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Wednesday's power rankings

6/18/2015

1. King Felix vs. MadBum = Sweet Duel: Madison Bumgarner wasn’t just looking good early on Wednesday night, he was looking very good -- date-with-destiny good. Bumgarner was cruising into the fifth inning dealing perfection with poise for the San Francisco Giants. Right up until Brandon Crawford made an uncharacteristic boot on a Mark Trumbo grounder, rushing a wild throw to first. Setting aside the hometown scorer’s charitable decision to call that a single plus error, it was that kind of game for the Giants in which a minor slip here or there was the difference between greatness and just a great game, and a great game wasn’t going to be enough to beat Felix Hernandez on this particular night.

The King wasn’t overpowering or perfect, he was simply a master of his craft, scattering seven baserunners among eight innings, dodging trouble a couple of times, and never giving in when confronted with a challenge from one of the other best pitchers in baseball while getting just a couple of sixth-inning runs to work with to give the Seattle Mariners a 2-0 win. It was good enough to get him his 10th win and perhaps help keep the conversation over who should start the All-Star Game for the American League going -- sure, it could be Sonny Gray if you wanted to reward the guy having the best first half, but would anyone blink if the royalty and a longer pedigree of greatness was given its due?

2. Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs: Long before Kris Bryant’s slam off outfielder David Murphy in mop-up, the big blow that really got the ball rolling in the Cubs’ 17-0 trouncing of Shaun Marcum and the Indians was Russell’s two-run, two-out homer in the second inning to help start tipping the game into a rout. But Russell also made an incredible diving stop of a Mike Aviles smash to the left of the bag at second base to end the fifth inning. That helps illustrate the other big benefit Russell has been giving the Cubs at the keystone: Despite playing less than a full season, he’s nevertheless tied for second among NL second basemen and fourth among all second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved. Considering he’s pretty much picking it up on the fly, having played just five games as a pro at second base before his call-up, he’s more than just a quick study.

3. Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds: A second straight two-homer night? Capped by a walk-off grand slam in extras to beat the Tigers? Yeah, OK, that's almost the definition of power, at least as far as showing it off. Frazier might not win the voting for third base in the NL, but with 22 homers so far, he should get a shot at showing off that power in both the Home Run Derby and in the All-Star Game that baseball is determined to sell us as one that "counts."

4. Jesse Chavez, Oakland Athletics: Sonny Gray isn’t the only A’s starter having a great season, of course. Swingman par excellence Chavez notched his best spin of the season with a Game Score of 77 in Oakland’s 16-2 stomp of the Padres, delivering his eighth quality start in 11 turns. So how is it that he’s just 3-6 with a 2.52 ERA on the year? Blame his getting an MLB-low 1.7 runs of support per nine innings pitched before the A’s offense showed up with a vengeance on Wednesday night.

5. Who says Piracy doesn’t pay? The Pittsburgh Pirates got to hoist the Jolly Roger for a seventh straight game by beating the White Sox 3-2, surviving the indignity of allowing an opponent to score runs for just a second time in seven games, but profiting from the South Siders' struggles with allowing first-inning runs. Jeff Locke might be the fifth-best starter the Pirates have (fifth-ish), but he spun a quality start for the win, so even with runs scored, it was another good game for a rotation that might be shaping up as baseball’s best.

Honorable mention Steven Souza Jr., Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays' right fielder kept delivering on a low-key quality campaign as a rookie, homering against his original parent organization to help the Rays beat the Nationals 5-0. Souza has been showing off the Rob Deer suite of basic skills: Tons of power (with 13 homers so far), a lot of walks (in more than 12 percent of his at-bats) a lot of strikeouts (more than a third of the time), plus a strong arm and some range in right field, including a nice play down the line on Wednesday night. Deer is long gone from the game, of course, and now that Adam Dunn’s retired we don’t have an easy choice for Three True Outcomes poster boy, those being homers, walks and whiffs. Why not we just add Souza to that mix right now?

Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.