While the Red Sox have been the definition of middling (Oxford
classifies this as “neither very good nor very bad”), teams elsewhere
are either making a push or sinking like stones. As we endure the dog
days of summer, here is a look at who’s hot and who’s not.




Bay Rays
– Evan Longoria will not win the MVP award this year, but
you’d be hard-pressed to find a player more important to his team than
he is to the Rays. Since Longoria’s return from a hamstring injury,
Tampa Bay has won six straight games (through Sunday). The star third
baseman went just 6-for-23 (.261) with one extra-base hit during the run, but he transforms a lineup whose inadequacy “fueled” a 21-27
stretch before the winning streak.


Atlanta Braves – Newly acquired
Paul Maholm threw a shutout Friday in his second start since joining a
team that may have enough to overcome Washington in the NL East. With 14
wins in 18 games through Sunday, the Braves have kept pace with the
Nationals, who have been as hot, if not hotter, but have little
experience playing in big games down the stretch and also have to deal
with the Stephen Strasburg dilemma.


Cincinnati Reds – Former MVP
Joey Votto is expected to return later this month. When he does he’ll
join a team that has already gone 19-8 in his absence. Ryan Ludwick
(.299 with 16 homers since the start of June) has emerged as an
unexpected big bat in Votto’s absence and Aroldis Chapman (20
strikeouts, zero walks in his last 11 1/3 innings) is unhittable at the
back end of a dominant bullpen.



Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim –
The Halos acquired Zack Greinke at the tail end of a 39-22 stretch.
Many thought they would flick aside the A’s and seriously threaten the
Rangers in the AL West. However, Greinke is 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA in three
Angels starts and Anaheim just dropped two of three at home to lowly
Seattle to fall to 5-10 in August. The star-studded Angels are on the
outside looking in.

Pittsburgh Pirates
– On Aug. 2, Pittsburgh went
to Cincinnati trailing in the NL Central by three games. They dropped
two of three to the front-running Reds and were 3-4 on the ensuing
homestand entering Monday. The Pirates went 19-43 after rising to first
place last July and some in the Steel City have to wonder if this is the
start of another collapse.

Toronto Blue Jays – They managed to
weather a storm of injuries through June and July and stay around the
.500 mark, but Jose Bautista’s absence is being felt in a big way.
Before a breakout Sunday against the Yankees, Toronto had averaged 2.4
runs during a 2-11 slide that all but killed the club’s postseason