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With the Red River Rivalry and No. 1 Alabama hosting Texas A&M both taking place this weekend, naturally College GameDay is heading to Lawrence, Kansas, on Saturday.

In what would have seemed like a misprint just a few weeks ago, the No. 19 Jayhawks welcome in not only GameDay but the freshly ranked TCU Horned Frogs. The game features two of the most exciting stories of the season to date, and while many eyes will be on Oklahoma-Texas in Dallas, the matchup gives the Big 12 a second marquee game in early October.

Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher and Alabama’s Nick Saban will finally meet after a long offseason of trading words — both nice and not-so-nice — but only Alabama comes into the game ranked. Tennessee travels to LSU in its latest SEC test, while out west UCLA faces Pac-12 defending champion Utah in a litmus test of its own.

This week’s slate is loaded with important games as conference play kicks into high gear. Here are the key storylines for the weekend ahead.

No. 17 TCU Horned Frogs at No. 19 Kansas Jayhawks (Saturday, noon ET, FS1)

TCU was picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 preseason media poll; Kansas was picked to finish 10th. So it makes perfect sense that both teams are undefeated headed into their matchup Saturday — with College GameDay headed to Lawrence, Kansas, for the first time.

It is stories like this that remind us all why we love college football so much.

“There’s probably a moment you’ve got to pinch yourself a little bit,” Kansas coach Lance Leipold said at his weekly news conference. “It says something about TCU as well — to get this type of matchup is probably surprising to a lot of people around the country, but it should be a great game.”

This is the first top-20 matchup in Lawrence since Oct. 25, 2008, when No. 19 Kansas hosted No. 8 Texas Tech. Kansas is 5-0 for the first time since 2009; meanwhile, Sonny Dykes is the first coach to win his first four games at TCU since Francis Schmidt in 1929.

Kansas receiver Luke Grimm described the atmosphere throughout the week in Lawrence as one that has “a lot of hype behind it.” He has about 30 friends and family members making the drive to the game from Raymore, Missouri.

“A lot of people are getting on board the KU football train,” he told in a phone interview. “It feels really good to be the change that is happening right now and putting a footprint in KU football history. We all believed we could do it, and the fact that we are right now is really fun to see.”

This game pits two of the best offenses in the country. TCU, off its 55-24 upset over Oklahoma last week, averages 549.5 yards per game, No. 2 in the nation, behind quarterback Max Duggan. On the other side, quarterback Jalon Daniels has the Jayhawks averaging 41.6 points per game — No. 12 in the nation. The quarterback matchup is one of the most intriguing in the game.

But so is the fact both these schools are undefeated right now, when not many gave them a chance to be in this spot.

“It’s nice to have a packed stadium, and a lot of noise whenever you make a play or one of your brothers makes a play, and you see them light up with joy when you hear those screams and yells for you,” Grimm said. “It’s nice to show we’re building a great football team here.” — Andrea Adelson

No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers at No. 25 LSU Tigers (Saturday, noon ET, ESPN/ESPN app)

As disappointing as Brian Kelly’s LSU debut was in a dysfunctional season-opening 24-23 loss to Florida State in the Superdome, the Tigers have rebounded nicely.

And while nobody is predicting that LSU is going to challenge for the SEC West crown in Kelly’s first season, the Tigers have a chance to go to 3-0 in the SEC on Saturday if they can knock off the favored Vols. That’s the kind of start in league play that anybody on the Bayou would have taken after seeing the Tigers commit a slew of mistakes in the opener, then storm back from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter, only to have the extra point blocked with no time remaining.

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel echoed this week what most of the league is probably thinking, that LSU is “getting better and better,” which means the Vols could be getting the best version of the Kelly-led Tigers yet.

Kelly has seen his team learning to play together and finding ways to win despite some of its self-inflicted issues and limitations. LSU is still not overly dynamic offensively, which is a huge concern against a Tennessee team tied for second nationally in scoring offense (48.5 points per game). The Vols’ fast-paced tempo and explosiveness tend to wear teams down. They already have 16 plays from scrimmage of 30 yards or longer in just four games.

“It comes down to one-on-one matchups. We have to be fundamentally sound,” Kelly said.

The Tigers could use a big game out of star outside linebacker BJ Ojulari, who will be the most disruptive edge defender the Vols have faced this season. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior has 4.5 tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks, and five quarterback pressures in just three games. Freshman Harold Perkins Jr. is equally disruptive from his outside linebacker spot.

Putting pressure on Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker is difficult because he’s always a threat to take off and run and also gets rid of the ball quickly. Since taking over as the Vols’ starting quarterback in Week 3 last season, Hooker has accounted for 45 touchdowns, completed 69% of his passes and thrown just two interceptions.

