Pablo Reyes hit a grand slam against Carlos Hernandez with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the host Boston Red Sox to a 6-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday in the opener of a four-game series.

It was the first home run of the season for Reyes, who collected three hits and scored three times in the win. Boston had lost four straight games and seven of its last eight.

The home run came minutes after Royals manager Matt Quatraro was ejected for arguing a ball-four call. Hernandez fell to 1-7 this season. Kenley Jansen (3-5) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth to earn the win. He struck out two.

Kansas City starter Cole Ragans went 6 2/3 innings. He gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits, walked one and struck out a career-high 11. Designated hitter MJ Melendez had three hits for the Royals.

Brewers 12, Rockies 1

Freddy Peralta retired the final 20 hitters he faced after allowing a first-inning solo homer to pace Milwaukee over visiting Colorado in the opener of a three-game series.

Peralta (8-8) allowed just one runner in seven innings, a one-out blast in the first by Ezequiel Tovar, who hit his 11th home run of the season. Peralta matched his career high with 13 strikeouts with no walks in his 94-pitch outing.

Elvis Peguero and Andrew Chafin each tossed a perfect inning to preserve the one-hitter and maintain Milwaukee’s lead of 1 1/2 games over Cincinnati in the National League Central.

Dodgers 13, Padres 7

Mookie Betts capped an eight-run fourth inning with a grand slam to lead visiting Los Angeles to a victory over San Diego.

The Dodgers were trailing 5-4 when Betts connected for his 31st home run of the season. David Peralta added an RBI double and Jason Heyward ripped a two-run double as part of the fourth-inning outburst.

Catcher Luis Campusano had four hits and drove in four runs for the Padres, who scored five runs in the third to jump out to an early lead.

Twins 9, Tigers 3

Ryan Jeffers and Carlos Correa hit three-run homers during the first two innings and Minnesota won its fifth straight game by pounding host Detroit.

Correa scored two runs and drove in four for the American League Central Division leaders. Winning pitcher Pablo Lopez (7-6) scattered five hits and didn’t walk a batter while recording eight strikeouts in seven innings.

The Tigers have lost nine of their last 12 games. Nick Maton hit a three-run homer for Detroit. Joey Wentz (2-10), making his first start since June 28, surrendered eight runs and 10 hits in three innings.

Reds 5, Marlins 2

Brandon Williamson allowed one run on three hits over 6 2/3 innings as host Cincinnati earned a victory over Miami in the opener of a three-game series.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Joey Votto homered for the Reds, who snapped a six-game losing streak.

Jorge Soler and Jazz Chisholm Jr. each went deep for Miami, which lost its fifth straight game. Twenty-year-old right-hander Eury Perez (5-4), making his first major league start since July 6 after being sent down to the minors to rest, took the loss, allowing four runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings.

Pirates 7, Braves 6

Jared Triolo hit a two-run single during a six-run third for Pittsburgh, which topped visiting Atlanta.

Connor Joe homered, Andrew McCutchen hit an RBI double and Henry Davis and Liover Peguero each added an RBI single for the Pirates, who have won two straight games and three of their last four.

Atlanta starter Spencer Strider (12-4) had his shortest outing of the year, giving up six runs and five hits in 2 2/3 innings. Ozzie Albies went deep for the Braves.

Blue Jays 3, Guardians 1

Cavan Biggio hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning to break a scoreless tie and help lift visiting Toronto to a win against Cleveland in the opener of a four-game series.

Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ryu made his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery in June of 2022, but his night was cut short when he was hit in the lower right leg by a line drive off the bat of Oscar Gonzalez at the end of the fourth inning.

Enyel De Los Santos (4-2) started the eighth for the Guardians after rookie right-hander Gavin Williams had blanked the Blue Jays on one hit over seven innings. De Los Santos gave up a one-out, broken-bat single to Daulton Varsho before Biggio lifted a changeup over the fence in center field for a 2-0 lead.

Mets 11, Cubs 2

Pete Alonso tied career highs with two homers and six RBIs for host New York, which snapped a six-game losing streak with a win over Chicago in the opener of a three-game series.

