After an impressive stretch where Houston went 7-2 against the Mets and Yankees, they are at +550, and the Mets are at +750 with Max Scherzer returning to pitch this week and Jacob DeGrom not too far behind after he had a successful rehab start over the weekend.
We covered the American League favorites last time, and we’ll go in-depth on the two National League favorites over the All-Star Break, as the division races for the NL East and NL West leaders aren’t as automatic as they are for the Yankees and Astros.
This week, we’re taking a look at some teams that made strides in June and whether it was a stroke of luck or something that could continue as the summer rolls on.
Stock Up: Atlanta Braves
Odds to win 2022 World Series: +1300 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
The Braves appear to be over their World Series hangover, but remember, they did have a poor start to the season a year ago before getting their act together–and making some key trades at the July 31 deadline–and won a championship. Atlanta is also battle-tested, as they have reached the postseason in four consecutive years.
After it looked like the Mets might run away with the NL East, the Braves took advantage of a soft part of their schedule and went 21-6 in the month of June, gaining seven games on the Mets during the month, who had a steady diet of top-tier teams like the Dodgers, Padres, Astros, and Brewers to deal with.
Atlanta is now tied for fifth in baseball in runs scored with 384 going into July 5, and while their runs allowed number isn’t too bad–a team ERA of 3.73 ranks ninth in MLB–it feels like the Braves need to acquire some starting pitching at the trade deadline. But after last year’s splurge on offense after losing Ronald Acuna Jr. for the season due to injury, the Braves front office has shown that they will do what it takes to get what they need.
The Braves will need top-of-the-line starters to compete with Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom of the Mets (assuming both are healthy for the second half), and the teams still have 14 of their 18 games left to play against each other this year.
Atlanta is trending up, while San Francisco and St. Louis are slumping a bit, so whether or not the Braves can overtake the Mets in the NL East, it’s looking like a safe bet that Atlanta will be in the playoffs, and their experience will make them a tough out come October.
Stock Up: Boston Red Sox
Odds to Win 2022 World Series: +3000 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Boston didn’t gain any ground on the juggernaut Yankees in June, but Alex Cora’s team did go 20-6 in the month and surpassed their chief wild card competition by gaining six games on Toronto and eight on Tampa Bay.
While it’s not automatic that Boston will reach the playoffs, we said a couple of weeks ago that we wanted to wait to see how the Red Sox performed against tougher competition before we bought into their hot streak over teams like Oakland, the Los Angeles Angels, and Detroit.
The Red Sox did pass some tests since then, taking two of three from St. Louis and cooling off the red-hot Guardians by sweeping them in Cleveland. After losing four of five to the Blue Jays and Cubs, Boston did rebound with a win in Chicago in the series finale and shut out Tampa Bay 4-0 on July 4.
Despite acquisition Trevor Story hitting for a low average, Boston leads the league in batting average at .261 and are fifth in ERA at 3.57. Even more impressively, Boston has done it with Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill, and Garrett Whitlock currently on the injured list. They will be getting a boost with Chris Sale’s expected return this month and are also hoping for James Paxton to be available in the final two months of the season.
Cora has shown that he can do great things leading this team, as he took them to a World Series title in 2018 and a surprise run to the ALCS last year. It will be tough with a steady diet of the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays, but those three teams could all get wild cards in the new postseason format.
Stock Down: Philadelphia Phillies
Odds to Win the 2022 World Series: +4000 (Bet MGM)
Give credit to the Phillies for bouncing back to at least give them a shot in 2022, as they were 22-29 when manager Joe Girardi was fired on June 3. Since then, Philadelphia is 20-9 and tied in the loss column with St. Louis for the final playoff spot in the National League.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, Bryce Harper–who already has been limited to designated hitter for most of the season–broke his thumb after being hit by a pitch and is expected to miss all of July and most of August while recovering. That could be enough to sink the Phillies in a division with the Mets and Braves, but with three wild card teams this year, they might be able to hang in position.
The thing is, however, if they do make the playoffs, we don’t see them competing with the likes of the Mets, Braves, Dodgers, or Padres. Those teams are too deep, especially in pitching, and they are likely to improve at the trade deadline. While Philadelphia can also improve, they lack depth in starting pitching and the bullpen, so it will be tough to address all of their needs and join the upper echelon in the National League.
Stock Down: Cleveland Guardians
Odds to Win the 2022 World Series: +9000 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Based on their odds, the sportsbooks didn’t buy much into Cleveland’s 18-10 June that saw them go 18-5 from May 28 to June 22. Since that point where they briefly overtook Minnesota for first place in the AL Central, the Guardians were 3-3 against the Twins, were swept at home by Boston, lost two of three to the Yankees, and were swept in a doubleheader by Detroit on July 4.
The Guardians have been getting solid performances from their young rotation, led by Shane Bieber’s 3.16 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 91 innings pitched. They are 13th in earned runs allowed with 303, as they have been hampered by the fifth starter spot.
Scoring, however, has been a concern–Cleveland is 20th in runs scored with 335 and 14th with a .242 team batting average. Jose Ramirez is producing, and Josh Naylor and Andres Giminez have been nice surprises, but the run production is lacking quite a bit after those three, as Owen Miller’s 34 RBI is fourth on the team, and Amed Rosario is fifth with 23.
With Boston, Tampa Bay, and Toronto potentially beating up on each other and Cleveland having a steady diet of Detroit, Kansas City, and a disappointing White Sox team to contend with, Cleveland might sneak into the playoffs but won’t have the horses to win several playoff series.