This week’s rankings; previous ranking in parentheses. Stats through Thursday’s games:
1. Philadelphia (1): Phillies lose sixth in a row and manager Charlie Manuel said he’s not going to panic. Isn’t that what Gene Mauch said late in 1964? Two differences: these Phillies have already clinched division, and Mauch did panic.
2. N.Y. Yankees (2): Yankees manager Joe Girardi says CC Sabathia won’t start in the season’s last series in Tampa to prepare for playoffs. Sorry Red Sox: you got all the help from your new best friends that you’re going to get.
3. Milwaukee (5): Prince Fielder hints that this is his last year n Milwaukee, which sparks a quick burst of faux outrage. Really?Anybody who thinks Fielder will be a Brewer in 2012 also thinks Bernie Brewer is a Cubs fan.
4. Texas (6): Nelson Cruz has hit 50 home runs and missed nearly 100 games over the last two years. He’s had so many muscle pulls, strains, tweaks, twinges, etc., that even his Facebook status is day-to-day.
5. Detroit (8): Tigers manager Jim Leyland says ace Justin Verlander will pitch Games 1 and 5 in the playoffs, even if the Tigers are behind for Game 4. “All the second-guessers can come out,” said Leyland. Over/under on Leyland packs per game in playoffs is higher than Brad Penny’s ERA.
6. Arizona (7): D’backs will cut nearly 300 strikeouts this year. They led majors last year with 1,529, have fallen to sixth this year with 1,209, which is a drop of Mark Reynolds and 100 more.
7. Atlanta (4): Mets’ rally beats Cards, helps Braves, pains Mets’ fans. Baseball’s version of the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
8. Tampa Bay (10): Matt Moore fans 11 in first big-league start. Think Yankees want to see him in playoffs?
9. Boston (3): Sox are 4-1 when scoring double figures in September; 2-0 when they score 18; 1-15 in games they score less than 10.
10. L.A. Angels (9): Manager Mike Scioscia says Bobby Abreu — .252 average, 111 strikeouts — is starting “to hit the ball a little crisper.” Really? With six games left? Could he have gotten to ”crisper” faster than he gets to fly balls in the outfield? Say June?
11. St. Louis (11): Rafael Furcal error helps Cards unravel in Thursday loss to Mets. How’s that for karma John Schuerholz?
12. San Francisco (12): Giants made pitching in vogue with 2010 World Series win; but they need to improve an offense that ranks next-to-last in MLB in runs scored in 2011. That’s just as much because of Miguel Tejada and Andres Torres as it is Buster Posey’s injury.
13. Toronto (13): Time well spent in minors: Kyle Drabek allowed seven hits, three homers and eight runs in four innings in last appearance before going to minors; allowed seven hits and six runs in two innings in third game back.
14. Cleveland (14): Indians’ Jim Thome and White Sox’s Omar Vizquel swapped lineup cards when the teams met this week. What, nobody invited Jose Mesa?
15. L.A. Dodgers (18): Manager Don Mattingly says rookie shortstop Dee Gordon, who has 23 steals in 2011, can steal 60 bases next year. It would help if he had more walks (seven) than caught stealings (seven).
16. Cincinnati (15): MLB power dropoff isn’t Bronson Arroyo’s fault — he’s thrown 44 home runs this year. Record 50 of Bert Blyleven appears safe.
17. Chicago White Sox (16): White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski voted meanest player in majors in Sports Illustrated poll of players. Wonder how many of his teammates voted for him — we’re guessing a lot.
18. Washington (19): Nats’ 76 wins are most since their first year in Washington when team was 81-81. Franchise’s last winning season was Montreal’s 83-79 in 2003.
19. N.Y. Mets (17): Free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes says the Mets “are family, and stuff like that.” Roughly translated, that means some families are dysfunctional, and he’s getting out.
20. Florida (23): Marlins closer Leo Nunez admits that’s not his real name; reportedly he’s really Juan Carlos Oviedo. Would he have pitched any better if he had assumed the name of Mariano Rivera?
21. Oakland (24): 14,090 watched A’s in home finale; far more watched Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in the movie version of Moneyball.
22. Chicago Cubs (25): Manager Mike Quade says he plans to return next year, and “I plan to do a good job.” Delusional is not a mandatory state of mind for the Cubs’ manager, but it doesn’t hurt.
23. Colorado (20): Rockies lose final seven home games, first team to do so in 32 years (’79 Mets), according to Elias Sports Bureau. Just to show it wasn’t the environment, Rockies extended losing streak to 9 at Houston.
24. Pittsburgh (21): Third baseman Pedro Alvarez says he’ll skip the start of the winter league season in his native Dominican Republic. He’s nothing if not consistent: he skipped most of the MLB season, too.
25. San Diego (22): Rookie first baseman Anthony Rizzo, 22, farmed out in July when he was hitting .143, is 3-for-25 in his return. He’s down to 138.
26. Seattle (26): Pitcher Cesar Jimenez debuted in majors on Sept. 11, 2006; earned his first major league win 39 games, five years and several major injuries later on Sept. 20 of this year.
27. Kansas City (27): Royals have four players with 20 steals (Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, Chris Getz and Alcides Escobar), four with 40 doubles (Alex Gordon, Cabrera, Francoeur and Billy Butler) and might have four or even five with 20 homers (Francoeur and Gordon; Hosmer and Butler have 19, Cabrera 18). Not sure what it means, but . . .
28. Baltimore (29): Careful what you wish for Dept.: Orioles 7-3 vs. three wild-card contenders in last two weeks; end season with three games vs. Red Sox.
29. Minnesota (28): Friday’s loss was Twins’ 96th; they’re on their way to their most losses since 1982 Twins lost 102 with a rotation of Bobby Castillo, Brad Havens, Albert Williams, Jack O’Connor and 22-year-old Frank Viola, who was 4-10. If you know any of the first four, you watch way too many Twins games.
30. Houston (30): Astros have used 23 pitchers — 3 of them Rodriguezes, who have won 14 of their 55 games: Wandy, 11; Fernando, 2; Aneury, 1.