Alonso hit a three-run homer off Drew Smyly (8-8) in the first and laced a two-run shot against the Cubs’ left-hander in the third before closing out the scoring with an RBI single off backup catcher Tucker Barnhart in the eighth. Kodai Senga (8-6) earned the win by allowing two runs over six innings.

Cody Bellinger was 3-for-3 with two RBIs for the Cubs. Smyly allowed seven runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out five over five-plus innings.

White Sox 5, Yankees 1

Andrew Vaughn smacked a two-run home run and made a game-saving defensive play to lift host Chicago past New York.

Chicago stretched its winning streak to three games while sending the Yankees to their third loss in four games. New York went 1-for-12 with men in scoring position while leaving 13 runners on base.

Gerrit Cole pitched seven-plus innings. He fell to 10-3 after spacing four runs and five hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

Giants 8, Angels 3

San Francisco scored six runs in the ninth inning to rally past Los Angeles in Anaheim, Calif., sending the reeling Angels to their seventh loss in a row.

The Angels led 3-2 going into the ninth, thanks in part to a home-run-robbing catch by center fielder Mickey Moniak in the eighth. Moniak leaped and reached above the wall to pull back pinch hitter Joc Pederson’s potential game-tying blast.

It became a moot point in the ninth when the Giants pounded Angels closer Carlos Estevez, who was charged with his second consecutive blown save after beginning the season with saves in 23 consecutive chances. San Francisco finished with 11 hits.

Rangers 5, Athletics 3

Mitch Garver had three hits and two RBIs to help Texas come from behind and beat host Oakland.

Travis Jankowski’s fielder’s choice in the eighth inning pushed across the tiebreaking run for Texas, which has won a season-high seven consecutive games. It is the Rangers’ best streak since they also won seven straight in June 2018.

Zack Gelof had a two-run double for the Athletics, who dropped to 5-27 against American League West teams this season.


CLEVELAND (AP) — Tim Anderson’s decision to pick a fight with José Ramírez cost him more than a sore jaw.

Chicago’s shortstop was suspended six games and Ramírez for three games by Major League Baseball for throwing punches and touching off a lengthy, wild brawl between the White Sox and Guardians on Saturday night.

Major League Baseball announced the discipline for Anderson and Ramírez on Monday, along with other suspensions and fines following one of baseball’s ugliest fights in several years.

Anderson and Ramírez also were fined an undisclosed amount. Both players are appealing.

Anderson was handed the harsher penalty for instigating the fight as he and Ramirez faced off in the middle of the infield like boxers inside the ropes. Anderson connected with a couple punches before Ramirez dropped him with a blow to the face.

Also, Cleveland manager Terry Francona, Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase and third base coach Mike Sarbaugh have been suspended one game each. Chicago manager Pedro Grifol was also suspended for one game.

In addition, White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech and Guardians rookie Gabriel Arias have been fined an undisclosed amount for their actions.

Francona and Clase will serve their suspensions Monday when the Guardians open a four-game series with Toronto. Grifol also will serve his suspension Monday when the White Sox host the New York Yankees. Sarbaugh intends to sit on Tuesday.

“When something like that happens, there’s going to be a price to be paid,” said Francona, who expressed gratitude that Michael Hill, MLB vice president of on-field operations, had reached out to him.

Francona didn’t offer opinion on the severity of Ramírez’s penalty.

“He’s going to appeal,” he said. “My hope is that he always can lower it because he’s such a good player. I thought they seemed to me to be extremely conscientious in what they were doing, at least when I talked to them.

“If you’re the home team or you want your guys to get none, you want them to get 20. That’s probably not the way it’s going to work.”

Losing Ramírez for as much as a series is another challenge for the Guardians, who are trying to stay connected with the first-place Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. Cleveland begins the week 4 1/2 games back.

The White Sox are 23 games under .500 and already planning toward next season after moving some veterans at the trade deadline.

This is Anderson’s third suspension since 2019.

The two-time All-Star was suspended for one game four years ago when his bat flip after a home run against Kansas City led to him being hit with a pitch and triggering a benches-clearing altercation. Last season, Anderson made an obscene gesture toward fans in Cleveland and got a one-game ban.

Blue Jays manager John Schneider joked that the timing of the suspensions may help his team.

“I don’t hate the fact that Clase is unavailable tonight,” he said, “and I hope I Ramírez begins his suspension tomorrow.”