The Vols were off last week, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Receiver Cedric Tillman underwent ankle surgery the week before the Florida game and is iffy for this game. Also, Hooker banged up his shoulder in the Florida win.

This will be Tennessee’s first SEC road game of the season, and even though it’s not “Saturday night at Tiger Stadium,” LSU has been hard to beat in the 11 a.m. Central time games. Since 2000, the Tigers are 8-0 in games starting prior to noon.

The last time Tennessee was favored in its first five games was 2016, when the Vols started out 5-0 but lost their next three games and fell to Vanderbilt at the end of the season to squander an opportunity to play in the Sugar Bowl.

As big as the Florida win was two weeks ago (the Vols had lost 16 of the past 17 meetings in the series), Heupel has repeated a familiar theme.

“You’re only as good as your next one in this game,” he said. — Chris Low

Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners at the Cotton Bowl, Dallas (Saturday, noon ET, ABC/ESPN app)

Texas and Oklahoma are heading into this year’s feud at the Cotton Bowl unranked for the first time since 1998. Yet when two teams have played for 117 years, that doesn’t seem to matter. There are no guarantees in the Red River Rivalry.

Sure, Oklahoma is 3-2 and has given up a total of 96 points in consecutive defensive meltdowns against Kansas State and TCU. Sure, Texas is 3-2 and lost to Texas Tech in its most recent trip away from Austin. But when the buses roll through the State Fair of Texas with fans screaming at them, all that falls by the wayside.

The Sooners are 10-3 against the Longhorns since 2010, but the Longhorns are a touchdown favorite according to Caesars Sportsbook.

Neither team is hinting who will start at quarterback. Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel is in concussion protocol after taking a blow to the head on a late hit on a slide against TCU. Texas starter Quinn Ewers is still recovering from a clavicle sprain suffered against Alabama, though Hudson Card had his best outing as a Longhorn against West Virginia last weekend, going 21-of-27 for 303 yards and three touchdowns.

Oklahoma is allowing 198.2 rushing yards per game, which is a concern facing Texas running back Bijan Robinson, who has gone over the 100-yard mark in each of the past three games, is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has scored at least one touchdown in each of the Longhorns’ first five games this year.

Last year, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian got a rude welcome to the rivalry as the Sooners, down 28-7 after the first quarter, rallied to score 48 over the next three, including 25 in the fourth alone, to win 55-48. He said this week he was ready for another go-round.

“Last time I checked this morning when I walked in our building, the Golden Hat wasn’t there,” Sarkisian said. “We’ve got plenty to get ourselves prepared for.”

Oklahoma coach Brent Venables, meanwhile, is hoping his Sooners will keep it steady and treat this game like any other.

“Hopefully we’re not more excited to play this one than somebody else,” he said.

Here’s guessing the fans — and probably the players — feel a little differently. — Dave Wilson

No. 11 Utah Utes at No. 18 UCLA Bruins (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox)

As fifth-year quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson will gladly inform you — since he said he reads and keeps up with what people are saying about his team — not many people expected the Bruins to be here: 5-0 for the first time since 2013 after taking down Washington and headed into what’s now a crucial matchup with the defending Pac-12 champion at home.

“Guys I think have tasted what success feels like now and now we’re hungry for it, we’re trying to be addicted to winning,” Thompson-Robinson said at practice this week. “So I think that’s where we’re going right now. We know what it takes.”

What it has taken, at least in the case of the dual-threat quarterback who ignited the Rose Bowl with 368 total yards and four touchdowns (three in the air, one on the ground) last Friday, is five long years for him and coach Chip Kelly to turn continuity into a strength, especially with the unit that is protecting him.

“They’ve meshed really well, there’s a lot of continuity there,” Kelly said of the offensive line, which added transfer Raiqwon O’Neal from Rutgers in the offseason. “Everybody played for us last year with the exception of Raiqwon, and you’re plugging in a kid who had 30 starts in the Big Ten so his transition has been really natural.”

The addition of transfers like wide receiver Jake Bobo from Duke (363 receiving yards and three touchdowns so far) have helped elevate UCLA on both sides of the ball, but the process that Kelly and DTR have been going through since they both arrived in Westwood five years ago is finally starting to pay true dividends.

“You can see him getting better and better. He’s playing his best football right now from my vantage point,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said of DTR on Monday. “Chip [Kelly] has done a great job of developing him and, not that he wasn’t really good before, but he’s really taken his game to another level. He seems to be very poised, makes plays, takes care of the ball, and he’s a dual threat, which is the biggest issue for us.”

