michael-martinez_584

Phillies' Michael Martinez has done a good job filling in for infielder Placido Polanco, posting a .236 batting average in his first 50 major league games and has made only two errors, both in the outfield. ((Seth Wenig/Associated Press))

Every second Friday, CBCSports.ca's Mike Dennis breaks down the balance of power in Major League Baseball.
1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES [no change]
Record : 61-36
Last 10 : 6-4

The Phillies are good enough to substitute 28-year-old Michael Martinez who was in AA a year ago for clutch third baseman Placido Polanco and not miss a beat. Still have the best record in baseball.
2. BOSTON RED SOX[up from 3]
Record : 59-37
Last 10 : 8-2

Similar success for the Red Sox who called up Josh Reddick from AAA Pawtucket to keep the non-productive J.D. Drew out of the lineup and Reddick has knocked in nearly as many runs (17) in 150 fewer plate appearances as Drew.
3. NEW YORK YANKEES[down from 2]
Record : 57-39
Last 10 : 6-4

Mariano Rivera is on the verge of 25 saves for the 15th year in a row. He’s also had 30-plus saves in a season 13 times as he chases Trevor Hoffman’s all-time record of 601 saves. The 41-year-old Rivera has 583 and counting.
4. TEXAS RANGERS[up from 7]
Record : 56-43
Last 10 : 8-2

Rangers missed the club record of 14 straight wins (1991) by two as they blew a five-run lead to the division rival Angels. Prior to the loss, they blanked the opposition four times in six games.
5. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS[no change]
Record : 57-42
Last 10 : 7-3

A nice post-all-star run has given the Giants some breathing room in the NL West. They added Jeff Keppinger from Houston to play second base, recalled highly touted rookie Brandon Belt and had a six-game winning streak against the Dodgers snapped by a 1-0 loss July 20, their longest string of success against their state rival since 1969.
6. ATLANTA BRAVES[down from 4]
Record : 58-41
Last 10 : 5-5

First baseman Freddie Freeman became the first Braves rookie since Henry Aaron in 1954 to have 50 RBIs by mid-July. The 1-2 bullpen combo of Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel has surrendered only 63 hits in 108 1/3 innings pitched.

7. MILWAUKEE BREWERS[up from 9]
Record : 53-47
Last 10 : 5-5

Brewers seem to have a two-man closer plan in mind as they added K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez, to work alongside Canadian fireman John Axford. Who gets more save chances? A bigger problem is trying to figure out how to win on the road, where they’re 13 games under .500.

8. PITTSBURGH PIRATES[up from 14]
Record : 51-45
Last 10 : 6-4

Last Monday was the first time since 2002 that ESPN showed a Pirates game on national television. The Pirates delivered in the spotlight, too, with a 2-0 victory over division rival Cincinnati.
9. DETROIT TIGERS[up from 12]
Record : 52-46
Last 10 : 6-4

The Tigers remain in lockstep with the Indians atop the AL Central. Detroit figures newly acquired Wilson Betemit will be an improvement over the comatose Brandon Inge at the hot corner. The latter had just 17 RBIs this year after belting 27 homers in 2009.
10. CLEVELAND INDIANS[up from 11]
Record : 51-46
Last 10 : 4-6

The Indians trotted out a starting outfield of the old and the new with Austin Kearns, Ezequiel Carrera and Luis Valbuena this week. Shin-Soo Choo and, once again, Grady Sizemore are on the disabled list which puts pressure on the Cleveland pitchers to produce.
11. TAMPA BAY RAYS[down from 6]
Record : 52-45
Last 10 : 4-6

Were the Rays calling on help from above as they battled to keep in touch with the AL East powers, the Yankees and Red Sox? Tampa got a win when Curtis Granderson lost a fly ball in the Tropicana Field covering, but the gap for the third-place Rays seems to be widening.
12. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS[down from 10]
Record : 53-46
Last 10: 5-5

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson likes Ryan Roberts because he sees a lot of himself in the 30–year-old third baseman. “He’s good and he’s a knucklehead,” said Gibson of Roberts. The Snakes were bitten, though, by Stephen Drew’s broken ankle.
13. LOS ANGELES ANGELS[no change]
Record : 53-46
Last 10 : 6-4

Jered Weaver became the first pitcher with at least 12 wins and an earned run average under 2.00 in his first 20 starts since Pedro Martinez in 2000. The all-star started 12-4 with a 1.90 ERA entering Thursday’s game against Texas.
14. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS[down from 8]
Record : 51-47
Last 10 : 4-6

What team wouldn’t love to have Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman in the middle of their lineup. Well, maybe the team that’s hit into the most double plays in the major leagues, with their big swing, slow run guys.
15. NEW YORK METS[up from 16]
Record : 49-49
Last 10 : 4-6