Anderson and Ramírez exchanged several punches near second base in the sixth inning, and the Guardians’ All-Star third baseman landed a right haymaker to the White Sox shortstop’s chin, knocking him onto the infield dirt.

Players and coaches for both teams joined in and there were other flareups during the extended melee. The umpiring crew needed more than 15 minutes to get things under control so the game could be resumed. Chicago won 7-4.

The dustup began innocently with Ramírez sliding headfirst into second with an RBI double. He slid between Anderson’s legs and seemed upset by a hard tag. Ramírez jumped to his feet and the two exchanged words, with Ramírez pointing in Anderson’s face as second base umpire Malachi Moore tried to step between.

Anderson then dropped his glove and challenged Ramírez by raising his hands and assuming a boxer’s stance. The players threw punches with Ramírez connecting with a blind punch that dropped Anderson on his backside and triggered both teams to join in.

Following the game, Ramírez said he had been upset with Anderson for some previous actions.

“He has been disrespecting the game for a while,” Ramirez said through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “It’s not from yesterday. It’s from before. I even had the chance to tell him during the game, ‘Don’t do this stuff. That’s disrespectful. Don’t start tagging people like that,’ because in reality, we’re here trying to find ways to provide for our families.”

When he got to his feet, Anderson continued to try and get at Ramírez.

He was guided off the field only to return moments later and tried to get at Ramírez before he was physically carried into the dugout by teammate Andrew Vaughn, who wrapped his arms around Anderson.

The White Sox and Guardians completed their season series Sunday and won’t face each other again until 2024.


HOUSTON (AP) — Jon Singleton is being called up by the Houston Astros, returning to the team he last played for in 2015.

Singleton told The Associated Press he was heading to Baltimore on Monday to join the team for the opener of a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles, who have the best record in the American League.

The first baseman adds some depth at a position where José Abreu is the starter. Abreu has underperformed in the first year of a three-year $58.5 million contract, hitting just .237 with 10 homers and 56 RBIs.

The left-handed slugger has been playing at Triple-A Sugar Land after signing a minor league deal with the Astros on June 24 following his release from the Brewers. He’s been great since joining the Space Cowboys, hitting .333 with 12 homers, 28 RBIs and a 1.138 OPS.

Singleton was in the Astros organization until before the 2018 season when he asked for his release after being suspended 100 games after a third positive drug test while playing at Double-A Corpus Christi. He was regarded as one of the top infield prospects while with the Astros organization from 2011 until his release after being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia.

Singleton didn’t play organized baseball from 2017 until 2021 when he restarted his career in the Mexican League. After his release from the Astros, he didn’t plan on playing baseball again.

He discussed that time period this weekend in Sugar Land before he learned he’d be rejoining the Astros.

“When I did walk away from baseball, I honestly wasn’t thinking about playing baseball anymore at all,” he told The AP. “It wasn’t even a thought. But once I started working out and going to the gym every day and things start to progress, then baseball became a thought again.”

“So things have really come full circle,” he continued.

He credited his recent success to his preparation off the field.

“I think my mindset, mentally, my mental state, that’s been huge for me,” he said. “The last five to six weeks, just small things I’m doing to prepare myself and just reminding myself what I need to do every day just to be ready.”

The 31-year-old appeared in 114 games for the Astros in the 2014 and 2015 seasons after signing a five-year $10 million contract. He last appeared in a major league game for the Astros on Oct. 2, 2015.

He made his return to the majors for the first time since that game when he appeared in 11 games with the Brewers before his release.

Outfielder Corey Julks was optioned to Sugar Land Sunday to make room for Singleton on the roster. The Astros were off Monday and visited the White House where they were honored by President Joe Biden for winning the World Series.


Left-hander Clayton Kershaw is “very likely” to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ starting rotation on Thursday, manager Dave Roberts said Monday.

Kershaw hasn’t pitched since June 27, when he held the Colorado Rockies to one hit over six innings. After that outing, he was placed on the injured list with left shoulder soreness.

The Dodgers have set their rotation for the first three games this week. Tony Gonsolin will pitch Monday afternoon against the San Diego Padres, with Julio Urias and Bobby Miller scheduled to start Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in Phoenix when the Dodgers play the Arizona Diamondbacks.

