With slugger Aaron Judge and ace Gerrit Cole dominating, the New York Yankees have become the hottest team in MLB heading into the third full week of the season. Judge hit a pair of home runs Sunday afternoon, including a monstrous 453-foot blast over the center-field batter's eye at Kauffman Stadium, to help the Yankees win their ninth straight game and finish off a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals.
Judge, who rested the day before, joked that he picked a good day to play because recent strong winds in K.C. were not a hindrance to power hitters. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Judge's longer homer: "It's tough to hit a ball more pure than that." Through 21 games entering action on Monday, Judge was batting .300/.364/.663 with eight homers, 16 RBIs and 16 runs scored. It’s plainly a great start but also typical of how he performs when healthy.
The Yankees, who are 16-6 overall, moved up two spots in the Bally Sports MLB Power Rankings to displace the San Francisco Giants at No. 3. The crosstown New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers lead the rankings, which are compiled by the Bally Sports staff, with the Los Angeles Angels moving up seven spots to No. 4. Fox Sports noted that it's the first time this late in the season that the four teams from New York and Los Angeles led their respective divisions at the same time. Way to go, Coastal Elites!
Cole lowered his ERA to 3.00 after tossing six shutout innings Saturday night in his second straight commanding start. He was painting the corners and blowing away hitters with four-seamers in the upper 90s, but he also executed a cut fastball that is useful for getting softer contact. Always looking for an edge to remain one of the elite pitchers in the league, the 31-year-old right-hander has re-introduced the cutter into his repertoire with a lot of success. After a few fitful moments in his first three starts, Cole hasn't allowed a run and has 15 strikeouts over his past 12 2/3 innings.
"I'm just happy we're winning," Cole said.
Judge and Cole haven't been the only Yankees players in a groove, and big power and strong starting pitching haven't been the only things clicking for the Yankees so far. They've also alertly run the bases, utilized shorter directional hitting, played (mostly) strong defense and gotten (mostly) clean relief appearances from the bullpen.
“I think that's our strength — versatility," Cole said.
Not only is it a good way to play, but it also sends a message to the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays that it's going to take a complete effort to be better than the Yankees in the American League East.
Other big advancers this week include the Minnesota Twins, who reached No. 9 after being 14th in Week 2, and the Miami Marlins, who jumped to No. 11 from 19th. The Philadelphia Phillies also leaped eight spots to No. 15, like the Arizona Diamondbacks, who improved to No. 17.
The Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners dropped out of the top 10, but not too far, and the Oakland Athletics and Red Sox fell from the teens into the 20s. The Royals (28th), Washington Nationals (29th) and Cincinnati Reds (30th) have been bringing up the rear for two straight weeks.
MLB Power Rankings
Records and statistics are through May 1
1. New York Mets (16-7, Last week: 2): They're so good, they're cutting Robinson Canó, who is 39 years old and not hitting, despite owing him nearly $40 million.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (14-7, LW: 1): Amid multiple sexual assault allegations, MLB suspended right-hander Trevor Bauer for 324 games, meaning L.A. is off the hook for about $64 million in salary.
3. New York Yankees (16-6, LW: 5): They're so deep in the bullpen, they demoted right-hander Clarke Schmidt to Triple-A even though he has a 1.08 ERA.
4. Toronto Blue Jays (15-8, LW: 4): Strong record but just a +1 run differential. Plate discipline hasn't been great collectively, but ought to get better.
5. Los Angeles Angels (15-8, LW: 11): Shohei Ohtani was not in the lineup Monday because of a sore groin.
6. San Francisco Giants (14-8, LW: 3): Is this good? Left-hander Carlos Rodón has allowed three runs total in his four starts.
7. Milwaukee Brewers (15-8, LW: 9): Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta have ERAs of 5.00 or higher, but lefty Eric Lauer has a 1.93 ERA in four starts.
8. San Diego Padres (15-8, LW: 10): Eric Hosmer is batting .382/.447/.579 with 14 RBIs, but his BABIP is .426 and is near 60% ground balls.
9. Minnesota Twins (13-9, LW: 14): Right-hander Joe Ryan has a 1.17 ERA in four starts.
10. St. Louis Cardinals (12-9, LW: 8): Righty Ryan Helsley has faced 26 batters. He has 16 strikeouts and has allowed one hit. He's also hit 103.5 mph on the gun.
11. Miami Marlins (12-9, LW: 19): Pablo López has allowed one run in four starts.
12. Colorado Rockies (13-9, LW: 6): Chad Kuhl had a 4.44 ERA in five seasons for the Pirates, but he's allowed five runs in four starts for the Rox.
13t. Seattle Mariners (12-10, LW: 7): Jesse Winker (.197/.340/.237) is struggling with his new team, but cohort Eugenio Suárez (.215/.311/.430) compares favorably to the league.
13t. Tampa Bay Rays (12-10, LW: 12): A lot of Rays have strange hitting numbers, but Wander Franco is batting .313/.333/.578 with four homers. So he's OK.
15. Philadelphia Phillies (11-12, LW: 23): No concerns about Alec Bohm's state of mind because of defensive troubles; he's batting .309/.373/.455.
16. Houston Astros (11-11, LW: 18): Justin Verlander, who’s 39 and coming back from Tommy John — 1.73 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 26 innings.
17. Arizona Diamondbacks (10-13, LW: 25): The pitching has been great — Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen in particular.
18. Atlanta Braves (10-13, LW: 16): Ronald Acuña is back and Kyle Wright has been nearly perfect, but they're off to another mediocre start on the whole.
19. Cleveland Guardians (10-12, LW: 15): José Ramírez (.341/.421/.707 with 7 HR) does not appear to be having trouble living up to his contract extension.
20. Oakland Athletics (10-12, LW: 13): Sheldon Neuse (.328/.400/.463) has been very noisy at the plate.
21. Chicago Cubs (9-13, LW: 20): Seiya Suzuki has cooled but is still batting .278/.398/.528.
22. Texas Rangers (8-14, LW: 27): Only -6 in run differential, which could mean they have a chance to make a run at .500.
23. Boston Red Sox (9-14, LW: 17): Why can't they make the entire team out of Garrett Whitlock?
24. Pittsburgh Pirates (9-13, LW: 22): Nine wins but none by a starting pitcher.
25. Baltimore Orioles (8-14, LW: 26): Top prospect Adley Rutschman should be along soon. Please?
26. Chicago White Sox (8-13, LW: 21): The good news is there's five months left to turn it around.
27. Detroit Tigers (7-14, LW: 24): Austin Meadows batting .319/.420/.406 and playing great defense in left — but with no home runs, if you're into those.
28. Kansas City Royals (7-13, LW: 28): Good recent performances by starters Brad Keller, Zack Greinke and Daniel Lynch, along with most of the relievers. But almost no one is hitting.
29. Washington Nationals (8-16, LW: 29): Josh Bell is raking: .351/.457/.506. Juan Soto isn't really raking yet, and neither is Nelson Cruz. Nobody else even owns a rake.
30. Cincinnati Reds (3-19, LW: 30): The less said, the better.