Can the Red Sox and Rangers slug their way to the playoffs?
Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees on Sunday, July 17, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Right now, the American League standings are all about offense.
The AL's top five teams in runs scored – Boston, Toronto, Cleveland, Baltimore and Texas – are also the five teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended now. It's no shock that a high-scoring offense can lead to more wins, but the Red Sox and Rangers in particular are in this position despite middling performances on the mound.
Texas and Boston have allowed the fourth- and fifth-most runs in the AL. Perhaps that will change now that Yu Darvish of the Rangers is back from the disabled list – and after the Red Sox traded for All-Star Drew Pomeranz in an attempt to bolster their starting rotation.
Article continues below ...
That move was an indication that Boston isn't comfortable simply trying to outslug teams all season.
''I still think that – and we've seen it ourselves – when we face good pitching, good pitching is likely to shut down good hitting,'' Red Sox manager John Farrell said. ''I don't see that changing.''
Despite leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging, the Red Sox are a couple games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East. Texas, meanwhile, has lost nine of its last 12 and now leads Houston by only 4 1/2 games in the AL West. The Rangers had a double-digit advantage toward the end of last month.
The race in the East could be especially intriguing. Baltimore's team ERA of 4.31 isn't much better than Boston's 4.38.
''When you look at, whether it's Baltimore or us or other clubs, you're looking at starting rotation ERA probably in the bottom half, so I think it speaks volumes to the number of runs that can be put up on a more consistent basis than some other clubs,'' Farrell said. ''But I would like to think that the most complete team is the one that emerges to advance.''
Here are a few other developments from around baseball:
AT THE BOTTOM
There were no 100-game losers in either of the past two seasons, but a whopping four teams are on pace to reach that mark right now. Atlanta (on pace for 106 losses), Minnesota (103), Cincinnati (102) and Tampa Bay (100) are the top candidates for baseball's worst record in 2016.
The Rays snapped an eight-game losing streak with a win over the Orioles on Sunday. Tampa Bay had lost 24 of its previous 27.
Pomeranz now presents quite a conundrum for fantasy owners. He's a left-hander who has left San Diego to pitch in front of the Green Monster in Boston – while also switching leagues. But there's a good chance he'll have more run support now.
Pomeranz's departure left room in San Diego for Edwin Jackson, who resurfaced Sunday for his first start since 2014. Jackson held San Francisco hitless until the seventh inning.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Perhaps the most surprising line of the week belongs to Pittsburgh star Andrew McCutchen. He was the only player to go 0 for 8 in his team's 18-inning victory over Washington on Sunday.
The best line, however, was turned in that same day by Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets, when he threw a 1-hitter against Philadelphia.
AP Baseball Writer Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.