MLB Power Rankings: Athletics in first, Rays last, Royals rising
For the first time in this season's Power Rankings, we have a clean sweep at the top. The Oakland Athletics grabbed all seven of our first-place votes for the maximum 210 points and a return to the No. 1 spot. They displace the Giants, who slid down to second place. The Blue Jays remained in third, while the Angels and Brewers flipped fourth and fifth place, respectively.
They're No. 1: A's. While Oakland's 3-3 week wasn't great, it was enough to get past San Francisco, which dropped three straight to Colorado to finish the week. The A's also did it despite the struggles of Josh Donaldson, who had a week he'd sooner forget: 1-for-24 with no walks and four strikeouts. That's part of a month of June in which Donaldson has picked up only seven hits in 54 at-bats for a brutal .130/.161/.241 line and 13 strikeouts against one walk. At one point, Donaldson made an out in 29 straight plate appearances, reaching only once on a fielder's choice. Despite the bad start to June, Donaldson still boasts an .826 OPS and 132 OPS+ as well as his American League-best 4.5 WAR. But for Oakland to keep the Angels at bay in the AL West, it will need Donaldson to snap out of his slump soon.
Cellar Dweller: Rays. It was only a matter of time before Tampa Bay fell into the basement, saddled as they are with the league's worst record and most losses. How bad has it gotten for the Rays? Last weekend's series win over Houston was their first since a three-game sweep of Boston on May 23-25; between those two series, Tampa Bay went 2-14, including a 10-game losing streak. The Rays haven't been within double digits of first place since June 1, and now sit 13½ games shy of the lead. The last time they finished a season more than 10 games out of first place: 2009, when they went 84-78 and wound up 19 games behind the Yankees.
Biggest Riser: Royals. Two weeks ago, Kansas City was languishing at No. 23 in our rankings, staring at another lost season. Now, after a seven-game winning streak, the Royals are all the way up to No. 8, and they've cut Detroit's AL Central lead to 1½ games. What's especially surprising is how Kansas City has fought its way back into contentions. The team's June home run total of 11 doesn't look impressive — Arizona leads the majors with 19 on the month — but it's an impressive output so far for a team that hit just 13 in all of May and 11 in April. Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer have been responsible for most of that power, with three homers each since June 1, but offensive awakenings from Salvador Perez (.966 OPS this month), Billy Butler (.838) and Mike Moustakas (.767) have also helped kickstart the lineup.
Biggest Faller: White Sox. As one AL Central team rises, another takes a hit, with Chicago falling to No. 23 thanks to a four-game losing streak. Now stuck in last place in the division, the White Sox were steamrolled by Kansas City over the weekend and have gone just 5-8 in June. Detroit's struggles atop the Central mean that Chicago hasn't lost much ground in the standings, but a number of slumps should have the team concerned. In particular, Alexei Ramirez (.533 OPS in June) has fallen back to earth after hitting .351 in the season's first month. Likewise for Tyler Flowers, whose OPS was .813 through April but just .621 in May and .418 so far in June. Jose Abreu's bat remains potent, but he can't do it all for the White Sox.
A few words about the...
Pirates: Has Pittsburgh finally rediscovered its 2013 form? After languishing toward the bottom of the NL Central all season, the Pirates are starting to climb back toward the top. Since reaching a season-worst eight games under .500 on May 20, Pittsburgh has gone 16-9, slowly but surely working its way back into contention. Reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen has been the engine for that run. Since May 20, he's hit a ridiculous .364/.457/.687 with seven homers in 116 plate appearances. Last week, McCutchen picked up two hits in each of his seven games, going 14-for-29 with four homers.
Dodgers: Los Angeles is also trying to recapture its style from last year and close a big gap in its division. The Dodgers took some positive steps in that direction last week, going 4-3 to trim the Giants' NL West lead to 6½ games. L.A. has been stuck in neutral most of the season — going just 22-22 since May 1 — but there are signs of life in Hollywood, particularly from Matt Kemp. Following his much-publicized benching and shift to leftfield, Kemp has been making his case to stay in the starting lineup once Carl Crawford returns from injury. Last week, he picked up eight hits in 22 at-bats with a homer and five walks.
Padres: A bad week for the Padres got immeasurably worse with the passing of Tony Gwynn on Monday, as the greatest player in franchise history died at the age of 54. That loss understandably takes the headlines off an offense that has posted a league-worst .157/.237/.246 slash line this month and drew the ire of team executives. For the season, the Padres are last in the majors in runs per game (3.01), batting average (.215), on-base percentage (.276) and slugging percentage (.342). All of that adds up to a 29-40 record, just one-half game ahead of Arizona in the NL West, and a drop to No. 29 in our rankings.