MLB Power Rankings: Athletics in first, but Marlins are rolling
For the first time this season, we have a repeat No. 1. Two weeks after grabbing the top spot, the Oakland Athletics are back in first after barely edging out two other teams. On the strength of three first-place votes, Oakland (175 points) beat out Detroit (173) and San Francisco (172) to claim No. 1 in our rankings. The Athletics' rise displaced the Braves, who are down to No. 6 after a rough week that saw them lose six straight games.
They're No. 1: Athletics. Although the A's stumbled a bit at week's end, losing two of three to Boston, Oakland remains atop the AL West and has the second-best winning percentage in the American League, behind Detroit (which has played five fewer games). The weekend's series loss to the Red Sox exposed one major issue with the Athletics so far, though, and that's the back of the rotation. Both Dan Straily (5.01 ERA in 32 1/3 innings) and Tommy Milone (5.86 in 27 2/3 IP) fared poorly against Boston, with Straily lasting just 4 1/3 innings in a 2-1 loss on Friday, and Milone getting hammered for six earned runs in four innings, walking four and giving up three homers. The longball has been a big problem for Straily and Milone so far, with the pair allowing 11 homers combined this year. The A's are getting Cy Young-caliber work from the top three in their rotation (Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez), but Straily and Milone need to do more.
Cellar Dweller: Diamondbacks. The No. 1 spot has been up for grabs all year, but last place has seen the constant presence of Arizona, which managed only eight points overall and four last-place votes. But is their grip on No. 30 slipping? The Diamondbacks are getting some serious competition from the Astros for the basement spot in the rankings, as Houston's dismal week (1-4) earned them a pair of last-place votes and just 10 points overall. For now, though, Arizona remains at No. 30 on the back of a league-leading 23 losses, though the Diamondbacks showed some fight last week, winning three straight and grabbing two of three from San Diego for their first series win since April 8-10 against San Francisco.
Biggest Riser: Marlins. No division is tighter right now than the NL East, with all five teams at .500 or better, and few teams are hotter than the Miami Marlins. The Fish wrapped up a 5-1 week that included a three-game sweep of division-leading Atlanta by taking two of three from the Dodgers. That series ended on a walk-off win Sunday that featured two Giancarlo Stanton blasts; the 24-year-old slugger is now hitting an eye-popping .285/.362/.602 with an NL-best 10 homers and a major-league best 36 RBI. That Miami's hot week came at home is no surprise; the Marlins are now 14-5 at home and just 2-10 on the road. Luckily for them, they'll stay in Miami to open a three-game series against the Mets before leaving for a long West Coast road trip.
Biggest Faller: Royals. Kansas City took a precipitous plunge down the rankings this week, falling all the way from 13 to 24 after a brutal week that saw them lose four straight and get swept in a three-game series by Detroit. And the sweep wasn't even close: The Tigers dropped 26 runs on the Royals, who managed just eight in response. Offense has been a big problem in Kansas City, particularly in the power department. The Royals hit only one homer in 27 innings against Detroit, that coming off the bat of Billy Butler, and that was his first of the year. As a team, the Royals have only 12 homers; to put it another way, that's as many homers as Chicago's Jose Abreu has all by himself. Kansas City needs Butler, Eric Hosmer (zero homers in 130 plate appearances) and Alex Gordon (one HR in 123 PA) to heat up, and soon.
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Twins: A week after jumping up to a season-best 14th in the rankings, Minnesota took a drop down to 21. Look up neutral in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of the 2014 Twins: They're 14-15 overall, 5-5 in their last 10, 8-9 at home and 6-6 on the road. At this point, the Twins have to be hoping at least for average in the starting rotation, where every pitcher is toting an ERA+ of 97 or below. That includes Mike Pelfrey, who bottomed out with a four-inning, five-run debacle against Detroit that jumped his ERA to 7.99 and cost him his rotation spot, at least temporarily; he's now on the DL with a strained groin.
Rockies: Our experts were divided on Colorado, which got votes everywhere from fourth to 14th. The Rockies ended the week on a high note, taking three of four from the Mets, but the team is now down Wilin Rosario, who's on the DL with a viral infection, and is still without Michael Cuddyer. Troy Tulowitzki (.400/.500/.730) is doing everything he can, though, to keep the offense rolling without those two.
Braves: Last week's No. 1 team came crashing back to earth after a terrible week that saw Atlanta get swept in back-to-back series by Miami and San Francisco. Mired in a six-game losing streak, the Braves are getting reinforcements in the pitching staff with Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd both returning from injury. But Atlanta really needs a boost in the lineup; the team is averaging a mere 3.3 runs per game, second-worst in baseball, and is getting nothing out of Dan Uggla (45 OPS+), Chris Johnson (66), B.J. Upton (72) and Jason Heyward (71). That's half the lineup producing well below replacement level, and that has to change if Atlanta wants another NL East crown.