Dodgers' rise finds top of Power Rankings
Historic run sees LA make biggest leap as season's final month draws near
The Dodgers don't have the best record in baseball. That distinction belongs to the Braves, who are running away with the National League East as the calendar creeps toward October.
But how could any team other than the Dodgers, winners of 42 of their past 51 games, find itself atop MLB.com's latest Power Rankings?
The Dodgers went 42-8 from June 22 until Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Phillies, matching the 1941 Yankees and '42 Cardinals for the best 50-game stretch since 1900. Their historic hot streak has them 7 1/2 games up in the NL West as of Monday morning and in the top spot in this week's Power Rankings.
L.A. is followed closely by Atlanta at No. 2. At 76-48, a .613 winning percentage, the Braves own the best mark in the Majors and a commanding 15 1/2-game lead over the Nationals in the NL East.
The rest of the top six are fairly straightforward, as they're leading their respective divisions. The Tigers, who dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 this week, are holding steady atop the American League Central, with a seven-game advantage over the Indians. The No. 4 Red Sox dropped a thriller to the Yankees on Sunday night, shrinking their margin in the AL East to one game over the Rays.
The Rangers, coming in this week at No. 5, are clinging to a half-game lead over the A's in a two-team race in the AL West. And the Pirates, losers of seven of 10, round out the top six as they continue their march toward a winning season and quite possibly a spot in the playoffs. But the Power Rankings reflect the NL Central standings in this way: Pittsburgh is only one game up in the division, and it is only one spot ahead in the rankings, as St. Louis checks in at No. 7.
The other Wild Card front-runners figure prominently into the rankings as well. Oakland, which would be the second AL Wild Card if the season ended today, ranks eighth. Cincinnati, 7-3 over its last 10 games with a 1 1/2-game deficit to St. Louis, is ninth. And Tampa Bay, which walked off twice over the weekend to maintain its lead in the AL Wild Card race, rounds out the top 10.
For the third season, MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. Three former Major League players -- Larry Dierker, Mitch Williams and Frank Thomas -- are part of the process, as are columnist Peter Gammons and Carlton Thompson, vice president and executive editor of MLB.com. Former general manager and current MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, along with MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach and Jesse Sanchez are also part of the group.
What do you think? Choose your Top 15.
1. Dodgers: Who else? It's practically considered news these days when the Dodgers don't win a game. What's more, they'll add former Giants closer Brian Wilson on Monday or Tuesday and could get Matt Kemp back at some point down the stretch. They were almost untouchable during their 42-8 stretch, opening up a huge lead in the NL West. Manager Don Mattingly admits Yasiel Puig still makes too many mistakes, but they're still getting it done. Last week: 6
2. Braves: They have put themselves in the best position in baseball, with the game's best record and no clear challengers for the division title. The Nationals are below .500, and the Braves have beaten up on everyone else in the NL East, save the Mets. On top of that, Brandon Beachy has put together three straight quality starts in his return from Tommy John surgery. And Jason Heyward has turned into a beast since moving to the leadoff spot on July 27, hitting .375 with a 1.076 OPS in 20 games.
Last week: 2
3. Tigers: Detroit went 4-4 against two AL Central opponents last week, dropping two of three to Chicago before taking three of five from Kansas City, but the Tigers still own the best record in the AL. They're keeping the Indians and Royals at bay in the division, and they're heading into a week in which they'll play six against the Twins (54-68) and Mets (56-66). Their schedule gets a little tougher the last week of August and first week of September, when they'll face the A's, Indians, Red Sox and Royals again. But if you haven't noticed, they have possibly the leading candidates for both the AL MVP Award, Miguel Cabrera, and the AL Cy Young Award, the 18-1 Max Scherzer.
Last week: 1
4. Red Sox: Boston has dropped seven of its last 10, but the Red Sox are still standing atop baseball's most competitive division. However, they are just barely holding off the Rays, with a one-game lead, and after three games in San Francisco, the Red Sox will face almost nothing but playoff contenders until the end of the year, including the Dodgers, Tigers, Rays, the Yankees twice and Orioles three times. Still, they've impressed all season, and they're about to add highly touted prospect Xander Boegarts for the stretch run.
Last week: 3
5. Rangers: Texas is 12-4 in August and 15-4 in its last 19 games, good enough to carry a half-game lead over Oakland in the AL West. This would be an ideal stretch for the Rangers to add to that lead, as they're set to play the Astros, White Sox, Mariners and Twins before another postseason contender shows up on their schedule. Texas has won 11 of 13 against Houston this year, and Chicago is 49-74 on the year.