This week, the Bruins and DTR are not sneaking up on anybody, including the Utes, who present their toughest matchup yet. And now that UCLA has a ranking next to its name, Kelly, for his part, has been keen on not allowing the team to take that as a moral victory.

“You don’t get a trophy, you don’t get something handed to you, you gotta go back to work,” Kelly said. “We know we beat Washington last week because of our preparation during the week. We know if we’re going to beat Utah, it’s going to be because of our preparation during the week. Things don’t just happen to you; hope isn’t a strategy.” — Paolo Uggetti

Texas A&M Aggies at No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, CBS)

Believe it or not, the defining matchup of No. 1 Alabama vs. Texas A&M will not be the head coaches. Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher had their war of words during the offseason, but they’ve since walked it back.

Fisher went from calling Saban a “narcissist” in May to telling reporters Monday that Saban is a “tremendous coach” that “people say he’s arguably one of the best ever or the best ever.” Saban, for his part, has repeatedly said he has “no issues or problems with Jimbo.”

So that’s settled, at least publicly, and we can move on to what will actually determine the outcome of the game: the quarterbacks.

Both starters — Alabama’s Bryce Young and Texas A&M’s Max Johnson — are considered day-to-day as they deal with injuries.

Young, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, sprained the AC joint in his shoulder during last Saturday’s win at Arkansas. And while there’s no expectation the injury will have any long-term impact, there’s some question about how quickly he’ll get back to 100 percent.

On Wednesday, Saban alluded to how careful they’re being, saying, “No decision is going to be made until [Young] decides and we decide from a medical staff standpoint whether he can go out there and functionally do his job.”

The fact that backup Jalen Milroe played so well, throwing for 65 yards and a touchdown and running for 91 yards and a score, gives Alabama some breathing room if it wants to be cautious with Young.

Texas A&M, which fell out of the top 25 after losing at Mississippi State, might not be so lucky, though. If Johnson, who injured his hand, can’t play, the Aggies would have to turn to either Haynes King or Conner Weigman.

King, who threw a pair of interceptions against Mississippi State, has been a turnover machine this season. Weigman, on the other hand, is a complete unknown. The former No. 1-ranked pocket passer is only a freshman and has yet to attempt a pass in college. — Alex Scarborough

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MLB Power Rankings: Who’s the new No. 1 team atop our list?




MLB Power Rankings: Who's the new No. 1 team atop our list?

As the battle in the National League persists between three powerhouse teams, one has emerged as the new No. 1 in our rankings — the Phillies.

The shake-up in the top five continued beyond that, as the Yankees jumped up two spots to No. 3 and the Braves fell to No. 5 while they try to find an offensive rhythm.

Is Philadelphia the current best team in MLB? And which emerging squad has a chance at knocking one of the elite top-five clubs from its spot?

Our expert panel has combined to rank every team in baseball based on a combination of what we’ve seen so far and what we already knew going into the 162-game marathon that is a full baseball season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Jesse Rogers, Alden Gonzalez and Jorge Castillo to weigh in with an observation for all 30 teams.

Week 7 | Preseason rankings

Record: 36-14
Previous ranking: 2

The Ranger Suarez show continues after the southpaw allowed one run in seven innings with 10 strikeouts to beat the Rangers on Tuesday, running his record to 9-0 with a 1.35 ERA through his first 10 starts. Here’s the list of pitchers since 1920 to win at least nine of their first 10 starts with an ERA under 1.50: Suarez, Ubaldo Jimenez (2010), Juan Marichal (1966) and Sal Maglie (1952). Now the game has changed: While Suarez has pitched 66 innings, Marichal had thrown 92 innings through 10 starts, which was more than nine per start (including a 14-inning 1-0 shutout). Still, Suarez has been amazing, and those 10 strikeouts in a game matched a career high, set in September against the Marlins. — Schoenfield

Record: 33-19
Previous ranking: 1

The third start of Walker Buehler‘s return from a second Tommy John surgery was by far his most encouraging. He held the Reds scoreless through six innings on Saturday, striking out seven batters without issuing a walk and scattering only three hits. His fastball touched 97 mph. “I think I was pretty good at one point — I’ve started Game 1 of playoff series and Opening Day and things like that — and I want to be really good again,” Buehler said. If the Dodgers can get that Buehler … and pair him with Tyler Glasnow and Yoshinobu Yamamoto at the top of the rotation … to go with perhaps the most feared top half of a lineup in the sport — well, it might just be unfair. — Gonzalez