That would line up Kershaw, 35, to pitch at home Thursday to start a four-game series against the Rockies. In his career, he has a 27-11 record with a 3.33 ERA and 312 strikeouts in 49 starts against Colorado.

The Dodgers had been targeting an early August return for Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner.

Kershaw is 10-4 with a 2.55 ERA in 16 starts this season. He has struck out 105 batters in 95 1/3 innings.

In his 16th season, all with the Dodgers, Kershaw has a 207-91 career record with a 2.48 ERA and 2,912 strikeouts.


The Cleveland Guardians claimed outfielder Ramon Laureano off waivers from the Oakland Athletics on Monday.

Laureano, 29, was designated for assignment by the A’s on Saturday.

He was batting .213 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 64 games this season, his sixth with Oakland. Laureano is a career .246 hitter with 68 home runs and 205 RBIs in 471 games.

Laureano has spent two stints on the injured list this season with a left groin strain and a right hand fracture.

The Guardians designated right-hander Chris Vallimont, 26, for assignment in a corresponding transaction.



It’s August. We’re beyond the Trade Deadline. Contending rosters are what they are for the rest of the season, absent potential minor changes from within; the rosters are essentially locked in from here on out.

Given that, and given the trades we’ve seen over the last few weeks, who now looks best positioned to win the World Series? That’s exactly the question that’s Mike Petriello and Will Leitch will attempt to answer — a little more than four months after their first draft. This time, they are drafting 21 contenders in order of “who is most likely to win a ring.” (Why 21? Because that’s how many teams had playoff odds of at least 10 percent at FanGraphs after the Deadline passed.)

Will chose first. There couldn’t possibly be a surprise at the direction he went.

1. Atlanta Braves

Leitch: How might you nitpick the Braves if you desperately wanted to? Let’s see. They wouldn’t have the rotation advantage in a theoretical NLDS against, say, the Brewers, or maybe the D-backs, or even the Phillies. The bullpen has a bunch of good arms but no one who makes you feel like, if you’re down a run heading into the seventh, the game is already over. Ronald Acuña Jr. had his worst month of the season in July. (He still had a .918 OPS.) They’re only on a 102-win pace, and “102” is quite definitively less than “162.”

Otherwise, good heavens, who in the world wants to face this team in October? This lineup is terrifying top to bottom, and they’re packed with stars who are at their peak or will be hitting it at any moment. The 2021 Braves were a postseason buzzsaw, one of the most fun October teams I can remember. This team is better even before you account for the fact that they have a healthy Acuña. They’ll need to win another World Series, I think, before they can pass the Dodgers as the NL’s premier franchise. But they’re the obvious pick to do so.

2. Texas Rangers

Petriello: It feels almost unfair to the Braves to have any other team second. It feels like it should be more like “1) Braves, 2-6) spots held empty out of respect, 7) the next-best team.” That’s how large the gap feels here, in part due to how they’re the only team that’s absolutely guaranteed to win their division, and in part because of how loaded their roster is. But a second team we must pick, and so I choose the Rangers, who probably did the most in the weeks leading up to the Deadline to improve their right-now chances, adding not only Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery, but also Aroldis Chapman earlier in July.

And, I might add, Austin Hedges, who, despite his extreme offensive shortcomings, is something like the best defensive catcher in baseball, which is suddenly an extremely important addition given the uncertainty over whether All-Star Jonah Heim’s wrist will allow him to return this year. Maybe they’ll win the division, and maybe they won’t, but they’ll be in the postseason either way. Suddenly, instead of starting a top three of, let’s say, Jon Gray, Dane Dunning, and Andrew Heaney (if Nathan Eovaldi’s arm prevents him from being available) it’s Scherzer, Montgomery, and [pick one]. Add that to the only lineup that’s scored more runs than Atlanta? Honestly, if they do this, it’s the greatest short-term turnaround in history, given that they lost 102 games all of two years ago.

3. Houston Astros

Leitch: There are more close division races at this point in the season than I can remember, which should make the last couple of months even more exciting than usual. But there’s clearly no race more packed with intrigue than the AL West. It has two intrastate rivals. It has the defending champs against the team they’ve long tormented. It has two old Cy Young Award-winning gunslingers facing off after being acquired at the Deadline (from the same team). And it has significant stakes: Whoever comes out on top gets a first-round bye instead of a potential first-round matchup with the Rays or Orioles.