Last week: 4
6. Pirates: The Bucs have been the feel-good story of 2013, but they've dropped seven of nine and seen their NL Central lead fall to just one game over the Cardinals. This week will be another test of Pittsburgh's mettle, as the Pirates embark on a seven-day, seven-game road trip through San Diego and San Francisco. Those teams aren't contenders, but the Bucs are just 28-60 in NL West cities since 2008. Then again, this hasn't been a typical season in Pittsburgh. Ten more wins, and the Pirates are guaranteed to finish over .500 for the first time since 1992.
Last week: 5
7. Cardinals: St. Louis has gone 9-8 in an uneven August, but it beats the seven-game losing skid it went on at the end of July. A big series awaits against the Brewers. Any winning streak at all, really, could go a long way for the Cards, as they'll then face the Braves before playing their next 13 games against the Pirates and Reds. St. Louis is squarely in the middle of those two in the standings, so that will be a make-or-break stretch in the NL Central.
Last week: 8
8. A's: They have 22 games remaining against the AL West, including three this week against the Mariners, which means they'll need to turn this stat back around: After starting the year 13-3 against division opponents, Oakland has gone 18-20 against the AL West. The A's had to place Bartolo Colon on the disabled list, but the impending return of Brett Anderson could buoy their rotation.
Last week: 7
9. Reds: The Reds are the hottest of the three teams gunning for the NL Central title, having won nine of 12, but it's still good to be home. After a successful 5-2 road trip through Chicago and Milwaukee, Cincinnati returns home for seven games against Arizona and the Brewers. The Reds have one of the game's best records at home so far at 37-20, and they will play 23 of their last 38 games at Great American Ball Park.
Last week: 9
10. Rays: The rotation is not as dominant as in years past, not with Jeremy Hellickson struggling and Roberto Hernandez pitching every five days, but Tampa Bay keeps finding a way to win. Getting back left-hander Matt Moore would help as they battle the Red Sox down the stretch, but it's unknown when he'll return. Still, the Rays bounced back from a tough road trip through the NL West with four wins last week, including three walk-off hits from unexpected contributors Jose Lobaton and Jason Bourgeois.
Last week: 10
11. Orioles Don't forget about the O's, who are 4 1/2 back in the AL East and three games out of a Wild Card spot. Chris Davis is still crushing homers and forcing himself into the AL MVP Award conversation. A few things to watch out for, though: Baltimore's schedule is fairly unforgiving the rest of the way, save for two series against Toronto and one against the White Sox. And the Orioles' one-run magic of 2012 has all but disappeared, as they've gone 14-21 in those games this year.
Last week: 11
12. D-backs: It's hard to imagine Arizona making the NL West into a two-team race given the way Los Angeles has raced out to a huge advantage. But the D-backs could still make a Wild Card push, sitting five games back of the Reds with a lot of winnable games to be played. They swept the Orioles and took two of three from the Pirates last week, and 27 of their final 40 games will come against division opponents. Oddly enough, the D-backs have gone a combined 8-16 against the Giants and Padres this year while winning seven of 12 against the Dodgers.
Last week: 14
13. Yankees: Yes, there's more going on with the Yanks right now than just The A-Rod Show. They've won seven of 10, and they received huge contributions at the plate last week from Robinson Cano (.519/.594/.593), Curtis Granderson (.417/.500/.667) and, of course, Alfonso Soriano. The Yankees' Trade Deadline acquisition hit .484 with five homers and 18 RBIs last week, sparking an offense that hopes to get back Derek Jeter at some point. But they're facing a huge uphill battle, with a 7 1/2-game deficit in the AL East and six in the Wild Card standings.
Last week: 15
14. Indians: Second baseman Jason Kipnis summarized the Indians' situation quite well after a 7-3 loss to the A's on Sunday. "You don't have time to be deflated by any of these games any more," he said. "It's go time. We need to win." Indeed, the Tribe needs to make a strong push to overcome its seven-game deficit in the AL Central and 4 1/2-game margin in the Wild Card race. Big finishes from Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera, who have struggled much of the year, would certainly help.
Last week: 13
15. Royals: They're right up there with the Pirates on the list of feel-good stories in 2013, but they're running out of time to make a playoff push. They had a great chance to make up some ground against the Tigers over the weekend. Instead, after dropping three of five to the division leaders, Kansas City is trailing Detroit by 8 1/2 games in the AL Central and is six games out of a Wild Card spot. After winning seven straight series coming out of the All-Star break, the Royals have dropped consecutive series to the Marlins and Tigers.
Last week: 12
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.