Record: 34-17
Previous ranking: 5

It finally happened: Clay Holmes gave up an earned run. The Yankees closer had not allowed one in 20 innings over 20 appearances to begin the season until Monday’s ninth inning, when some bad luck and two walks snowballed into four Mariners runs, a blown save and a loss to snap the Yankees’ seven-game winning streak. Holmes wasn’t going to keep a 0.00 ERA forever, but the collapse with a three-run lead was jarring nonetheless. The Yankees’ bullpen is still second across the majors in ERA and third in win probability added despite ranking 23rd in strikeout rate. More K’s would make their effectiveness more sustainable. — Castillo

Record: 29-18
Previous ranking: 4

Baltimore finished April second in the majors at 5.46 runs per game, but May has been a very different story for the offense. The Orioles are averaging four runs per game this month. They have been shut out twice and held to three or fewer runs 10 times in 18 games. And yet the Orioles have gone 10-8 in May behind a starting rotation with the second-best ERA in baseball since May 1. A lineup with Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman at the top won’t underperform for too long. Combine that with the standout starting rotation and the Orioles will remain one of the sport’s top five teams. — Castillo

Record: 28-18
Previous ranking: 3

Atlanta’s offensive woes are starting to go beyond just a slow start at this point — at least as compared to last season. The Braves do still rank sixth in the majors in OPS, but they had a three-game stretch against the Cubs and Padres where they scored just one run in each game. Ronald Acuna Jr. still can’t find his power stroke, Austin Riley has been out with an intercostal strain, Orlando Arcia has struggled and Jarred Kelenic has slowed down after a nice start. At least Chris Sale continues to dominate: He tossed seven scoreless innings to beat the Padres on Monday for his third straight scoreless start and sixth consecutive win (1.15 ERA over that span). — Schoenfield

Record: 33-17
Previous ranking: 6

The Guardians made a big statement with a weekend sweep of the Twins, as Jose Ramirez belted a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning on Friday and Will Brennan hit a walk-off three-run homer on Sunday — both off curveballs thrown by Twins reliever Jhoan Duran. Ramirez’s batting average and OBP are down, but he leads the American League in RBIs, as he has hit well with runners on base. He also is getting more RBI opportunities, as opponents are pitching to him more with Josh Naylor behind him. Ramirez was intentionally walked 22 times last season but just twice so far in 2024. — Schoenfield

Record: 28-21
Previous ranking: 7

Christian Yelich is putting together his best season since winning the MVP award in 2019. Just in the past week, he has stolen home and led his team to a win against his old team, the Marlins, with a two-run, eighth-inning double. Even missing time due to a back ailment hasn’t slowed Yelich down. Since returning earlier this month, he is hitting over .300 with an OPS well over .800 to go along with four stolen bases, including that one of home on a throw from catcher to pitcher. That kind of heads-up play is indicative of the Brewers this season and a reason they remain in first place. — Rogers

Record: 32-19
Previous ranking: 10

Those who were forecasting a nosedive after the quick start have to be disappointed about Kansas City’s recent surge. The Royals’ pace did slow during the last couple of weeks of April, but since then, they have reemerged as one of baseball’s hottest teams.

As the first important checkpoint on the season calendar approaches (Memorial Day), there is nothing on the Royals’ dossier that suggests a looming regression — other than the notion that, before the season, no one really thought they’d be this good. The team’s front office seems to be buying in, recently cutting bait with Rule 5 pitcher Matt Sauer, who was not big-league ready. Rather than enduring a nonproductive roster spot, as a noncontending team might, the Royals designated Sauer for assignment. The more they win, the more moves like this we’ll see on a roster that has a number of improvable slots. — Doolittle

Record: 27-23
Previous ranking: 8

Shota Imanaga continues to be the storyline for Chicago, and around baseball, as his ERA continues to lower. He has faced nine different teams this season, and none has been able to figure him out. And he’s doing it with mostly a two-pitch mix: a rising fastball and a splitter. That combo has stymied hitters throughout both leagues. He didn’t even have his best fastball his last time out against the Pirates — it averaged just 90.9 mph — yet it was as successful as ever; he threw seven shutout innings while striking out seven, including his final batter with two men on. Imanaga has been nothing short of dominant. — Rogers

Record: 27-23
Previous ranking: 11

The Mariners’ best player so far has probably been catcher Cal Raleigh, who has Gold Glove-worthy defensive metrics while leading Seattle in both homers and RBIs. That Raleigh can be described as their best player despite a .219 batting average underscores the paradox of Seattle’s roster, one devoid of star-level performances this season. And yet, the Mariners not only continue to lead the AL West but have added to that advantage despite not winning more than two games in a row during May.

