By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
We’re at the halfway mark of the 2022 MLB season, and no division has my eye more than the NL East.
The Braves put together one of the best months in team history with a 21-6 record, which matched their most wins in a month since they moved to Atlanta in 1966. They are certainly playing better than the Mets at the moment, but the Mets are on the verge of getting back two of the best pitchers in the game.
This race is heating up, and I can’t wait to watch it play out.
MLB Power Rankings: Yankees, Astros, Dodgers lead this week’s list
Ben Verlander gives us his MLB Power Rankings after Week 13, which include the Toronto Blue Jays, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres.
10. Minnesota Twins
The Twins are atop the AL Central, but the division-favorite White Sox are playing much better of late. The Twins need some arms to help complete their team, and if they are serious about winning the division, they need to be big-time buyers at the trade deadline. For now, they are a fun team to watch, and they’re holding down the top spot in the division by a thread.
Last week, the Cardinals hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs for just the 11th time in history. They would benefit from another arm in the rotation, but their offense — led by MVP front-runner Paul Goldschmidt — is keeping them in the thick of things in the NL Central.
The Cardinals hit four home runs in a row for the 11th time in MLB history
The St. Louis Cardinals hit four home runs in a row for the 11th time in MLB history in the first inning, with Nolan Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Dylan Carlson all going deep.
This season, the Blue Jays’ offense leads MLB in OPS, and in the month of June, they scored a league-leading 170 runs. Their offense is why Toronto will be playing baseball in October; the pitching, on the other hand, has some questions.
Unlike the teams behind the Brewers in this week’s power rankings, Milwaukee does it in a different fashion: by dominating on the pitching side. For a while, the Brewers were without two of their big three pitchers in the starting rotation, but now they have Brandon Woodruff back to form a 1-2 punch with Corbin Burnes, and they haven’t skipped a beat.
The Padres ran into the Dodgers this past weekend and found themselves just a couple of outs from getting swept in a four-game series. Luckily for them, they battled back and found a way to win Sunday, saving themselves from a disastrous series against their division rivals. The Padres’ pitching has been great, as they lead baseball in strikeouts. But if they want to compete with the Dodgers in the NL West, they need Fernando Tatis Jr.
The Mets need Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer back in a hurry now that the Atlanta Braves are breathing down their necks. I had to bump the Mets down after a rough showing against the Houston Astros over the past week and a half, but they could quickly bounce back with their co-aces poised to return.
Battle for the NL East crown heats up
Ben Verlander talks about the battle between the Mets and Braves in the NL East. The Braves are back in business with key performances from Dansby Swanson, Ronald Acuna Jr. and others, while the Mets anticipate the returns of Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom.
For the first time since the first week of the season, the Braves are ahead of the Mets in my Power Rankings. They won 21 games in June, which ties a franchise record, and cut the Mets’ division lead by eight games over that stretch. The Mets are still in first in the NL East, but right now, the Braves are the team you’d least want to run into.
The Dodgers undoubtedly have some issues with the injuries they’re dealing with, but we saw how good they are and how much depth they have when they played the Padres over the weekend. It was the biggest series of the season so far for both teams, and the Dodgers dominated. They didn’t have the best month, but there’s no doubt that they are one of the best teams in baseball.
Los Angeles Dodgers’ depth is unparalleled in baseball
Ben Verlander dives into the depth of the Dodgers and their success even without Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Dustin May and Walker Buehler.
The Astros have been a force lately, and that was on full display the past week and a half. In a weird stretch of their schedule, the Astros had to play the best team in each league for nine straight games: first at home, then on the road, and then at home against both the Yankees and the Mets. During that stretch, the Astros showed just how good they are. They went 7-2 and dominated in every facet of the game.
Despite the Yankees’ losing three of five games to the Astros, I’m not overthinking the top spot this week. The Yankees are on pace to break the MLB wins record, and despite the narrowing gap between the first and second spots, the Yankees are still the best team in baseball. They have an astonishing 34-9 record at home this season, by far the best in baseball.
Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Bats” podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.
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