This time of year, there seems to be a heavy reliance on the clichéd phrase, "It's still so early ... it's only week so and so." Well, this past week, four teams in particular got the message that their seasons, while not literally over, were on the verge of potentially being over before the chase really started.
The Boston Red Sox got dealt a rough hand with that 11-game road trip to start the season. They may have also over-thought the wear-and-tear issue with their rotation. They came up with the idea to back off their starters in spring training, and all five members of their rotation got out of the gate in terrible form.
But despite all the issues, the Red Sox floated into St. Petersburg, Fla., with a very real chance of being knocked a near death blow if the Rays had swept them. So, with their backs against the wall, they showed their championship mettle and swept the Rays.
The New York Yankees now have 13 players on the IL. That is simply staggering. The latest is outfielder Aaron Judge, who could miss 4-6 weeks (or more) with an oblique strain.
So, what did they do? They had a 5-1 week with a lineup that is truly unrecognizable. OK, so three of the five wins came against the Kansas City Royals. Still, the Yankees scratched, clawed and willed their way to victory against the odds. That is character with a capital C. Only time will tell if they have enough to stick around until the cavalry gets back, but if they can, the character they'll acquire by going through tough times may have its own reward.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, after getting to back-to back World Series, have a certain level of swag and they certainly are entitled to it. But often teams such as this can't muster the necessary hard work, and they struggle to dig deep enough to get back up in the ring to fight for a championship.
The Dodgers lost all four games in their series with the Cardinals in St. Louis April 8-11 and then dropped the first two of a three-game set at home against the Milwaukee Brewers. But they grabbed the last one of the three, and used that to trigger to a 6-1 week. The Dodgers swept the Cincinnati Reds for three at home and then weathered Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich's insane start to take three of four at Miller Park.
The Chicago Cubs stumbled badly out of the gate. Maybe it wasn't quite as bad as the Red Sox, but it certainly was painful to watch and contemplate that Joe Maddon's five-year run at the helm of the Cubs could come crashing down with a disaster of a season.
The Cubs came out punching, winning five of their last six -- though three of the games were against the Miami Marlins and the other three were against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Without further ado, here are my Week 4 MLB Power Rankings:
1. Tampa Bay Rays (14-8, No. 1 last week): Thwarted by the Red Sox at the Trop, the schedule feeds the Rays the hapless Royals and then a chance at revenge at Fenway. The injury bug hit with outfielder Austin Meadows heading to the injured list for at least 10 days with a finger injury.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (15-9, No. 9): The outfield tandem of Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger has combined for 21 homers and 44 RBIs. Ross Stripling has helped out an injury-depleted rotation to the tune of a 3.07 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 29.1 innings. Closer Kenley Jansen is 7-for-8 in save opportunities and has a 0.86 WHIP.
3. Houston Astros (13-8, No. 2): Right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole truly are top-tier starters, but the questions start with righty Collin McHugh and lefty Wade Miley. Are they good enough? No. 1 pitching prospect Forrest Whitley has been oddly slow tracked at Triple-A.
4. Boston Red Sox (9-13, No. 7): The Sox displayed a huge amount of character during a three-game sweep at Tampa Bay. With second baseman Dustin Pedroia out again -- and Eduardo Nunez and Brock Holt banged up, too -- the club might just roll the dice with infield prospect and power bat Michael Chavis at the keystone spot.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (12-9, No. 3): With offense sparser than anticipated, the focus is directed at the club's starting rotation: Michael Wacha (4.64 ERA), Adam Wainwright (4.74), Miles Mikolas (4.97), Jack Flaherty (5.00) and Dakota Hudson (5.89). The rotation has stunk, plain and simple. It's early, but reliever Andrew Miller's two-year deal at $24 million guaranteed looks like a sunk cost.
6. Milwaukee Brewers (13-10, No. 4): Others in that lineup need to pick up the pace or else nobody will pitch to Christian Yelich, who is off to one of the most insane starts of any reigning MVP I can remember.
7. New York Yankees (11-10, No. 12): If Aaron Boone can jockey this everyday lineup currently at his disposal and keep them in the hunt until reinforcements arrive, it'll be one of the best jobs by a Yankees manager since Ralph Houk was able to get that aging team of legends to the World Series from 1961-1963.
8. Philadelphia Phillies (12-9, No. 10): The Phillies are going through a tough injury stretch that has seen Jean Segura hit the IL, but they got the best news possible with the last two outings by right-hander Jake Arrieta.
9. Washington Nationals (10-10, No. 11): Twenty games in, excuses aside, manager Dave Martinez needs to hustle his team to far better than .500 during the next 4-6 weeks.
10. Atlanta Braves (11-10, No. 6): The Braves are hanging tough in the hand-to-hand combat that is the NL East's four-team scrum. Third baseman Josh Donaldson trending up could make all the difference. In his last 47 at-bats, Donaldson is hitting .400/.466/.702 with 16 hits, five doubles, four homers and seven RBIs.
11. Seattle Mariners (16-9, No. 8)
12. New York Mets (11-10, No. 5)
13. Minnesota Twins (12-7, No. 13)
14. Chicago Cubs (10-10, No. 16)
15. Pittsburgh Pirates (12-7, No. 19)
16. Cleveland Indians (12-9, No. 18)
17. San Diego Padres (12-11, No. 16)
18. Oakland Athletics (11-13, No. 15)
19. Colorado Rockies (9-13, No. 21)
20. Texas Rangers (12-8, No. 24)
21. Detroit Tigers (10-9, No. 20)
22. Los Angeles Angels (9-13, No. 17)
23. Toronto Blue Jays (11-13, No. 28)
24. Arizona Diamondbacks (11-11, No. 27)
25. Cincinnati Reds (8-13, No. 22)
26. Chicago White Sox (8-12, No. 25)
27. San Francisco Giants (9-14, No. 23)
28. Kansas City Royals (7-15, No. 26)
29. Miami Marlins (6-16, No. 29)
30. Baltimore Orioles (8-15, No. 30)