There has been plenty of good on the Mariners — Raleigh, utility player Dylan Moore, closer Andres Munoz, the entire starting rotation — but very little great. Great, of course, is the tier on which Julio Rodriguez is supposed to reside. If the Mariners are going to continue to thread this needle, however, J-Rod can’t be the only one to break out at some point. — Doolittle

Record: 26-24
Previous ranking: 13

It’s nearly June and the Red Sox — despite a seemingly never-ending stream of injuries — are hanging in there, hovering right around .500. Rafael Devers helped power the offense with a home run in six consecutive games to set a Red Sox record, before the streak was snapped in a win over the Rays on Tuesday. The victory gave Boston its first series win at Tampa Bay since July 2019. The Red Sox began the series having lost 15 of their previous 16 games at Tropicana Field. Their pitching staff remains one of the best in baseball, ranking second in ERA; but it got bad news when manager Alex Cora announced Garrett Whitlock was diagnosed with ulnar collateral ligament damage in his right elbow and that Tommy John surgery is on the table. The hits keep on coming in Boston. — Castillo

Record: 24-26
Previous ranking: 12

The biggest reason the Rangers have been pegged as a second-half breakout team is the quality of the pitchers they have on the injured list, specifically Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, both of whom should return to action this season. Another indicator that might portend a resurgence is simply that two of their best hitters — Corey Seager and Adolis Garcia — have been more OK than outstanding.

Seager is slugging .404 and has just three doubles after leading the AL last season with 42. Garcia, meanwhile, has seen a regression in his walk rate at the plate and has surprisingly struggled in the field. Out in the grass, the Gold Glover has negative metrics in the various defensive systems, committed four errors and yet to record an outfield assist after registering 28 over the previous three campaigns. The good news for the Rangers: These things are not likely to last. — Doolittle

Record: 26-26
Previous ranking: 14

Joe Musgrove labored through three scoreless innings in his return from elbow inflammation on Tuesday. And though it was an unspectacular start — one that ended in a loss to the struggling Reds — the most important thing is that he’s back, returning to a starting rotation that has been performing quite well of late. Yu Darvish is on a run of 25 consecutive scoreless innings, Matt Waldron has limited the Dodgers and Braves to a combined three runs in 11 innings in back-to-back starts, and Dylan Cease, despite some recent struggles, has a 3.05 ERA in 10 outings this season. The rotation has been encouraging of late. What hasn’t been encouraging: Xander Bogaerts, who was OPS’ing .581 and will now be out at least two months with a shoulder fracture. — Gonzalez

Record: 26-23
Previous ranking: 9

After winning 17 of 19 games, the Twins’ rally sausage magic ended last week with a reality check. The club was swept by two of the American League’s three best teams — the Yankees and Guardians — and lost eight consecutive games. They rebounded Tuesday with a 10-0 win over the Nationals, but the AL Central is already looking like it’ll be the Guardians’ to lose. The impending return of Royce Lewis should greatly help the Twins’ pursuit. The third baseman ran the bases for the first time on Monday since straining his right quad on Opening Day. He is scheduled to go on rehab assignment soon. If all goes well, he should be back in the lineup some time in June, giving it a significant boost. — Castillo

Record: 25-26
Previous ranking: 17

The Rays are yet another team crushed by injuries this season. It was Zach Eflin‘s turn to land on the IL this week, with lower back inflammation. Otherwise, Tampa Bay actually has received reinforcements recently. Brandon Lowe, Josh Lowe and Jonathan Aranda have all come off the IL this month to bolster the lineup. Right-hander Ryan Pepiot was activated Wednesday after taking a 107 mph comebacker off his leg on May 5. Like the Red Sox, the Rays are staying afloat around .500. That won’t be good enough for long, though. — Castillo

Record: 24-26
Previous ranking: 15

Joc Pederson spent a good chunk of his pregame time in Los Angeles on Monday and Tuesday catching up with former Dodgers teammates and executives, before providing a crushing blow against the team he came up with, as his seventh-inning three-run homer pushed the Diamondbacks to a 7-3 victory on Tuesday (they went on to notch a series win with a 6-0 shutout on Wednesday). Pederson finished that game with a .989 OPS, fourth highest in the majors if he’d had enough plate appearances to qualify. Given the continued struggles of young stars Corbin Carroll and Gabriel Moreno — not to mention the injuries to starting pitchers Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez — the D-backs would be in a really bad place if not for Pederson’s contributions. — Gonzalez