Jose Reyes isn’t going anywhere by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, so the Mets say. Carlos Beltran? Could be a different story if a contender gets desperate enough to give up some prospects for a 34–year-old oft-injured high-salaried player, who is enjoying a nice bounce-back season, topping 60 RBIs.
16. TORONTO BLUE JAYS[up from 20]
Record : 50-49
Last 10 : 8-2

What’s got into Travis Snider and Edwin Encarnacion? The threats of another visit to Las Vegas for the young outfielder or permanent banishment for the all-hit no-glove EE? Snider had 17 RBIs since his recall from AAA on July 4. Must be an American Revolution.
17. CINCINNATI REDS[down from 15]
Record : 48-50
Last 10 : 4-6

The defending NL Central champs halted a losing streak that included back-to-back shutout losses to division rival Pittsburgh with a nice outing by Johnny Cueto who dropped his ERA below 2.00 in his sixth win of the season. Still, record is below .500.
18. WASHINGTON NATIONALS[down from 17]
Record : 48-50
Last 10 : 3-7

Comeback trail for the Nationals includes news that Stephen Strasburg (coming off Tommy John surgery) threw a simulated game and Chien-Ming Wang - remember him with the Yankees? - may be recalled before the end of the month.
19. FLORIDA MARLINS[up from 24]
Record : 47-52
Last 10 : 6-4

Doesn’t Marlins skipper Jack McKeon realize that roller-coaster rides might not be the best thing for an 80 year old? The Florida club floundered to a 5-23 record in June before righting the ship with 11 victories thus far in July
20. CHICAGO WHITE SOX[down from 19]
Record : 47-51
Last 10 : 4-6

All that bleepin’ cursing coming from White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen? He could blame the foul ball that struck him in the face Wednesday or more likely his White Sox players who didn’t show much life in losing in 11 innings to Kansas City. Don’t look now Ozzie, Minnesota’s right behind you

21. MINNESOTA TWINS[up from 23]
Record : 46-52
Last 10 : 6-4

There they are. The Twins reached five games under .500 on July 21 for only the second time since April 28. Joe Mauer looks like Joe Mauer again (11-for-18 in five games). Big test ahead against Detroit, which is 5-0 against the Twins so far in 2011.

22. COLORADO ROCKIES[down from 21]
Record : 47-52
Last 10 : 5-5

Good news for the Rockies is that team home-run leader (18 dingers) Troy Tulowitzki has been red-hot since the all-star break just as he was at the start of the season. Rockies, though, face a 10-game deficit for the NL wild card spot.
23. LOS ANGELES DODGERS[up from 27]
Record : 43-55
Last 10 : 6-4

Shut out 10 times, the Dodgers fired hitting coach Jeff Pentland and replaced him with Dave Hansen. Did it help? Yeah, Clayton Kershaw bested Tim Lincecum in a pitcher’s duel and the Dodgers exploded for a 1-0 victory over the Giants.
24. SAN DIEGO PADRES[down from 22]
Record : 44-55
Last 10 : 4-6

Same record as their southern California neighbours, the Dodgers, but the Padres seem headed south, despite their 14-3 thrashing of the Marlins this week.
25. OAKLAND ATHLETICS[no change]
Record : 43-55
Last 10 : 4-6

The A’s could celebrate the 500th professional home run by Hideki Matsui, the first pro player to hit that number in Japan (332) and the U.S. (168). Less cause for celebration was a ball to the face of Scott Sizemore and a sore foot by flashy rookie Jemile Weeks, wiping out half their infield.
26. SEATTLE MARINERS[down from 18]
Record : 43-55
Last 10 : 0-10

The Mariners navigated to .500 waters on July 5 and then lost their oars, rudder and the keys to the stash of rum below deck with a double-digit slide. The offence broke out with 16 runs in a three-game sweep at the hands of Toronto.
27. BALTIMORE ORIOLES[down from 26]
Record : 39-56
Last 10 : 3-7

Winning the prize for the best 4-13 pitcher in baseball is the Orioles’ Jeremy Guthrie, who reached double-digit figures in wins three years running prior to this season. Since he’s Baltimore’s best pitcher, you can imagine how the rest of the staff is shaping up.
28. KANSAS CITY ROYALS[no change]
Record : 40-58
Last 10: 4-6

The Royals shipped Wilson Betemit to Detroit for a couple of prospects, something the franchise has in abundance. Next up? Maybe, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, possible trade deadline pieces for prospective contenders.
29. CHICAGO CUBS[no change]
Record : 39-60
Last 10: 3-7

Wrigley’s been red-hot. 97 F, with a heat index of 108; 120 on the field. The Cubs? Not so hot and the second team to reach 60 losses.
30. HOUSTON ASTROS[no change]
Record : 33-65
Last 10 : 3-7

Six Pence for the Astros’ thoughts. Do we hang onto our keepers and build around them or trade to assemble a team? Hunter Pence, what do you think? He’s the all-star, the best player and one of the few assets on the club (Michael Bourn, Wandy Rodriguez, to name two others). We may soon find out how much a Pence is worth.