the Braves' staff have an ERA of 2.61 or lower, and Dave Hale (2.31) is the only member of the rotation with an ERA in excess of 1.95.
The only teams with lower March/April ERAs through at least 15 games were the 1978 Oakland A's (1.85), '81 Oakland A's (1.89) and '81 Los Angeles Dodgers (1.93). The '81 A's and Dodgers both advanced to the postseason. The '78 A's, who finished sixth in the American League West, are a reminder that there are no guarantees.
The '78 A's finished 69-93 with a 3.62 ERA, which ranked sixth in the AL. Their ERA increased every month -- 3.11 in May, 3.74 in June, 3.76 in July, 4.24 in August and 4.67 in September.
The biggest payroll in history hasn't assured the Dodgers of running away with the NL West. They came out of the weekend tied for second place in the division, 1 1/2 games back of San Francisco. Yes, it's early. No, it's not time to panic. But there is reason for concern.
Hanley Ramirez is back on the disabled list. The Dodgers are 63-37 with Ramirez in the lineup since the start of last season, and 42-45 without him in the lineup. The shortstop has keyed an offense that has struggled this year, scoring two or fewer runs in seven of the last 13 games.
And when the Dodgers haven't been playing Arizona, they've struggled. The Dodgers have won only four of nine series, and three of those have come against the D-backs, against whom they are 7-1. And Los Angeles has not enjoyed its time at home (6-9). Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is unscored upon in 26 innings on the road, has given up 16 runs in 13 innings at Dodger Stadium.
UP: White Sox
It took a couple of days for Cuban slugger Jose Abreu to get comfortable. Seven games into the season, the White Sox first baseman was hitting .222. He had driven in six runs along with his six hits, and a pair of doubles represented his only extra base-hits.
Now look at him. Heading into the final three days of April, Abreu has already set rookie records for RBIs (31) and home runs (10) in April.
And the White Sox? Well, they are 13-13 and have remained competitive because of an offense built around Abreu. They lead the Majors with 143 runs scored, rank second in the AL with 31 home runs and feature four regulars hitting better than .300. Big deal? Real big in light of a team ERA of 5.02.
Yes, The Brewers have the best record in baseball at 18-7, and they are 9-1 on the road. Just how good are they? The next week will tell. Milwaukee opens a week-long road trip Monday night with a three-game visit to St. Louis. And the Brewers are definitely shorthanded, as the statuses of right fielder Ryan Braun and shortstop Jean Segura are in doubt.
Braun isn't expected to play in St. Louis because of rib-cage problem that has bothered him for several days. That's in addition to the right thumb injury that has bothered him all season. Segura, meanwhile, suffered a swollen right eye and laceration on his face Saturday when Braun, swinging a bat on the top step of the Brewers' dugout, hit Segura in the head on a backswing. The Brewers have to mull the idea of a roster move to add depth for this trip that takes them to Cincinnati for the weekend.
The Cardinals are a challenge for the Brewers, even at full strength. The Brewers lost two of three at Atlanta to open the season. They have won every other series this year except against the Cardinals, who visited Miller Park earlier in the month and won two of three. Since the start of the 2012 season, the Brewers are 12-25 against St. Louis, losing six of nine at Busch Stadium each of the last two seasons.
The Rockies haven't merely won their last four series, but they took two of three from the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium during the weekend. Big deal? Real big. The Rockies are 44-83 at Dodger Stadium over the last 14 seasons, losing the season series in Los Angeles in 13 of those 14 seasons.
Whether that is a sign of things to come remains to be seen. Jorge De La Rosa allowed one run in seven innings on Sunday, earning his first career win at Dodger Stadium, where he had allowed 38 hits -- including five home runs -- and walked 15 batters in 34 1/3 career innings. And for the season, De La Rosa has overcome early struggles (9.69 ERA first three starts) to allow only four runs in 18 innings his last three starts.
And Justin Morneau is showing that his September struggles after being traded from Minnesota to Pittsburgh last year (.260, no home runs, three RBIs in 25 games) were merely a bump in the road. He is hitting .356 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in 24 games with the Rockies.
DOWN: AL East
The Yankees are 15-10, but they are the only team with a winning record in a division that likes to bill itself as the best in baseball. AL East teams are only 30-32 at home, with the Yankees (8-4) the only club with a winning record. The division is 62-63 overall, and every team has a negative run differential: Boston has been outscored by 15 runs, the Yankees by eight, Baltimore by six, Tampa Bay by five and Toronto by one.
Toronto leads the AL East with 113 runs scored, which ranks fifth in the AL.
No team in the AL has more wins than the Yankees' 15, but New York's 4.18 ERA ranks ninth in the league. Boston leads the AL East at 3.90, which is good for fifth in the league.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.