What makes it even more fun is that I also think they’re the two AL teams with the best chances to win the World Series. The Astros haven’t quite felt like the Astros most of this year, so it’s all the more impressive that they’ve hung with the Rangers (a team having an all-timer of a year) and may end up passing them soon. And in the end, I’m glad you took the Rangers, because I do believe in the Astros a little bit more, particularly because, with the Justin Verlander trade, they’ll have the best No. 1 starter. The Astros may look and act a little differently than they used to, but they remain stacked. They might just sneak up on everybody and win this thing again.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Petriello: The fourth pick, and I already feel terrible about it! I don’t even really like the Dodgers more than the Rays or Orioles, necessarily, but I do think the path here is a somewhat easier one, because A) I think they’ll win the division, and B) I think they’ll get that bye into the second round. Meanwhile, the AL path looks … harder. So, while it’s definitely disappointing that the Dodgers couldn’t do more to reinforce their roster than the hopes-and-prayers path of “Yeah, sure, we can make Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Ryan Yarbrough, and Amed Rosario better,” I do think there’s an argument that we spent so much time last winter and this summer focusing on what they didn’t do that it’s perhaps overshadowed the fact that this team has the fifth-best winning percentage in baseball — and that Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman are playing at an MVP level.

They’ll get Clayton Kershaw back (probably). They could get Walker Buehler back (maybe). Maybe they’ll get Blake Treinen back? Remember Jimmy Nelson? Wouldn’t it be funny, anyway, if this is the Dodger roster that actually wins a full-season title, in the year when every review of their approach was “more vulnerable than they’ve been in a decade?”

5. Tampa Bay Rays

Leitch: I actually went back and forth between the Rays and Orioles here, which, wow, what a thing to say when we’re talking about World Series contenders. (The human being who got the win in the last Orioles postseason victory: Bud Norris! Delmon Young batted fifth for them in that game.) The Orioles are the hot pick right now, and why wouldn’t they be? They’re playing with an infectious joy that has a lot of fans of soon-to-be-eliminated teams jumping on their October bandwagon. But the Rays are still the Rays, and after a bit of an injury-related dip, they look more like the team that got off to that incredible start. And now they have Aaron Civale, who, even if you’re not entirely on board with him, clearly does make them better. (And it sure seems like the Rays have earned the benefit of the doubt on pitchers).

The rest of the division hardly stayed idle, though it’s sort of funny how much of the Deadline fortifications seemed to come from the Cardinals, one of the most disappointing teams in baseball. The Rays might not be the all-timer team we thought they were in May. But they’re good enough to still win this division and position themselves well heading into October. And they’re exactly the sort of team to be afraid of once they get there.

6. Baltimore Orioles

Petriello: Thank you, Will, for choosing between the Rays and Orioles so I did not have to. OK, let’s do this: Since June 1, the Orioles are an AL-best 35-21, while the Rays are a middling 28-28. I choose to believe the Ryan O’Hearn renaissance is for real. I choose to believe that when Cedric Mullins Jr. returns next week, he’ll be an added jolt to a lineup that hardly needs one. I choose to believe that Gunnar Henderson, who has raked since a slow April, is The Next Big Thing. I choose to believe there’s magic in teams that are so young, talented, and assured that the fact that they didn’t do much at the Deadline will be viewed as confidence in what’s there, not disappointment in what’s not.

I also choose to believe that they’ll fix trade acquisitions Jack Flaherty and Shintaro Fujinami, and that Yennier Cano’s July struggles are a blip and not the inevitable signs of fatigue, and that Félix Bautista will keep on having one of the greatest seasons in relief history with no hiccups, thank you very much. Because as much as I like Baltimore’s lineup, I am absolutely terrified by a pitching staff that doesn’t have even a No. 2 starter, much less a No. 1, and has a bunch of young arms blowing past any previous innings totals. (See: Tyler Wells backing up so bad he ended up in Double-A). I’m all-in on this talented, young lineup, but I’m pretty worried about this pitching staff simply running out of gas before the finish line.

