<
>

Tuesday's power rankings

1. Mike Montgomery, Seattle Mariners. He threw a four-hit shutout in a 7-0 win over the Royals, striking out 10 with zero walks. He's in the Mariners rotation only because of injuries but the rookie lefty has impressed through his first five starts, going 2-2 with a 2.04 ERA and just eight walks in 35 1/3 innings. The Mariners acquired him in a spring training trade with Tampa Bay for Erasmo Ramirez but Montgomery must feel especially good about this win because he was originally Royals property, once part of the Eric Hosmer/Mike Moustakas/Danny Duffy/Wil Myers group of prospects that was going to lead the Royals out of hibernation. But Montgomery's career stalled out in Triple-A -- 5.32 ERA in 2011, 6.07 in 2012, 4.83 in 2013 (after going to Tampa in the James Shields trade) and 4.29 last year -- and the Rays, like the Royals, finally gave up on him.

Against the Royals, he mixed a low-90s fastball with a changeup, curve and slider, throwing a first-pitch strike to 26 of the 33 batters he faced. After not throwing his slider at all in his previous start, he threw 17 of them on Tuesday and the Royals went 0-for-5 against it. Hisashi Iwakuma is rehabbing in the minors but it will difficult to bump Montgomery from the rotation with the way he's been pitching. We also get this amazing stat:

That's right, Randy Johnson never did it. Mark Langston never did it. Umm, Horacio Ramirez certainly never did it.

2. Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies. He was the No. 1 guy in the rankings on Monday and gets honored again after going 2-for-3 with a three-run homer off CC Sabathia in the fourth inning and then a two-run double in the ninth off unhittable Dellin Betances that broke a 6-6 tie. The Phillies went on to score four runs off Betances -- he'd allowed four runs all season going into the inning -- and won 11-6. That's two games in a row the Phillies scored 11 runs against the Yankees, leading to this awesome stat:

3. Dads and babies. We don't advise trying this at home.

Oh ... the Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in 10 innings, extending Zack Greinke's winless streak to nine starts ... even though he has a sub-2.00 ERA over that span. Giving us this sad stat (if you're Zack Greinke or a Dodgers fan):

4. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins. I never get tired of linking to mammoth Stanton home runs. I'm guessing Stanton has a good chance to make this list some day: The most authoritative hitters of all time.

Alas, the Marlins lost 4-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals as Jason Heyward -- .348/.362/.545 in June -- homered again and Carlos Martinez recovered from Stanton's first-inning two-run homer to strike out nine in seven innings.

5. Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals. It's not that five scoreless innings is necessarily impressive in itself, but Strasburg's return from the DL with positive results -- all five of his strikeouts came on fastballs -- is a good sign for a Nationals team that needs somebody besides Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper and Yunel Escobar to step up. That said: It was a Braves lineup that was minus Freddie Freeman and Strasburg still threw 94 pitches, way too many for five innings. Even before he landed on the DL, high pitch counts had been a problem with Strasburg this year:

April 9: 5.1 IP, 95 pitches

April 14: 5.1 IP, 109 pitches

April 25: 6 IP, 97 pitches

April 30: 5.1 IP, 100 pitches

May 17: 5 IP, 91 pitches

And those were the good starts. Considering the less-than-stellar performances so far from Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and even Jordan Zimmermann, the vaunted Nationals rotation has been more bust than bluster. Strasburg's performance remains a key to the ultimate success of the 2015 Nationals.