Why this week matters: Cubs face tough test, MLB’s surprising slugger

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What do you need to know heading into the new week? From struggling champs to healing aces, from a surprising new power source to some considerations about the trade priorities of one of baseball’s best teams, here’s what you should be checking out in a new week’s worth of game days.

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Editor’s PicksPower Rankings: Astros on top, NL teams risingThe Astros are back at No. 1, while two of the NL’s hottest teams — the Cardinals and Dodgers — made big moves in the rankings. How high did they climb, and who else went up and down?

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Is the next ?They’re already two of baseball’s best throwing catchers of the past 15 years. Now, let’s see if Contreras can dial up the star power as a hitter.

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Kids Joel Peralta Jersey Will the Cubs start playing like the champs? This will be an interesting week at Wrigley Field, and I don’t write that just because I have to be there. The host the Reds and Brewers in back-to-back series, two early surprise teams that currently are ahead of Chicago in the NL Central. The Cubs’ run prevention problems are worse than they superficially appear since their solid team ERA doesn’t account for their MLB-high total of unearned runs. Meanwhile, Milwaukee (second in runs) and Cincinnati (seventh) feature top-10 offenses. Can either or both of the upstarts hang with the Cubs and Cardinals for the near future? We may get a glimpse of an answer to that question this week. — Bradford Doolittle


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