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BRYCE HARPER’S DAILY routine is no different than many Philadelphia sports fans. On his drive into the city from his home in the suburb of Haddonfield, New Jersey, he listens to local sports talk radio. Often, he walks into Citizens Bank Park wearing gear of a Philadelphia sports team. Then Harper changes into his uniform, rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

Harper gets a thrill from hearing the passion that fans in his sports-crazed city have for their teams — especially because it’s a passion he shares with them.

“People that call into the radio, they love it. They love us. I love listening to it. I think it’s hilarious. I enjoy listening about all the other sports in town. I love cheering on the Eagles. I love cheering on the Sixers and Flyers,” Harper said.”

“We all know what it’s like to play here and so we all cheer for each other and understand each other. When the city rallies around a team and all the players, it’s just so much fun to see.”

Harper began endearing himself to a fan base known for its rough edges from the moment he signed a 13-year, $330 million contract before the 2019 season. He famously overruled agent Scott Boras’ insistence to include an opt-out, wanting to show loyalty to the place he planned to spend the rest of his career. He also turned down an opportunity to don No. 34 — his number with the Washington Nationals — declaring that Hall of Fame pitcher Roy Halladay “should be the last to wear it.” When he bemoaned the price of beer at Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia knew it had found one of its own.

“Bryce is really good at saying the right thing and I don’t think it’s B.S.,” longtime Phillies first baseman and current broadcaster John Kruk told ESPN recently. “He means it. From Day 1, when he signed that contract and he didn’t ask for that opt-out, that meant a lot to the fans.”

Fast forward five years and Harper is even more beloved in Philly. Sure, winning an MVP award in 2021 helped that cause. So did leading the Phillies to the World Series the following year and returning to the National League Championship Series in October. But it’s not just the awards and playoff victories that have strengthened his bond with the city.

“I came from Southern California, having no idea what the East Coast was like, let alone Philadelphia,” Chase Utley, another Philly great, said in a phone conversation. “It takes a certain type of personality to succeed and thrive in the Philadelphia sports world. Bryce had it right away.

“He brings you into his game with his talent and grit. That resonates with the fan base.”

The adoration of an East Coast city that prides itself on blue-collar toughness might not be what you’d expect for a superstar who grew up 2,500 miles away, among the glittering lights of Las Vegas. But Harper has always been as much South Philly as Vegas Strip.

“I kind of always thought the city suited him and it was only a matter of time before he got here,” said Trea Turner, who was also Harper’s teammate in D.C. “Bryce is Philadelphia now.”


HARPER WANTS YOU to know at least one thing about Las Vegas: It’s not all about the Strip. There are neighborhoods and locals and working class people all over — just not necessarily where tourists go. It’s more blue-collar than many think.

“You have to be a hard-working town when you’re building all those casinos,” he said.

Harper’s father, Ron, is an iron worker who did local construction for 30 years; his extended family all worked “blue-collar jobs” as well. Harper’s work ethic was honed early in life, in part by laying rebar with his dad.

He took that mindset onto the field with him, quickly outpacing ballplayers his age and playing against players four or five years older on Las Vegas’ best travel teams. At 16, he decided to leave high school, earn his GED and enroll at the College of Southern Nevada. He continued to dominate there, winning college baseball’s Golden Spikes Award, an honor that’s been given to a junior college player just twice in nearly a half-century, in 2010.

All the early morning runs, the workouts in the gym and his dominance on the field paid off that same year when Harper was selected first overall by Washington.

“Bryce was the guy. Everybody had their eyes on Bryce,” said Mike Bryant, who coached Harper, Joey Gallo and his own future major league MVP son Kris, in Las Vegas youth leagues. “Just having Bryce around brought eyes on everyone else. He was the guy. No question about it.”

That sort of attitude and expectations also helped prepare him for the kind of scrutiny a superstar faces in Philadelphia.

“He’s been in the spotlight since he was 14,” former Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. “That has a lot to do with it. He’s had pressure on him his whole life. When you come here, you better be able to deal with it. That doesn’t bother him.”


NEVER WAS HARPER’S work ethic more apparent than his months of rehab after his November 2022 Tommy John surgery. The initial timetable had him rejoining the team around the 2023 All-Star break, but he had a different plan. On May 2 — more than two months ahead of schedule — Harper was back, moving to a new position and eventually helping the Phillies to another playoff berth.

“I was calling him a superhero,” Phillies infielder Bryson Stott said. “His body heals faster than anyone I think I’ve ever seen.”