Record: 22-28
Previous ranking: 21

The Astros still haven’t caught fire, but little by little, they’ve started to climb out of their early 7-19 hole. Working to their advantage is that neither Seattle nor Texas has taken off and the AL West very much remains up for grabs, even for the sub-.500 Astros. As Houston very gradually builds momentum, the emergence of Kyle Tucker as a front-running MVP candidate continues to generate a brighter — and much-deserved — spotlight. With league-leading totals in homers, walks, OBP, slugging and OPS, a 9-for-9 showing on the basepaths and Tucker’s usual plus defense, this is the best version yet we’ve seen of the perennial All-Star. The “MVP!” chants have already begun at Minute Maid Park. — Doolittle

Record: 23-26
Previous ranking: 16

“Back” Flaherty? OK, so maybe it’s not good enough to put on a T-shirt, but the point stands: Jack Flaherty is so back. He pitched six innings of two-run ball against the D-backs on Saturday, and he has allowed just seven runs in 25⅓ innings over his past four starts. For the year, Flaherty has a 3.79 ERA with 72 strikeouts and only eight walks in 54⅔ innings, displaying a level of dominance we have not seen since he challenged for a Cy Young Award in 2019. With Flaherty, Tarik Skubal, Reese Olson and Casey Mize, the Tigers boast a really good rotation foursome. But they need more offense. — Gonzalez

Record: 24-26
Previous ranking: 24

The Giants’ outfield has been decimated by injuries of late, especially in center field, where Jung Hoo Lee, their big offseason signing, has been ruled out for the year because of a torn labrum in his left shoulder. That’s why Luis Matos‘ performance has been so reassuring. Matos, Lee’s replacement, went 10-for-26 with three home runs and 16 RBIs in his first six starts, earning the most recent NL Player of the Week honors. The 22-year-old Venezuelan totaled 11 RBIs in a stretch of just two games against the Rockies and became the youngest player in major league history with at least five RBIs in back-to-back games. “Man,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said, “that’s a lot of RBIs.” Sure is. — Gonzalez

Record: 22-26
Previous ranking: 18

Things are getting ugly in Toronto. The rumblings of a possible fire sale, one that could include Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, are growing louder and louder. Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins spoke to reporters over the weekend about his club’s disappointing start. He insisted “we believe in the talent” but acknowledged “there is a massive sense of urgency.” It comes down to the Blue Jays’ anemic offense. They rank in the bottom third of the majors in runs scored and wRC+. Guerrero has four home runs. Bichette is slashing .233/.289/.349. The Blue Jays aren’t going anywhere if those two All-Stars don’t level up their production. — Castillo

Record: 23-27
Previous ranking: 23

It’s all about Paul Skenes these days for the Pirates. His performance at Wrigley Field on Friday might be looked back upon as the beginning of a special career. More than 1,000 games have been played there between Chicago and Pittsburgh, but Skenes is the only Pirate to strike out at least 11 hitters in one contest. Oh, and he didn’t allow a hit while averaging over 99 mph on his fastball. His stuff, demeanor and presence are why he was the No.1 pick last summer and why he blew through the Cubs’ lineup in his second major league outing. — Rogers

Record: 21-28
Previous ranking: 19

We mentioned Edwin Diaz‘s home run problem in this space a couple of weeks ago — and it has only gotten worse, culminating in him allowing a three-run shot to tie Saturday’s game in the bottom of the ninth as the Marlins went on to win in 10 innings. For now, Diaz’s role as closer will be “fluid,” according to manager Carlos Mendoza. Reed Garrett picked up a save on Sunday. In other news: left-hander Brooks Raley elected to undergo elbow surgery, and he likely will miss the rest of the season; Drew Smith remains out with right shoulder soreness; Kodai Senga missed a bullpen session with triceps tightness; and top prospects Jett Williams and Drew Gilbert remain sidelined in the minors. — Schoenfield

Record: 21-27
Previous ranking: 20

It will be interesting to see how much more time the Nationals give top prospect James Wood in Triple-A, considering he’s hitting .358/.465/.600 with nine home runs. Sure, you don’t want to rush him, so maybe they give him another month or so. But the most impressive aspect of his season is that he has cut his strikeout rate from 32% last year in Single-A and Double-A all the way down to 19% in 2024 while also walking at a high rate (31 walks, 36 strikeouts). Considering the meager numbers from the likes of Joey Gallo, Joey Meneses and Eddie Rosario, it’s time to call up Wood. — Schoenfield

