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Red Sox return to No. 1 for third time and look poised to stay there

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Boston leads the AL East and is closing in on its first postseason appearance since 2009.

Boston has bashed its way back to the top. Behind baseball's highest scoring offense, the AL East-leading Red Sox emphatically staked their claim to being the game's best team with a 20-4 victory Wednesday night in the rubber match of a three-game set with the fellow first-place Tigers.

In the last two and a half weeks, Boston has won all five series it has played, with three coming against playoff contenders in the Dodgers, Orioles and Tigers. Equipped with the AL's best record, the majors' best run differential and this recent hot streak, the Red Sox return to No. 1 for the thid time this year and the first time since July 4th. They'll now put their weekly crown on the line against another contender, the hard-charging Yankees (No. 11), this weekend in the Bronx.

As a reminder, this year Power Rankings is utilizing a quantitative formula based on season record (50 percent), recent play and strength of schedule (combined 25 percent) and run differential (25 percent).

NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, Sept. 4.

MLB Power Rankings
1Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 2
On the last day of June, Koji Uehara allowed a solo homer to Toronto's Jose Bautista. These things happen. But it's notable because Uehara hasn't allowed an earned run in 28 1/3 innings since, during which time he has 36 strikeouts while allowing just eight hits and two walks. Opponents have a .087 average and a .106 OBP against him. Uehara's been so efficient that in only one of his 26 appearances has he thrown more than 20 pitches, when he needed only 21 to throw two innings.
 
2Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 3
The Braves have, by far, baseball's best success against opponents with winning records. They are 38-22 in those games for a .633 winning percentage that is 84 points better than any other team's. Atlanta's three remaining games against 71-68 Washington in two weeks may (or may not) be its only remaining contests against a club with a record better than .500.
 
3Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 6
Josh Donaldson is having baseball's best season in total obscurity, though that may change if he keeps diving over the tarp to make catches. The third baseman has 20 home runs, an .857 OPS and nine defensive runs saved, per the Fielding Bible; his 6.1 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, ranks seventh among position players.
 
4Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 4
Since returning from the DL after a 33-game absence, Omar Infante has multiple hits in 10 of his 22 games for a .353 average, including two home runs against Cleveland in Friday's 10-5 win. He leads all major league second baseman with a .319 average this season.
 
5St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 1
The Cardinals' rotation, once a strength, has grown into a liability. Here are the starters' ERAs by month: 2.15 in April, 3.01 in May, 4.40 in June, 3.73 in July and 4.71 in August. Through the first nine games of a 13-game stretch exclusively against the Pirates and Reds, the rotation's ERA is 6.60.
 
6Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 8
The rotation gets most of the credit, but the Dodgers' bullpen has been dramatically improved this summer too. It had a 4.25 ERA before the team's historic hot streak began on June 22 and a 2.64 ERA since, during which time the bullpen has blow just two saves -- and still won both games.
 
7Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 7
The Reds have the NL Central's best record since the All-Star break, and starters Mat Latos and Homer Bailey have been a big reason why. Both have made nine starts since with Cincinnati going 6-3 behind each of them, during which time Latos has a 1.97 ERA and Bailey a 2.63.
 
8Texas Rangers
Last Week: 5
Martin Perez, ranked as high as No. 17 in Baseball America's prospect rankings three years ago, is paying dividends for the Rangers as a 22-year-old thrust into the rotation. Since the start of August, he has won his last six starts during which time he has a 2.76 ERA, .236 average against and his first career complete game.
 
9Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 10
Pirates pitchers have done a terrific job taking advantage of their excellent infield defense. Their groundball rate of 66.6 percent is the best in baseball since at least 1987, the first year for which STATS LLC has that data.
 
10Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 14
Greg Holland is fast becoming the AL's answer to Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman. Holland is 38-for-40 in save chances with a 1.31 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and a 14.1 K/9 rate that will set the AL single-season record for pitchers who have thrown more than 50 innings.
 
11New York Yankees
Last Week: 13
Despite all the off-field contention, Alex Rodriguez has been an above-average third baseman filling the exact need the Yankees had before his return. A-Rod's only had 108 plate appearances thus far, but his on-base percentage (.370) and slugging (.436) both rank third-best on the team. He's even rated as +1 defensively, according to the Fielding Bible, which means he's slightly above average there too.
 
12Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 12
A year after having the AL East's best intra-divisional record at 43-29, this season the Orioles are only 27-29 in those games, the worst record of the division's four contending clubs. Baltimore has lost its last five series against Boston, New York and Tampa Bay.
 
13Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 11
The first four-fifths of the Indians' rotation -- Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir and Corey Kluber -- are the only starting quartet in baseball to all be averaging at least eight strikeouts per nine innings (among pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched). Only the 2011 Phillies and '12 Brewers have ever had a foursome that each finished the same season with at least 8.0 K/9.
 
14Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 9
The return of Matt Moore was just what the reeling Rays needed. Tampa Bay won Tuesday in his first start since July 28, which snapped two streaks: the Rays had lost five straight (and eight of nine) and they had been 0-9 in games played in the Pacific time zone, all of which happened in the last month.
 
15Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 19
The Angels caught fire on their recent road trip, winning eight of nine in Seattle, Tampa Bay and Milwaukee. They are now better on the road (32-35, .478) than they are at home (32-39, .451), which is curiously true of four of the five AL West teams.
 
16Washington Nationals
Last Week: 15
Catcher Wilson Ramos has started 13 straight games behind the plate for the Nationals, an impressive streak of durability especially since the club has had only one off-day. Unfortunately, his production has correspondingly slipped -- before this stretch, he had a .299/.327/.494 batting line but it's been only .196/.269/.348 during it.
 
17Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 18
The Rockies had won three straight series against the Marlins, Giants and Reds before the Dodgers cooled them off like they have the rest of the NL. Overall, however, Colorado has held its own against L.A. with an 8-7 record and is 33-28 against the NL West.
 
18Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 24
There have been 666 triples hit by 292 different players this season yet, against all odds, Jose Reyes isn't one of them. Reyes, who has led the majors in triples four times, also has only 10 doubles and 13 stolen bases in his 72 games and appears to be showing the lingering effects of his severe ankle sprain.
 
19Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 16
Paul Goldschmidt's breakout season just became even more impressive. As if it weren't enough that he's leading the NL in RBIs (104) and total bases (271) and is second in home runs (31) and adjusted OPS+ (154) -- not to mention his .291/.397/.533 batting line and team-leading 13 stolen bases -- it was revealed on Tuesday that he completed his college degree through online courses.
 
20New York Mets
Last Week: 22
With David Wright hurt and Marlon Byrd and John Buck traded to Pittsburgh, the Mets' three leading home run hitters this season are all out of the lineup and, with them, went 52 of the club's 118 homers (44 percent). But New York's doubles output has increased: it just had eight straight games with multiple two-base hits.
 
21San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 26
Buster Posey's power has waned. The reigning NL MVP last homered on July 20 -- 38 games ago -- during which time he's batting .266 with only four extra-base hits, all doubles.
 
22Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 21
Shortstop Jean Segura's average has been over .300 every day of the season and he is on pace for 192 hits, putting him well within range of the Brewers' third 200-hit season of the last 30 years (joining Ryan Braun in 2009 and Paul Molitor in 1991). Segura also leads the NL with 39 stolen bases.
 
23Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 25
Cubs pitchers have walked the most batters in the NL, yet they've actually improved over the franchise's recent track record. This season's 3.35 BB/9 rate is Chicago's lowest since 1999.
 
24Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 27
Not once this year has a Twins starter struck out eight batters in a single game. The most any Minnesota pitcher has tallied is seven, which has happened seven times: three by Mike Pelfrey, three by Kevin Correia and one by Vance Worley. The last club to go an entire season without any starter getting eight strikeouts was the 1989 Pirates. Every other club in 2013 has at least games of 8+ strikeouts; the Tigers lead the majors with 34.
 
25Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 28
Reliever Danny Farquhar's season ERA is now 4.37, but that's mostly due to his first-half struggles because he has been outstanding for nearly two months. Since July 21, a game he entered with a 7.61 ERA, Farquhar has only been scored upon in two of his 20 appearances, good for a 1.14 ERA. He is also 12 of 13 in save chances during that time with 36 strikeouts and a .127 average against in 23 2/3 innings.
 
26San Diego Padres
Last Week: 23
Tyson Ross has been sharp since rejoining San Diego's rotation after the All-Star break. He has a 2.45 ERA and .199 average against in eight starts with a prolific 58 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings. Run support, however, has been lacking as the Padres have scored no more than one run in five of those eight outings.
 
27Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 17
The White Sox are the only club that hasn't scored 12 or more runs a single time this season, and they've reached double digits only four times, which is tied with Seattle for the fewest in the AL.
 
28Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 20
The Phillies rallied for a win in the series opener in Chicago, where new manager Ryne Sandberg was a Hall of Fame second baseman. That storybook return to Wrigley Field has been part of an encouraging start to Sandberg's tenure -- though Philadelphia lost the next two games to the Cubs, it is 10-10 since the managerial change after going 53-67 under Charlie Manuel.
 
29Miami Marlins
Last Week: 29
The Marlins have already played 65 games in which they have scored two or fewer runs, which equals a pace of 76 such games. That would be the most games of scoring no more than two runs since the 1982.
 
30Houston Astros
Last Week: 30
The Astros are 5-1 in games started Brett Oberholtzer, a former Braves eighth-round pick acquired by Houston in 2011's trade of Michael Bourn, and just 6-22 in all other games since July 31. Oberholtzer has a 1.98 ERA and .217 average against in those six outings.

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