Cubs

MLB Power Rankings: Royals, Twins continue surprising surge

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MLB Power Rankings: Royals, Twins continue surprising surge

Last weekend saw Kansas City take two of three from St. Louis in the I-70 series, so we have a new No. 1: The defending American League champs. It seems like ages ago we were taking a skeptical at the Royals, who came out of the gates strong against the White Sox and haven't slowed down since.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from CSNChicago.com's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 3

Kendrys Morales has an .857 OPS and six home runs. Through about two months, he's been the most successful under-the-radar offseason signing.

2   1

Are they starting to fall back to Earth? They've lost two of their last three series and tied in the other.

3 2

Three-game sweep at the hands of Giants in San Fran highlights Dodgers' worrisome 7-11 record on the road.

4   5

Bryce Harper won't turn down for anything, leading the charge for one of the hottest teams in baseball.

5 4

They're cruising for now, but probably will need more pitching than Dallas Keuchel to fend off the rest of the AL West contenders.

6   12

"I don't know where you magic pixies came from, but I like your pixie drink."

7 10

Whaddya know? After an 8-game winning streak, Giants are suddenly lead NL Wild Card and only two games behind Dodgers in the West.

8 6

They really could use a healthy, effective Justin Verlander back as Anibal Sanchez continues to get lit up.

9 7

They're just 3-5 since their 6-game win streak as they search for consistency.

10 8

Got crushed by the Cardinals in back-to-back games this week and then were swept out of Pittsburgh.

11   15

Back at .500 and rolling strong, making a push for contention again right before Memorial Day.

12 11

In a weak AL East, they're sitting pretty thanks to 20 combined strong starts from Chris Archer (2.40 ERA) and Jake Odorizzi (2.31 ERA).

13 22

Surging behind Prince Fielder's renaissance, and hey, maybe Josh Hamilton will help them too.

14 9

Michael Pineda's been excellent, but they'll need Masahiro Tanaka to come back healthy and effective to really mount a playoff run.

15 13

Not exactly playing inspiring ball, but Mike Trout is still doing Mike Trout things, so they're hanging around .500.

16 20

Ubaldo Jimenez -- yep, that Ubaldo Jimenez -- has a 2.82 ERA and a sustainable 3.08 FIP. Nice bounce-back for a guy who's been justifiably written off quite a bit recently.

17 17

They're lurking, but concerning is their bullpen averaging 4.13 walks per nine innings.

18 18

Still hanging around the race, thanks to an easy schedule where they beat up on bad teams (Brewers, Marlins) by winning 6 of 7 in those two series.

19 25

Took three of four from the White Sox and swept the Reds last week. It's a start.

20   24

This is looking more and more like A.J. Pollock's breakout season (.311/.353/.441, 10 SB) if he can stay healthy.

21 19

Their starting rotation ERA is an AL-worst 5.17 and Joe Kelly may be on thin ice. Yikes.

22 14 They have yet to hit a groove and play up to expectations and suddenly people are calling for Bud Black's job.
23 23

Like the Red Sox, pitching is holding them back. Drew Hutchison's shutout of the White Sox Monday, though, was a welcome change north of the border.

24 16

After a rough homestand, an 11-game road trip began Monday night with a listless loss to Toronto.

25 28

After an 11-game losing streak at the end of April/beginning of May, the Rockies have now won 5 of 8 to prove they really are the streakiest team in baseball.

26 26

Marcus Semien's defense hasn't been good, but he has a solid .290/.337/.459 slash line through 47 games.

27 26

After hitting .114 with .398 OPS in April, Chase Utley has a .250 AVG and .728 OPS and has 13 hits in his last 10 games.

28 27

Unreal how much of a mess things are in Miami in what was expected to be a potentially fun season. Even more drama now with coaching staff.

29 21

9-game losing streak sinks them all the way to 29th on this list, though they received good news on Johnny Cueto's elbow.

30 28

Things still aren't going well in Milwaukee, but at least Jonathan Lucroy is due back next week.

