If you were following the Boston Red Sox last week in the wake of Josh Beckett's golf fiasco, you would have thought that their season was over. But they've now won three straight and have actually outscored their opponents this year despite not having Jacoby Ellsbury or Carl Crawford for most/all of the season. Is there hope in Beantown? That, plus talk of the injury bug in Washington and the Dodgers' surprisingly large lead.
1. The Red Sox have won three straight and have a positive run differential. Have people been writing them off too quickly?
Jeremy Lundblad (@JLundbladESPN), ESPN Boston
Definitely. That's not to say this team isn't a mess. It is. But remember that Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Andrew Bailey are all expected back this summer. That's more talent than any team will pick up at the deadline. If Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett turn it around, Boston should still be a contender.
Nick Faleris (@NickJFaleris), Camden Depot
Of course. At this time last year, the Sox were a half-game out of last place and four out of first, with a 19-20 record and minus-8 run differential, and it took a historic September collapse for them to miss the playoffs. That doesn't even take into account the fact that there's an extra playoff spot this year.
John Fisher (@JohnnyPhisher), ESPN Stats & Info
Of course. Yes, they've allowed the most runs in the major leagues, but only two teams have scored more runs and Jacoby Ellsbury has played in just seven games. Plus, they've lowered their team ERA by nearly a run and a half in May. That doesn't mean they'll make the playoffs, but a team that scores like this won't finish below .500.
2. First Michael Morse, then Jayson Werth, now Wilson Ramos. Can the Nats survive all these injuries?
Lundblad: When your rotation has a 2.31 ERA, you don't need all that much offense. Still, Stephen Strasburg, who's hitting .308, shouldn't be your second-best hitter. Ryan Zimmerman needs to get going to keep the offense afloat until Morse comes back next month. You'd have to think Washington is looking to deal for a bat.
Faleris: The Nats are in first place because of what has been the best pitching staff in baseball (first in quality starts, WHIP, batting average against, adjusted ERA and strikeouts). If the arms don't suffer a significant backslide, Strasburg, Gonzalez & Co. should keep them in the race. Bonus: Zimmerman and Harper should provide a sizable boost on offense if they can get in sync.
Fisher: No. Without Drew Storen, that bullpen is unsettled, as Henry Rodriguez reinforced Sunday. Bryce Harper is too young to carry the load, hitting .167 in his past nine games. The two players with the most AB -- Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa -- are hitting .240 with a K-to-BB ratio of more than 3-to-1 combined. And only three teams have scored three or fewer runs more often this season.
3. The Dodgers have the largest division lead. Can anyone catch them?
Lundblad: Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano are a combined 9-0 with a 1.78 ERA. Let's just say there's a chance they don't keep that up. Besides, the Dodgers are one Matt Kemp injury away from having one of the worst offenses in the league (and that injury may have already happened). Keep in mind that the Diamondbacks were also 15-20 last season, and they went on to win the division by eight games.
Faleris: Can I answer after we get Matt Kemp's MRI results back? Sure, there is plenty of time for the Dodgers to be run down, but the presence of two wild-card spots and the underwhelming profile of the rest of the NL West makes L.A. the safest name to pencil into the NL postseason at this point.
Fisher: Not in that division. Only one team in the majors has allowed fewer runs, and the Rockies are the only team in the NL West that can score -- but they can't stop anybody from scoring. The Dodgers are 12-4 against the division this year already and they're unbeatable at home. And their bullpen has the second-best strikeout rate in baseball.