Thursday June 24th, 2010

The Texas Rangers have won 10 straight games, but enthusiasm should be tempered for any winning streak in which half the victories have come against the lowly Astros and Pirates. In fact, each of the Rangers' 10 straight wins has come against a National League team with a losing record. But any streak of that length is noteworthy for the necessary consistent play, and the Rangers haven't been squeaking by, either, as they've more than doubled up their opposition in runs scored, 64-28.

In putting together this fortnight of hot play -- Texas has won 13 of its last 14 -- the Rangers have pummeled the baseball all over the diamond. They've failed to reach nine hits only once in their baker's dozen of recent wins, scoring 6.9 runs per game and batting .303.

Left fielder Josh Hamilton's bat has been especially torrid: He has a 17-game hitting streak during which he's batted .485 (33-for-68) with eight home runs and 24 RBIs, bringing his season totals (.339 average, 17 home runs, 53 RBIs) closer to where they were in his All-Star 2008 season than his injury-plagued 2009. And he's being careful about his swing by declining to participate in this year's Home Run Derby, thus denying fans a chance to see if he can replicate his unforgettable display in the Derby two years ago.

MLB Power Rankings
1New York Yankees
Last Week: 1
Recently the Yankees have seen a lot of "Bad A.J." That's the A.J. Burnett who walks too many hitters, coughs up a lot of homers and is unable to go deep into games. Over his last four starts -- all losses -- Burnett has walked 11 and given up nine home runs in 20 innings, twice failing to go more than four. While the average AL starting pitcher has an ERA four times worse in losses (8.03) than wins (2.11), Burnett's ERA is about 17 times worse in his losses (10.74) than wins (0.64).

The Yankees will try to protect their top rankings as they renew an old rivalry with the Dodgers this weekend. The two clubs have met in the World Series 11 times, and this will be the first meeting between the teams since Joe Torre left New York and landed in Los Angeles.
2Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 2
Left fielder Carl Crawford is in second place in the All-Star voting and it looks likely that the 2009 All-Star MVP will be voted in as a starter for the first time in what would be his fourth appearance. It's well-deserved, too: He has saved 15.6 runs defensively, per Ultimate Zone Rating, which is nearly six runs better than any player at any other position. He's also second in the majors in runs scored (56) and is tied for second in stolen bases (26). He was also last week's AL Player of the Week after going 9-for-21 with nine runs, a homer and three steals.
3Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 5
Closer Jonathan Papelbon blew a save and got the loss in the worst possible fashion on Wednesday night, allowing three runs on a pair of homers from Ian Stewart and Jason Giambi. Papelbon has now allowed six home runs this season, which is already a career high, and his strikeout rate (7.6 K/9) is by far a career low. Top setup man Daniel Bard filled in admirably at times when Papelbon has been unavailable, saving three of four ninth-inning chances and pitching to a 2.13 ERA while making 36 appearances, tied for most in the AL with Oakland's Brad Ziegler.
4Texas Rangers
Last Week: 11
What happened to Ian Kinsler's power? The second baseman, who hit 31 homers last year, is instead resembling a slap hitter this season, batting .282 with an impressive .380 on-base percentage but a paltry .359 slugging percentage, thanks to just one home run, no triples and 11 doubles among 51 hits.
5Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 4
The Twins rotation behind Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano has always seemed pretty similar, and indeed Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey all have near-identical career ERAs: 4.31, 4.40 and 4.43, respectively. This was reinforced last week when Blackburn lasted 1 2/3 innings against the Phillies and had a line of 6 H, 8 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO, and then the next day Slowey's line was 1 2/3 innings, 7 H, 7 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO. Though usually they have similar slightly above-average success, this time they had near equal incompetence.
6San Diego Padres
Last Week: 6
Maybe San Diego's success shouldn't be so unexpected. As noted by the Los Angeles Times, the Padres finished 2009 with a 37-25 mark over their final 62 games, which is identical to the record with which they opened '10, so. Of their now 42 wins, 15 have come while scoring three or fewer runs.
7Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 7
Eric Hinske has been something of a good luck charm of late. In the past three seasons he has played for the Red Sox in 2007, the Rays in '08 and the Yankees in '09, which just so happen to be the past three AL pennant winners, two of whom won the title. So the Braves were shrewd to sign Hinske, who in a utility role has served Atlanta well with a .309 average, .375 OBP and .544 slugging, the product of hitting for extra bases on half of all hits (21 of 42).
8New York Mets
Last Week: 9
In a nod to poking fun at the misbehaving pop star who flipped off fans at Citi Field, on Wednesday the Mets held a "Mets Fans Go Gaga for Wright" celebration, with a foam finger giveaway -- the index finger, however -- to "Make Wright #1," as David Wright, the NL leader in RBIs (56), trails Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco in the All-Star voting. Lady Gaga showed Mets fans a different finger after making an unauthorized trip into the luxury suite of comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently. On WFAN Seinfeld, who called several innings of Wednesday's game for the Mets' TV network, said of the incident, "This woman is a jerk. I hate her."
9St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 10
Looking to jumpstart his offense, manager Tony La Russa moved Matt Holliday from the cleanup spot to the No. 2 hole in the lineup and received immediate dividends. In his first week in the new spot, Holliday batted .435 with four home runs and eight RBIs, earning NL Player of the Week honors. He denied that the new lineup spot mattered, but results are results.
10Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 3
Led by a sweep at the hands of the Red Sox over the weekend, the Dodgers had a six-game losing streak and a 2-9 interleague record. One would think they might fare better, given that they've essentially started a full outfield of should-be designated hitters. The two worst Ultimate Zone Ratings in all of the majors belong to center fielder Matt Kemp (-16.5) and right fielder Andre Ethier (-13.8). Left fielder Manny Ramirez, the one actually DH'd in Boston, has "only" a -4.1 UZR, though he's a veteran of bad ratings, having never posted a positive UZR and twice had a mark of at least -25.
1 - 10 11 - 20 21 - 30

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.