Though Harper’s move to first base was initially to protect his still-tender arm, the initial success led the Phillies to make the move permanent this offseason. Harper had enough clout that he could have vetoed the plan and stayed at designated hitter or lobbied for a move back to the outfield.

“That’s the first thing our infield coach, Bobby Dickerson, said to me: ‘If you’re all-in, we’re going to do this. If you’re not, we’re not going to,'” Harper recalled. “From that point on, I told him, ‘Whatever you want to do.’

“I love being coached.”

The undertaking meant Harper would need to spend hours this spring learning the nuances of a new position, often putting in extra time before batting practice taking ground balls. His teammates and coaches saw the former MVP attack his new challenge like a rookie trying to make the roster.

“We spent at least 20 minutes a day on our half field. We did all the skill parts of playing the position,” Dickerson said. “Then I did a little verbal test with him every few days, like, ‘Runner on first, double down the right-field line. Where do you go?’ I would hit him with that a good bit.”

“It’s been an amazing transformation to watch, actually. You spend your whole career doing different things in the outfield, then in the major leagues [you] learn to play first base.”

The results so far tell the story. According to ESPN Stats & Information, his range moving to his right has improved since last year and he ranks near the top of the league in outs above average (second) and defensive runs saved (second). Through Wednesday, Harper’s had 251 chances at first base without an error.

“It’s still a transition,” Harper said. “I’m still learning where I need to be on the field. When a guy hits a ball down the line or in the gap, you can’t get caught watching paint dry. I sit there sometimes and watch Bryson make a great play and I’m like, ‘Holy crap, I have to cover first base.'”

Stott, who is also from Las Vegas, sees the connection between that work Harper puts in behind the scenes and his roots. Yes, there are bright lights and big paydays but nothing gets done without effort.

“You see the casino executives,” Stott said. “They’re working, but they’re not in the streets building the casinos. You don’t see those people. You don’t see the work [Bryce] put in either.”


NO MATTER HOW hard you work — or how well you perform — there is a reality for all professional athletes in Philadelphia: You will be booed.

Harper was already hearing it from the fans on his first Opening Day as a Phillie, in 2019 — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“On my first day I punched out against Julio Teheran, and I’m walking back to the dugout and they booed me on my first at-bat,” Harper said. “I totally understand and get it.

“When you do stuff wrong they’re going to let you know. As players in this clubhouse, we love that and from an individual standpoint, I love it.”

Harper made it clear that a few boos weren’t going to keep him down — he homered in each of the next three games. Just as important, he answered the tough postgame questions from reporters, starting with that initial 0-for-3 debut.

That culture of accountability has spread through a clubhouse filled with players who have come to join Harper in Philadelphia, a city that is now a destination for big-name free agents. First it was Zack Wheeler signing a $118 million deal before the 2020 season, then sluggers Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos signed on the next season. Finally, Turner reunited with Harper by signing a $300 million contract an offseason ago.

Together, they have formed a core beloved in the city as few Philadelphia teams — in any sport — have been before.

“When they have a s— game, [the fans] want to hear it,” Bowa said. “‘Hey, I stunk tonight.’ Schwarber does it. Turner, too. Bryce has had that kind of impact.”

Some around the Phillies credit the bond Harper created for bringing out a softer side of the fan base. Instead of booing Alec Bohm out of town when he was caught mouthing “I f—ing hate this place” after making an error, the fans rallied around their young third baseman. Turner received a similar reaction when he was greeted with a standing ovation — not a round of boos — when he came to the plate in August, in the midst of a prolonged slump in his first season with the Phillies.

“He’s done a good job of showing the other side of Philly,” Turner said. “The coolest part, over the last five years, is to see where it started and where it is now. The whole organization and the fans and all that stuff is in a lot better position.”

Schwarber agreed. “He embraces the way that they think,” he said. “And he’s really public with it. He wants to win it and win it for the city. That’s what you want out of a leader. That’s what makes it exciting to come and play every day.”

Of course, Harper knows Philadelphia is still Philadelphia, and the boos could always come unless one of these seasons ends with him holding up the World Series trophy. Though they’ve come close, a championship has evaded them, and the euphoria of the team’s unexpected 2022 postseason run was replaced by frustration when the team lost Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at home in October. Signed through 2031, Harper still has nearly a decade to deliver that ultimate prize to his city.

“You do it for so long that it becomes the goal even more, right?” Harper said. “We have such a great group of guys. All we want to do is win. We don’t care about anything else.

“Philly is a very results-oriented town.”

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

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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

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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%’

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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.”

UP NEXT

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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