7. Milwaukee Brewers

Leitch: I know, I know: This seems early. But regardless of any skepticism one might or might not have about the Reds — and while I think they’re as well-positioned the next few years as any team in this division, in 2023 they sure look like a team that’s going to run out of gas — the Brewers look like a team about to find itself.

After a slow start (for him, anyway), Corbin Burnes looks like his Cy Young self again, and he’s got old running mate Brandon Woodruff alongside him again. Speaking of former award winners, Christian Yelich has been giving off some real 2019 vibes lately himself. They were smart and surgical at the Deadline, bringing in some real OBP juice with Mark Canha and Carlos Santana, at discount prices. They have a bullpen that has been getting the job done yet again. Devin Williams has been magical and he hasn’t even been the best reliever on this staff. (That would be Joel Payamps). And they have a manager in Craig Counsell who always seems to be finding every little advantage his team can get. I’m not sure they’re passing the Dodgers for a No. 2 seed — though they might! — but they have exactly the sort of roster that thrives in the postseason. They’re my big postseason sleeper pick … assuming, of course, they can get in. Look out for these guys. Remember where you heard it first.

8. Toronto Blue Jays

Petriello: I think I’m taking a risk here by picking a team highly unlikely to finish higher than third in its own division — one that might not even make the playoffs. But I feel the same way about the Blue Jays as I did at the start of the season, which is that if there’s any team likely to get red hot for exactly the right four weeks in October, it’s them. They might be history’s most disappointing “10 games over .500 team” this side of the Dodgers, but they are still 13 games over, and that’s with a roster that has rarely, if ever, been running on all cylinders at the same time.

I’ll admit to being more than a little worried about George Springer’s subpar offensive production, and I have no faith whatsoever in Alek Manoah figuring it out, plus Bo Bichette’s knee is a concern now as well. Still, Kevin Gausman might win the AL Cy Young Award, José Berríos has been much better than last year, Hyun-Jin Ryu is back, and I think they have a sneakily outstanding bullpen, especially since they added Jordan Hicks, and Jordan Romano’s back injury isn’t expected to be serious. Throw in much-improved defense in the outfield, and the never, ever, ever-ending hope that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is just going to sort out whatever his incredibly frustrating problems are and, well … it remains a very frustrating team. But one good enough to do this, nonetheless.

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Leitch: I feel like the drop-off happened really fast this year: Are we already at the Phillies? At the very least, it makes a bit more sense to have faith in them this year than it did last year, and we saw how that turned out. Neither Aaron Nola nor Zack Wheeler have been what they were last year, but they’re still a 1-2 you feel good about in that rotation, and Michael Lorenzen was a nice little Deadline addition. The way I’m looking at Nola and Wheeler is the way you have to look at the Phillies in total, almost like an NBA team that rested its stars in the regular season to have them ready for the playoffs. There are so many big names who haven’t played up to expectations in 2023, from Nola and Wheeler to J.T. Realmuto to Bryce Harper to Trea Turner. And yet, here they still are, in the second NL Wild Card spot, without ever quite looking like themselves.

So that’s my bet here: The Phillies lumber into the postseason and then come alive in October like the veterans they are. The NL Wild Card race is lunacy right now, but the Phillies look as likely as anyone to emerge from the wreckage. And as we saw last year, anything can happen then.

10. San Diego Padres

Petriello: I … think? This is lunacy, right? The Padres are still under .500 and out of a playoff spot, but it’s straw-grasping time here. Hey! Did you know that they’ve mostly been torpedoed by an absolutely unbelievable 0-10 mark in extra-inning games, which is a disaster but is also not really predictive of anything? Hey! Did you know that even though adding Ji Man Choi and Garrett Cooper aren’t headline-grabbing moves, they’ll go a long way toward fixing a 1B/DH situation that was second-weakest in baseball?

I feel like when we talk about “expensive, underperforming 2023” teams, the Mets and Padres understandably got lumped together a lot. But while it felt like the Mets just always showed us who they really were, the Padres still have that glimmer of “but if they do figure it out, it’s going to be special” sheen there. I hope. I really hope.

