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Dodgers delivering wins but Braves, Tigers still hold down top spots

Verducci's Quick Pitch: Streaking Dodgers
Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci takes a look at the Los Angeles Dodgers' great second half performance and how that sets them up going into the playoffs.

The post office's motto of "neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds" can be easily adapted for baseball.

"Neither home, nor road, nor interleague, nor teams with winning records shall keep the Dodgers from their scheduled wins."

Los Angeles, which had a 47-47 record at the All-Star break, has delivered win after win ever since, going 13-1 on the road, 10-2 at home, 8-1 in interleague and 10-3 against teams with winning records. Overall, the Dodgers are 23-3 in the last month and have risen to No. 3, its highest spot in the Power Rankings this season.

For now, however, they still trail the Braves (majors' best record) and Tigers (majors' best run differential); in addition to those superlative season-long credentials, both Atlanta and Detroit had recent winning streaks of at least 12 games.

JAFFE: Dodgers among hottest teams of past century

As a weekly reminder, this year Power Rankings is trying to objectively determine who is the best team at the moment, by weighing season performance with recent play. The rankings are ordered based on a quantitative formula that considers season record, last-10-games record (with a small strength of schedule component) and season run differential.

NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, Aug. 14.

MLB Power Rankings
1Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 2
The Braves' Andrelton Simmons has saved 34 runs in his 1,011 2/3 innings at shortstop, according to the Fielding Bible, which is more than triple the amount saved by second-place Pedro Florimon of the Twins (11). For further perspective, the leader at the position each of the last two seasons was Seattle's Brendan Ryan with 18 and 27 runs saved, respectively.
 
2Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 1
A lot of words have been dedicated to Miguel Cabrera's greatness as a hitter, but there will never be enough. He became the first player to hit a home run in consecutive plate appearances off the Yankees' Mariano Rivera when he homered in the ninth inning on Friday and Sunday. Cabrera has now gone deep in six of his last eight games and is slugging .685; it's been 12 years since someone other than Barry Bonds finished a season with that high a slugging percentage.
 
3Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 7
It's hard for a team to be both 12 games under .500 (30-42 on June 21) and 12 games over .500 (61-49 on Aug. 4) in the same season but even rarer to do in just six weeks -- and then keep going. The Dodgers have won 23 of 26 games since they entered the All-Star break right at .500.
 
4Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 9
In his last six starts, the Reds' Bronson Arroyo has gone at least seven innings without allowing more than one run four times. Arroyo, who has a 3.35 season ERA, has walked more than two batters only once in his 24 starts this season.
 
5St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 4
Cardinals catcher and NL MVP candidate Yadier Molina, who is expected to be activated Thursday, is coming off the DL at just the right time. While Molina has a .330 average and .854 OPS (in addition to Gold Glove-caliber defense), his replacements, Tony Cruz and Rob Johnson, went just 12-for-25 (.203) with one homer and four walks in Molina's absence, while St. Louis went 6-8.
 
6Texas Rangers
Last Week: 6
Yu Darvish has twice flirted with a perfect game at Houston's Minute Maid Park this season, and in three starts there in 2013, he has allowed five hits and four walks in 23 2/3 innings. That's a 0.38 WHIP, which is preposterously good, and so too is the .066 average to which he's held Astros hitters in those games.
 
7Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 3
The Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored but have done it with unusually little reliance on the home run. Of their 609 runs, only 33 percent have come via the homer, which ranks 24th in baseball; the last majors-leading offense to score so few of their runs through homers was the 116-win 2001 Mariners, who scored 30 percent of their runs that way (27th in the majors).
 
8Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 5
Starling Marte's dropped flyball cost the Pirates a key win, and the extra shame is that Marte is the No. 1 defensive leftfielder in the majors, according to the Fielding Bible. Pittsburgh has allowed the fewest runs in the majors and will go as far as its pitching and defense carry it; the Bucs haven't scored more than five runs in a game in August and tallied just seven runs while losing three at Coors Field last weekend.
 
9Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 12
Late last month, Jed Lowrie reached an unnoticed personal milestone: On July 27, he played his 98th game of the season, which is a career high for the oft-injured shortstop. His durability and ability -- 30 doubles, nine homers and a .765 OPS that ranks third on the team -- have been a major boon for Oakland this season.
 
10Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 10
The Royals had won all seven of their series since the All-Star break -- until the lowly Marlins took two of three in Kansas City this week. A crucial five-game set in Detroit begins Thursday between the AL's best two teams since the break, as the Royals have gone 19-7 and the Tigers 18-7.
 
11Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 8
The Rays didn't fare well as honorary NL West members, going 3-7 in a 10-game stretch against the Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Giants. Tampa Bay has lost six straight games in all-or-nothing fashion, dropping three by one run and getting blown out by at least five runs in the other three.
 
12Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 14
After a tough first two months of the season in which he compiled a 5.01 ERA, Wade Miley turned the corner, not allowing more than three runs in any start between May 31 and Aug. 12, when he allowed four in seven innings in a game Arizona still won. Miley's ERA has fallen to 3.63.
 
13Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 13
Chris Davis is back to mashing the ball, with a streak of seven straight games with an extra-base hit (3 2Bs, 4 HRs) that ended when he "only" hit two singles on Wednesday. For the season he has 77 extra-base hits, which leads the majors by a mile (16, actually), and puts him on pace for 104 this season -- that would be the most since 2001 when Barry Bonds had 107 and Todd Helton had 105.
 
14Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 11
Only two AL players have at least 15 home runs and at least 15 stolen bases: the Angels' Mike Trout and the Indians' Jason Kipnis. It's been a breakout year for Kipnis, whose .855 OPS ranks second among big league second baseman, trailing only Robinson Cano.
 
15New York Yankees
Last Week: 19
Yankees righthanded batters went homer-less for more than a month, from June 25 until July 28, when Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano both went deep. Soriano has added six more since -- including back-to-back two-home run games this week -- and now has seven in pinstripes. That is second on the team to Vernon Wells' 11 among righthanded hitters; no other righty has more than three.
 
16Washington Nationals
Last Week: 18
Jayson Werth received his seven-year, $126 million contract immediately following a career year in Philadelphia in 2010, when he had a .921 OPS. It took three seasons -- in the first two in D.C. he had a .718 and .827 OPS, respectively -- but he has matched that this year, with a .930 OPS to go along with a .329 average and 17 home runs in 88 games.
 
17Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 23
At the time of his mid-June rib injury, Troy Tulowitzki led the NL with a .347 average and led all major league shortstops with 16 HRs, 51 RBIs, a .413 OBP and a .635 slugging percentage. Since returning to action on July 11, however, Tulowitzki has just four homers and a .665 OPS in 29 games.
 
18New York Mets
Last Week: 16
Ike Davis' trip back to Triple A apparently did him a world of good. His OBP before his June 9 demotion was .242, which he has nearly doubled with a .463 OBP in his 34 games since his July 5 return.
 
19Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 15
Brett Lawrie has rejuvenated his season since his return from the DL. His pre-injury slash line was .209/.268/.374 in 37 games, and it's .317/.375/.525 in 28 games since July 13 -- the latter's .900 OPS ranks third among big league third basemen during that time.
 
20Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 22
Ryan Braun is suspended and Aramis Ramirez is injured, but that was no problem last week, as the Brewers scored 10 runs in consecutive games against the Mariners. Milwaukee is 11-12 (.478) since Braun's suspension, which is better than its season winning percentage of .423.
 
21Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 25
After an absence of 33 games, Josh Willingham returned to the Twins' lineup for a twinbill last Friday in which he homered in the nightcap. On Saturday, he smacked a double that was both his 200th career double and his 900th career hit.
 
22Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 21
Felix Hernandez, he of the 13-win Cy Young season in 2010, is used to poor run support. This year he's 12-5, which is good, but he still should be better. He has a 2.41 ERA and he averaged seven innings in his eight no decision. (By the way, he has a 0.91 ERA and an average of 7.5 innings in his 12 wins.)
 
23Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 20
The Angels have had more go wrong this season than just bad luck, but it's worth noting that their record in one-run games (14-24, .368) is the worst in baseball. Any deviation from .500 can be seen as either good or bad luck.
 
24Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 28
Buried amidst the White Sox' poor season is the resurgent play of second baseman Gordon Beckham. After a promising rookie year (14 HRs and .808 OPS in 103 games) in 2009, he turned in three straight seasons with a sub-.700 OPS, but he's rebounded this year with a .308 average and .778 OPS in 66 games.
 
25Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 26
The Cubs suffered shutout losses in three straight home games -- Aug. 3-4 against the Dodgers and Aug. 12 against the Reds -- which had not happened to them since Aug. 1924. It's tied for the longest streak in the majors since the 1984 Cardinals were blanked in four straight home games.
 
26San Diego Padres
Last Week: 17
In a 13-inning loss to the Reds on Sunday, the Padres managed just one hit in 17 at bats with runners in scoring position. That was part of a recent six-game spell in which San Diego went 3-for-55 in such situations while winning just one game.
 
27San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 24
Game score is a Bill James-devised metric that attempts to summarize a pitcher's performance in one number; anything 70 or better is excellent and something half that or worse is poor. Only five pitchers have at least five starts with a game score of 70 or better and at least five starts of 35 or worse, and two are Giants: Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. (The other three are Justin Verlander, Justin Masterson and Zack Greinke.)
 
28Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 29
Might Darin Ruf be the answer in rightfield? The rookie has 10 HRs and a .943 OPS in 44 career games, though he is only now learning the position defensively. Veteran rightfielders Delmon Young and Laynce Nix were both released recently after combining for just 10 homers in 425 plate appearances; Young had a .699 OPS and Nix had a .486 mark.
 
29Miami Marlins
Last Week: 27
Jose Fernandez last allowed more than three runs in a start back on May 27, a span of 13 outings. The Marlins are 14-9 (.609) in games he starts and 32-64 (.333) otherwise.
 
30Houston Astros
Last Week: 30
Houston's Brett Oberholtzer spectacular beginning to his starting pitching career. After making three relief appearances, the Astros rookie completed seven shutout innings in each of his first two starts before losing his third outing 2-1 while turning in a quality start of two runs in 6 2/3 innings.
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