Record: 20-29
Previous ranking: 22

An awful 3-7 West Coast trip came to an end earlier this week after the Reds dropped their final three games against the Dodgers. The team is simply struggling on offense. Even with Elly De La Cruz doing his thing — especially on the basepaths — it hasn’t been nearly enough. The Reds rank in the bottom third of the majors in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Yes, injuries have hurt them, but those in the lineup have no such excuse. Newcomer Jeimer Candelario is hitting .223, outfielder Spencer Steer is only slugging .376 and 2021 Rookie of the Year Jonathan India has been as quiet as anyone, producing just six extra-base hits. The Reds need to turn it around soon. — Rogers

Record: 23-26
Previous ranking: 26

St. Louis has climbed out of last place thanks to some struggles on the road by the Reds — and a recent series sweep of the Orioles — but the Cardinals won’t exactly be considered contenders until they get themselves over .500. That hasn’t happened since they won the NL Central in 2022. That feels like ages ago, but at least the team has played better baseball of late. Three series wins in a row have the Cardinals feeling like they can get back into an NL wild-card race that’s pretty wide open. Not one singular thing has propelled them lately; it’s simply been steady play at the plate, in the field and on the mound. Can it continue? — Rogers

Record: 20-30
Previous ranking: 27

No one ever denied Jo Adell‘s raw ability during his years as a prospect, when he drew elite grades in several skill categories. With a career slash line of .214/.259/.366 over 619 plate appearances (roughly a full season of opportunity) and a strikeout rate of 35.4% entering this season, he simply had not put the bat on the ball enough to translate those tools into big league production. Perhaps the best development in the Angels’ latest disappointing season has been Adell’s improvement. His approach remains below average, but it’s way better than it was, with a strikeout rate down to 25% and career-best walk rate. That has allowed him to get to his power more often, and voilà! He has a career-high nine homers already and is slugging .500. — Doolittle

Record: 20-31
Previous ranking: 25

The Athletics didn’t make any splashes in the offseason transaction market, but it did seem like they added some solid roster-stabilizing veterans to raise the floor of the club, if only a bit. But some of those vets have fallen off in a major way as the A’s current plunge back into a 100-loss spiral picks up steam. J.D. Davis dropped into Oakland’s lap during spring training — after the Giants set him adrift — but he has foundered. Davis has managed a 69 OPS+ to date and has driven in just three runs in 101 plate appearances — all on solo homers. He is 2-for-21 with runners in scoring position with zero RBIs. On the pitching side, Ross Stripling leads the AL in losses and hits allowed. After eight MLB seasons of better-than-average pitching, Stripling has an ERA+ of just 75. — Doolittle

Record: 16-32
Previous ranking: 28

Kris Bryant was activated off the IL and played in his first game in more than five weeks on Tuesday. In three years with the Rockies, he has played in just 135 of a potential 371 games. His slash line since the start of the 2023 season is a mere .220/.307/.346. And after this season, he’ll still have four years and $104 million remaining on his contract. Needless to say, the Rockies desperately need him to recapture some of his lost form. “This last month, or the last couple of years, sometimes you take for granted being on the field,” Bryant said. “Now that I am feeling good and on the field again, I’m just ready to have some fun and not take it for granted and see what happens.” — Gonzalez

Record: 17-34
Previous ranking: 30

The Marlins had their best week of the season last week, taking two of three in Detroit then two of three from the Mets at home, including three straight shutouts (two against the Tigers, one against the Mets). Ryan Weathers, Trevor Rogers and Jesus Luzardo started those three games. Weathers followed up his eight shutout innings against Detroit with another strong start Monday against Milwaukee, allowing just two hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings. The Marlins won that game, tying it in the ninth and walking it off in the 10th on a single from Josh Bell. — Schoenfield

Record: 15-35
Previous ranking: 29

Andrew Benintendi is off to the worst start of his career, compiling the lowest OPS among all qualified hitters so far this season. Benintendi still has three years remaining on his contract after this year, so dealing him won’t be the easiest task for GM Chris Getz. The veteran signed the largest contract ($75 million) in team history before last season, and he is owed over $50 million on it through 2027. And it’s not like he’s coming off a great year. Benintendi had an OPS+ of just 88 last season, the lowest of his career, outside of 2020. And even though he’s playing at a power-friendly home park, he has managed just six home runs in 94 games at Guaranteed Rate Field. — Rogers

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Braves star Acuña out for season with torn ACL




Braves star Acuña out for season with torn ACL

Atlanta Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. will miss the rest of the season after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Sunday’s 8-1 victory at Pittsburgh.

The reigning NL MVP led off the game with a double to right-center field off Martin Perez. With Marcell Ozuna at the plate, Acuña started toward third on a stolen base attempt and his left knee gave way. Acuña remained down for several minutes while being treated, pointing at his left leg before walking off under his own power.