11. Boston Red Sox

Leitch: It would seem impossible for a team like the Red Sox to sneak up on anyone. But with the (semi-understandable) agita about losing Betts and Xander Bogaerts and all of that, it’s almost like no one has noticed that the Red Sox are pretty good. The rotation is a little better than anyone realizes — James Paxton Renaissance Hive Assemble — and the bullpen is performing exactly the way you’d want them to, holding down the fort enough for the offense to do its thing. In retrospect, their offseason moves look savvy and prudent, as was trusting that Triston Casas would eventually figure it out. He has been one of the best hitters in baseball for the last month-and-a-half.

Having much faith in them come October may come down to how much you want to trust in a healthy Chris Sale, which is to say: not much. But they looked like the clear last-place team in this division heading into the year, and while that still might be their fate thanks to the high level of competition, for now they’re right in the thick of the Wild Card chase.

12. San Francisco Giants

Petriello: Sure, why not. I do think the 61-51 Giants are getting slept on a little, in part because 2022’s follow-up to 2021’s miracle was unimpressive, and in part because most of the notice they got last winter was about “failing to sign the top-tier free agents they thought they were going to sign.” But Farhan Zaidi and friends did a solid job of adding depth and competency — and even though rookie catcher Patrick Bailey hasn’t hit all that much, he is something absolutely special behind the plate. (That’s whether you look at metrics, where he’s tied for 2023’s best defensive catcher, or just the highlights, when he’s doing things like “ending a game on a back-pick at first base.” Who does that? He does.)

Though they have an outside chance at the division, it’s more likely they’ll get in as a Wild Card, and it’s not that hard to see them making noise. I’m into the bullpen that has essentially-tied-for-best-in-baseball OBP against, and Logan Webb and Alex Cobb are a solid enough top two in a best-of-three series. But really, I like this team’s Guys. They just seem to have a higher Guy-per-roster-spot ratio of anyone in baseball, in terms of non-star players who you could easily see doing something legendary in the playoffs. LaMonte Wade Jr.? Absolutely a Guy. J.D. Davis? Definite Guy qualities. I’ve watched enough Pat Burrell / Cody Ross / Darin Ruf moments over the years to know that AJ Pollock is hitting a walkoff in the NLDS, Will.

13. Los Angeles Angels

Leitch: Time for a heart pick? Time for a heart pick. The whole Angels thing right now is to believe. So let’s believe that …

All the new additions, none of whom are spectacular but all of whom are better than what they had, will catch fire at the right time.

Mike Trout is going to come back and be Mike Trout (and that’s old Mike Trout, not necessarily 2023 Mike Trout).

The space-time continuum will implode before the calendar hits 2024 and therefore there’s no reason to worry about anything that happens then.

You have a moral obligation to try to win while Shohei Ohtani is being Shohei Ohtani in your uniform.

My brain tells me only the fourth one is true, and I’m not even entirely sold on that one. But my heart wants to plunge headfirst into all four. Their playoff odds are so low mostly because of their brutal schedule in August, but if they can survive this month (big if), maybe in September, Trout and Ohtani can carry them. And if they can get in? Well, then, the Angels become Earth’s Team. We all want to see it. Do I think we see it? No. But I want to badly enough that I choose to believe.

14. Arizona Diamondbacks

Petriello: I have now selected the entire NL West this side of Denver. This seems like a bad strategy! (It is a bad strategy.) Here’s what I’ve got: A few star-level players in Corbin Carroll, Christian Walker, Ketel Marte and Zac Gallen. A bullpen that just added a high-quality arm in Paul Sewald, and please do not ask anyone outside the desert to name even a single other member of the relief corps. A quietly good Deadline addition in Tommy Pham, who is having a pretty solid season and should be a nice veteran reinforcement for a lineup that could really stand to be lengthened out a bit. I don’t, for the record, believe Arizona is winning the World Series, because the pitching staff is thin. But hey, they’re fun, and they have some stars. I like fun. I like stars.

15. Miami Marlins

Leitch: How many games higher in the standings are the Marlins right now if they hadn’t sent down Eury Pérez to manage his innings? They’re a half-game out in the Wild Card race right now, and, I don’t know, it seems fair to ask whether they’re going to end up a half-game out at the end of the year and cursing not having their best pitcher for the whole summer. (Pérez is returning on Monday.) This may seem unfair, sure: Pérez is ostensibly a big part of the Marlins’ future. But in every other way, the Marlins are, and have been, playing for right now. This is a team, and a front office, that needs to prove it can break through, and they added pieces at the Deadline accordingly. (It would be wild if Josh Bell just suddenly went nuts over the last two months.)