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

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USA TODAY

Nationals fans sent Kyle Schwarber from hero to villain in monumentally entertaining Home Run Derby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — How could someone like Kyle Schwarber play the villain?

The fan favorite who’s always quick with a smile — or an Uncle Sam costume on the Fourth of July — Schwarber doesn’t fit the mold of a loathsome target of boos. But he made quite the heel turn in the minds of Washington Nationals fans Monday night, and of course he knew it was coming.

Schwarber went from getting cheered by the legions in attendance at the Home Run Derby to getting booed when he took on, and eventually lost to, hometown hero Bryce Harper in the final round.

“I was down in the tunnel saying, ‘If we get to the finals, Harp, they’re all going to be against me. I think they’re all going to be against me,’” Schwarber said Monday night. “And then I went out there and got booed after they all got pumped up for me. That’s just the beauty of it, and I was happy for Bryce that he won it in front of the home crowd.”

Harper delivered an incredibly memorable baseball moment Monday night, catching up to Schwarber’s 18 home runs with a ridiculous display of repetitive power to win a Home Run Derby for the ages. The format of this event, revamped a couple years ago, made for a dramatic and hugely entertaining evening. Harper smacked nine homers over the final 47 seconds of the final round to tie Schwarber, then bested him in bonus time. Unsurprisingly, the home crowd was going ballistic for their boy.

But earlier in the night, it was Schwarber getting all the cheers, when he made his own last-second comeback to beat Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the second round. Schwarber was pumping up the crowd, pumping his fists and screaming while putting on a show of his own to catch and pass Hoskins' 20 home runs and advance to the finals.

How quickly the locals forgot.

By the finals — during which Schwarber looked understandably exhausted — the crowd had turned on him, trying to get every advantage for Harper.

“As soon as I got done with that round, I told myself that he had it,” Schwarber said. “I knew that he had the home crowd behind him, and I knew that he was a very prolific power hitter with a great swing. For him to come in and do that and started getting down to the wire, all of a sudden he started racking them up one at a time. You kind of just accept your fate there.”

Perhaps the night could’ve ended differently for Schwarber had he listened more closely to the advice of his teammates, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras, who were quick with Gatorade, a towel and words of encouragement on Monday. Baez hit 16 home runs in his own first-round appearance, though Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Max Muncy knocked him out.

“I was just telling him to slow down,” Baez said. “He was kind of rushing a little bit, that’s why he was jumping to the ball.”

“They were actually giving me really good advice that I didn’t take because I was really dumb-headed,” Schwarber said. “‘Make sure you take some pitches and get the pitch that you want.’ At the end, I felt like I was swinging at everything. I was just running out of gas. I felt like I had to put up as many swings just to try to put a couple out.”

Schwarber was totally content with losing out to Harper’s home-field advantage. Though as his homers flew out deep into the right-field seats Monday night, you couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Schwarber was instead taking aim at Sheffield Avenue and getting his own home-field advantage from Cubs fans.

The North Side hasn’t played host to the All-Star Game since 1990, so perhaps Schwarber will still be slugging the next time the Friendly Confines are the site of the Home Run Derby.

“That’d be really cool one day if the All-Star Game’s at Wrigley,” Schwarber said, “and to participate in the Derby, that’d be fun.”

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

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AP

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 36th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

 

Sosa went down and golfed a pitch out for his 36th homer on July 17, 1998. He smacked Marlins reliever Kirt Ojala's (who??) pitch just over the wall in center field at Pro Player Stadium for a 2-run shot that closed out the Cubs' scoring in a 6-1 victory.

 

The blast accounted for Sosa's 88th and 89th of the season. By comparison, Javy Baez currently leads the Cubs (and the National League) with 72 RBI on July 17, 2018.

 

Steve Trachsel tossed a complete game for the Cubs in the victory that day and Sosa finished with the only extra-base hits for either team (he also had a double).

 

Fun fact: Former Cub Ryan Dempster started the game for the Marlins, but lasted just 4.1 innings to run his season record to 1-4 with a 6.70 ERA.