The Braves’ initial diagnosis was left knee soreness. But the team announced Sunday night that an MRI showed a complete ACL tear that will require season-ending surgery.

Acuña tore his right ACL on July 20, 2021. Wearing a brace in the clubhouse after Sunday’s win, the 26-year-old outfielder said this injury felt less severe.

“(I) don’t feel that painful, any pop or anything. … Don’t think it’s that bad,” Acuña said.

Acuña said he was looking to take third when he anticipated a slow throw back to the mound from catcher Joey Bart. The toss came in harder than expected, leading to an abrupt pivot back to second with his knee twisting.

Acuña is batting .250 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 49 games. The four-time All-Star hit a career-best .337 last season with 41 homers and 106 RBIs.

Atlanta already was missing All-Star right-hander Spencer Strider, whose season ended on April 13 when he had internal brace surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. Third baseman Austin Riley is day to day with a left intercostal strain, and catcher Sean Murphy remains on the 10-day injured list with an oblique injury after he got hurt on opening day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Reds extend Dodgers’ skid to 5; Ohtani at ‘90%’




Reds extend Dodgers' skid to 5; Ohtani at '90%'

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of their longest losing streak since 2019, but first baseman Freddie Freeman has no doubt that there’s no concern.

“It’s May, it’s baseball,” Freeman said. “Two weeks ago, we were winning every game. I don’t think anybody needs to question in our lineup. We’ll be fine.”

The Cincinnati Reds finished off a sweep of the Dodgers with a 4-1 victory Sunday, extending LA’s slide to five games — it’s longest since dropping six in a row April 8-13, 2019.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani went 3-for-12 in the series while dealing with a bruised right hamstring. He batted second Sunday and went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter, reaching on an infield single while scoring the Dodgers’ only run.

“It’s right around 90%,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani’s hamstring. “Assuming it will keep getting better, I feel confident that he can play smart and not push it. Talked to him about not trying to steal a base. Be smart. The value of having him in the lineup is everything.”

Los Angeles’ lineup has been hampered by inconsistency. The Dodgers scored six times in the series opener, and then scored two more over the next two games.They have been shut out twice this month while scoring two or fewer runs six times.

“When you’re not hitting, it certainly seems lifeless,” Roberts said. “Seems like we’re running cold. I know it’s not from care or preparation. Bottom line, it’s about results and we’re not getting them right now. They outplayed us this series and won three.”

Roberts hinted at a couple of changes to the lineup when the Dodgers begin a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

“Some guys might be pressing a little bit,” Roberts said. “Every time I write the lineup, I feel good that we’re going to put up some runs. It’s not a big picture-type thing. It’s certainly been two weeks where it hasn’t been good.”

Jonathan India and Nick Martini each drove in two runs for the Reds, and Brent Suter, Nick Martinez, Carson Spiers and Alexis Diaz combined for a five-hitter.

Martinez (2-3) pitched 4⅓ innings of one-hit ball on a bullpen day for Cincinnati, and Díaz got two outs for his 10th save.

“It starts with our pitchers,” Reds manager David Bell said. “They’re ready to take the ball. Starting with Brent Suter, who did his job. That’s where it starts. Nick Martinez took over. Nick continues to show when he executes his pitches how good he is. To pitch so well against this team really says a lot.”

Freeman hit an RBI double in the ninth, stopping a 0-for-22 slide for the Dodgers with runners in scoring position. Freeman then advanced on defensive indifference, but Díaz struck out Teoscar Hernandez and Andy Pages swinging.

The start of the game was moved up from 1:40 p.m. EDT to 12:10 p.m. due to the threat of severe storms that arrived in the sixth inning. The teams then waited through a delay for just over an hour.

Cincinnati scored four times in the third off Yoshinobu Yamamoto (5-2). India had a bases-loaded single, and Martini’s bloop hit scored two more.

Yamamoto allowed six hits, struck out eight and walked two in five innings.

“They found a way to fight with two outs and find some outfield grass,” Roberts said. “They stayed inside the baseball. When you fight, you get those breaks sometimes. Outside of that, I thought Yoshi was fantastic. He was one hitter away from going five scoreless.”


Dodgers: Right-hander Gavin Stone (4-2, 3.60 ERA) will oppose Mets right-hander Tylor Megill (0-2, 3.00 ERA) on Monday in the opener of a three-game series.

Reds: Left-hander Nick Lodolo (3-2, 3.34 ERA) will come off the injured list to start the series opener against the Cardinals on Monday. Lance Lynn (2-2, 3.68 ERA) starts for St. Louis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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