I’m just staying that seasons like this don’t really come along all that often for the Marlins, and maybe you want to take advantage of them in every way you can, while you can. If they can sneak in, a 1-2 punch of Pérez and Sandy Alcantara could give them a puncher’s chance in any series. So what’s the play, Marlins? Are you in, or are you out?

16. Cincinnati Reds

Petriello: Remember all things I just wrote about the D-backs where it was all “well, I don’t think they’re actually winning because I don’t trust the pitching, but they’re young and they have some fun stars, and wouldn’t that be exciting,” and well, the Cincinnati Reds. I suppose, given the fact that the Reds have a much clearer path to a division title than the D-backs do, the math would suggest I should have taken Cincinnati over Arizona. But despite that NL Central boost, I have more questions about the Reds, in part because the rotation remains an enormous problem, one which was not at all addressed at the Deadline, and also because they have fewer stars I trust. (That’s right. We all love Elly De La Cruz. I hope he ends up in the Hall of Fame some day. But right now, he’s batting .240/.290/.438 since July 1). There is, I guess, a non-zero chance they win the Central by one game and then go on the kind of high-intensity, cardiac-level event for a month that you make movies about. But I’m not really banking on it.

17. Chicago Cubs

Leitch: The underlying numbers have long argued that the Cubs may be the best team in this division, and their recent eight-game win streak may have brought them back closer to the water level where they should be. The Cubs don’t really have any huge stars, but you could argue they have fewer holes than anyone else in this division, and they’ve got one clear skill (defense) that doesn’t really slump and makes everything else better. They’ve got a tougher schedule than you might think down the stretch — they won two of three vs. the Braves over the weekend, but play three more against Atlanta in the final week — but if you’re not sold on the Brewers or the Reds, the Cubs could absolutely make a run. They clearly think it’s possible: They were surprisingly stout at the Deadline. They believe. Maybe we should, too.

18. Minnesota Twins

Petriello: … fine

I don’t even know where to go here. A likely division winner at No. 18 is a pretty solid value choice, I guess, but we also all know that this is only happening because the AL Central is something like the sorriest division we’ve ever seen, and the complete lack of movement at the Deadline doesn’t exactly inspire confidence here. They didn’t get the righty bat they needed, or the extra reliever, and that’s frustrating because they’ve built one of the best rotations this club has had in decades. I will say this: I really like rookie Edouard Julien, and I keep hoping Carlos Correa will find a way to turn around what’s been a very disappointing season. But if the best case here is “plays in a weak division,” it’s a hard case to make.

19. New York Yankees

Leitch: With all the relentless negativity going on in The Bronx right now, is it possible to make a case for the last-place Yankees? Well, Aaron Judge could go all Babe Ruth on the league over the last two months. That is, after all, how they made the playoffs last year. But the pieces around Judge in 2023 are even thinner than they were then, and if Carlos Rodón doesn’t figure it out soon (he left Sunday’s start with hamstring tightness), the rotation may actually be worse than that atrophying lineup. The Yankees were relatively quiet at the Deadline, and they were smart to be. Do you think this team is worth adding to right now? The Yankees clearly don’t. It’s tough to argue with them.

20. Seattle Mariners

Petriello: As I’m asked to choose between Seattle and Cleveland, the phrase I keep coming back to is “a run.” That is: Which of these unlikely contenders have a better shot of going on a shocking last-minute run? I guess, like the Reds, the better answer is the one with the clearer path to October. (That’s Cleveland, but the Guardians are 4 1/2 games out in the Central.) But give me Julio Rodríguez heating up, give me a rotation that lost none of its pieces via trade, give me some hope that newcomer Dominic Canzone is quietly a super sleeper. It’s not going to happen, but I’ll take the talent here over a Cleveland lineup that’s struggled to score runs and a Cleveland rotation that traded away one of its few healthy pitchers in Aaron Civale.

The All-Star Game was fun, anyway.

21. Cleveland Guardians

Leitch: I’ll say this: If the Guardians win the World Series, Aaron Civale is going to have a truly amazing story to tell every time someone asks about his World Series ring.