This week’s rankings; previous ranking in parentheses. Stats through Thursday’s games:
1. Philadelphia (1): Thursday shutout was 11-7 Cliff Lee’s fifth of the season and sixth scoreless start, to go with seven starts of double-figure strikeouts (5-2 in those) and four starts of five runs or more (0-4 in those).
2. N.Y. Yankees (2): One report said A-Rod lost $40,000 at high-stakes poker game; money is safer there than in the stock market.
3. Boston (3): Closer Jonathan Papelbon has retired last 15 batters he’s faced, 26 of last 27 entering play Friday.
4. Atlanta (4): You’d think new centerfielder Michael Bourn, career OPS of .697, looked more like Joe DiMaggio than Juan Pierre, too, if you’d spent four months watching Jordan Schaefer and Nate McLouth play center field.
5. San Francisco (5): MLB.com headline: Beltran making teammates better. Uh, no. He makes the Giants better. It’ll take a higher power to make Eli Whiteside better.
6. Texas (9): Mike Napoli averaging a home run every 12.2 at-bats and has team-high OPS of 1.002, but is 10th on Rangers in at-bats; he’s batted less than David Murphy (.672) or Yorvit Torrealba (.689). Does Mike Scioscia manage the Rangers, too?
7. Milwaukee (7): Cardinals manager Tony La Russa called Brewers broadcaster Bill Schroeder after a series of brushback pitches in the teams’ series this week. “Mutual respect there,” said Schroeder. True that. Schroeder respects La Russa, and La Russa respects La Russa.
8. Arizona (8): Team president Derrick Hall says increased attendance “starts with the broadcasts.” Really? Has nothing to do with D’backs being 11 games over .500 in 2011 after finishing 32 games under in 2010?
9. St. Louis (10): Catchers Yadier Molina and Gerald Laird seen in heated argument this week; not true it’s because with Molina’s five-game suspension, Laird will actually have to play.
10. L.A. Angels (14): Hey, Jered Weaver: You don’t like Carlos Guillen admiring his home runs, then don’t throw them. Makes more sense than throwing at Alex Avila for Guillen’s transgressions.
11. Tampa Bay (6): CNBC’s Darren Rovell sang the national anthems at Rays-Jays games; 28,491 listened to him, or roughly the same as hear him on CNBC.
12. Detroit (11): Tigers only team with a winning record who have given up more than 500 runs, one of only 8 teams to do so (3 in AL Central). They’ve managed that despite, 1. having Justin Verlander, who leads all MLB starters in OPS against (.524); and 2. playing half their games in one of the sport’s most pitcher-friendly parks.
13. Cleveland (12): Indians manager Manny Acta says the team got the best pitcher available in Ubaldo Jiminez (4.46 ERA) from Rockies. Perhaps. But everyone looks like Bob Feller when Fausto Carmona starts every fifth day.
14. Toronto (18): The Blue Jay Way: After 23-year-old outfielder Travis Snider followed 20-for-56 spell with a 6-for-44 slump, it’s back to the minors. Somewhere in the clubhouse, Adam Lind empathizes.
15. Cincinnati (13): Dontrelle Willis finally shows Reds what he can do, hits ninth career home run on Wednesday, and first since 2007.
16. Pittsburgh (16): Pirates on national TV last month on a Monday night for the first time since 2002; even Browns are on Monday night more often than that.
17. N.Y. Mets (17): Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey frequently takes the poor man’s limo to the stadium, according to New York Times story. Otherwise known as the No. 7 train, although John Rocker called it something else entirely.
18. Florida (22): Marlins had chance to deal Omar Infante back to Braves; too late now after Infante fractured a finger.
19. Colorado (15): Remember how good future looked in 2007 for Rockies when young nucleus of Tulowitzki, Holliday, Hawpe and Atkins made World Series? How’s it looking now?
20. Chicago White Sox (19): Alexis Rios, hitting .206 with .547 OPS, says he hasn’t lost confidence in himself yet. Perhaps not. White Sox fans sure have.
21. Washington (20): A nod of appreciation to released Nat Matt Stairs, who retired this week with 265 career home runs, second among Canadian-born players to Larry Walker’s 383. Not included in that count was his pinch-homer off Jonathan Broxton that turned around Game 4 of the NLCS for the Phillies on their way to 2008 world title. Also, according to philyburbs.com, Stairs hit the final home run called by the late announcer Harry Kalas in early 2009.
22. L.A. Dodgers (26): How bad has the Dodgers’ season been? Giants fans feel sorry for Dodgers’ fans: http://mlb.sbnation.com/2011/8/3/2342385/the-los-angeles-dodgers-are-not-having-a-good-season
23. Minnesota (24): Jim Thome up to 598 career home runs; he doesn’t need 600 for Hall of Fame, but it won’t hurt.
24. Oakland (25): Trailers are out for Moneyball the movie. You’ll know it’s different than the book if the A’s win in the end.
25. Kansas City (28): Royals promote minor leaguer Johnny Giavotella from AAA, where he was hitting .339. If he gets as many hits per night as he has vowels in his name, he’ll be a star.
26. Seattle (21): Brendan Ryan beats out infield hit and goes to second, then third when bases are left uncovered (link below). Manager Eric Wedge called Ryan “a cult hero.” We’re obviously hurting for cult heroes.
27. San Diego (27): With trade of Ryan Ludwick and his 11 home runs, current Padre leader is Cameron Maybin. With 6.
28. Chicago Cubs (29): Carlos Zambrano comes up empty trying to hit against softball pitcher Monica Abbott before Friday’s game. Perfect time for Carlos Marmol to call Zambrano a disgrace.
29. Baltimore (23): Rookie Zach Britton’s last three starts: 6.1 innings, 25 hits, 23 runs, twice unable to finish first inning. There are T-ball pitchers who get more outs.
30. Houston (30): Astros deal Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, get younger. Not better, but younger.