The Orioles and Indians are both in first place, while the Red Sox and Angels are both in last place. Will the Orioles and Indians remain on top? Will the Red Sox and Angels make a push to move up in the standings? Plus, we determine which team in baseball is flying under the radar the most in today's Triple Play.
1. Which surprising first-place team is more likely to stick: Orioles or Indians?
Eric Karabell (@karabellespn), ESPN Fantasy
Sorry, but neither team can come close to sustaining this. The Orioles are a better team and would eat up the Tribe head-to-head, but the stark differences in division come into play here. The AL Central stinks. The AL East does not. The Indians have a better shot since the only other decent team chasing them is Detroit. That's not a rip on the Orioles, though.
Mark Simon (@msimonespn), ESPN Stats & Info
I will say the Orioles, because I think the Tigers are going to run and hide in the AL Central in the next month now that their starting pitching has rounded into form. I think the Indians are a .500 team on their best day and they'll be fortunate to finish within 15 games of first place. The Orioles have a good combination of legitimacy (having gone 5-1 on their recent road trip) and good karma. I also think Jim Johnson is underrated, and will provide a means of finishing games that Baltimore hasn't had in a few years.
Katie Sharp, ESPN Stats & Info
The Orioles. Pitching and defense wins championships, right? Even after their 14-3 loss to the Rangers on Monday night, the Orioles still have the AL's best ERA; the Indians sit in the bottom half of the league ranks. Baltimore's strong start is no fluke: the Orioles have the second best run differential in the AL (behind only Texas) and just went 5-1 on a road trip to the Bronx and Fenway Park.
2. Which surprising last-place team is more likely to finish first: Red Sox or Angels?
Karabell: The Red Sox are a mess, and because of the strength of their division long winning streaks will be more difficult to come by. The Angels, on the other hand, can feast on the mighty Mariners and awesome Athletics. I don't see Texas falling apart, but an injury here or there is reasonable; the Red Sox have to catch what looks like four superior teams. Not happening. The Angels can do this.
Simon: I picked the Angels as a World Series team and one bad month isn't going to scare me off. Keep in mind that starting next Monday they will have a 14-game stretch in which 12 will be against the Padres, Athletics and Mariners. The Angels' starting rotation has the potential to be as good as the Rays' rotation. Jerome Williams has had four respectable starts since his shaky debut. And maybe once the Angels score a run for him, Ervin Santana will pick it up. Remember that he was shaky at the start of 2011, but had a 2.90 ERA in his final 21 starts.
Sharp: The Angels. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and C.J. Wilson are arguably the best starting trio in the AL; the Red Sox don't have a single starter with an ERA below 4.38 and Clay Buchholz could be on the next train to Pawtucket. The Angels still have an 80 percent chance to make the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus, while the Red Sox's odds are nearly half that.
3. Which team should the baseball world be talking about more?
Karabell: The defending champs have received little from Lance Berkman, nothing from Chris Carpenter and are still in first place and have the largest run differential in baseball. The Cardinals certainly seem October-bound, but since they haven't made their fans suffer for decades like the Orioles or Nationals, few have noticed. Give the Cardinals credit; they could be the first NL repeat champ since 1976.
Simon: At least for this week, I'll take the Oakland Athletics and I'm still trying to figure out how they're over .500. They swiped two games from a red-hot Rays team in unexpected fashion (winning in extra innings, and then rallying against Matt Moore) over the weekend, which caught me by surprise. Ryan Cook's setup-man stat line (14⅔ IP, 3 H entering Monday) had me checking the heat maps and highlights to learn more. Turns out he throws 95 mph and has a nasty slider that has netted him 20 of his first 41 outs this season. Looks like someone who will be worth checking out all season.
Sharp: The Astros. Sure, the Astros averaged 93 losses from 2009 to 2011 and are expected to be sellers this summer at the trade deadline. But they have also quietly crept back near .500 and could make things interesting in the NL Central. Houston boasts one of the league's most exciting players in the 5-foot-5 hit machine Jose Altuve and an underrated ace in Wandy Rodriguez.