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Mets are on the move but Rays are shining brightest of all

The first-place . . . Mets? Not yet in the SI.com Power Rankings -- which have their third No. 1 team in as many weeks -- but the Metropolitans are baseball's hottest team. They lead the NL East for the first time since May 29 of last season, take a seven-game winning streak into a key weekend road series with the suddenly second-place Phillies and made the biggest rise in the rankings, climbing from No. 21 to No. 8. The Mets have won nine out of 10, a streak that exactly coincides with the arrival of top prospect Ike Davis, who has re-energized the fans and clearly the team with his play: 11-for-31, a homer and six RBIs. He has also turned first base into a productive spot in the lineup, after it had been an offensive black hole earlier in the year when manned by Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis.

MLB Power Rankings
1Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 2
You'd have to nitpick to find a flaw -- not much offensive production from their catchers, too many times getting caught stealing bases, too many appearances by reliever Randy Choate -- because the Rays are raking at the plate and have the American League's best starting pitching (2.90 ERA), a combination that has produced a plus-59 run differential, which is good for a season, nevermind 21 games. Their starters are averaging 6 1/3 innings per outing, putting them on pace to reach their stated goal of 1,000 starter innings for the first time in franchise history. A thousand innings of sub-3.00 ERA pitching will equate to a lot more wins.

The Rays look to protect their top ranking with a four-game home set against the struggling Royals before heading to Seattle to begin a nine-game West Coast road swing.
 
2Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 3
One Twins source said the key reason Francisco Liriano wasn't moved to the closer role during spring training was that the young left-hander said he didn't feel comfortable making that transition. Good thing. Liriano hasn't been scored upon in his last three starts spanning 23 innings, over which time he's struck out 24 and won each time. Just like in his sensational 2006 campaign, he's inducing groundballs on more than half of balls put in play.
 
3New York Yankees
Last Week: 1
Clearly the pressure of the SI.com Power Rankings' No. 1 spot was too much: After ascending to the top last Thursday morning, New York lost four of its next five. But don't for a minute think the Yankees are going South -- except down to Washington, D.C., where President Obama welcomed them to commemorate last year's World Series title.
 
4St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 5
Undoubtedly Felipe Lopez has never previously been compared to Jose Canseco, but Lopez, the Cardinals' utility player, was recently placed on the DL with elbow discomfort. The condition, he said, predates the 20-inning marathon from April 16 in which he pitched one inning, but Lopez concedes that it's gotten worse ever since, harkening memories of Canseco blowing out his elbow when pitching in mop-up duty for the Rangers.
 
5Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 4
The big news, of course, is the re-signing of first baseman Ryan Howard to a $125 million extension, which Will Leitch of New York magazine explains might be because the Yankees have the advantage of a non-home team discount. In the rankings the Phillies get a pass because they've played without shortstop Jimmy Rollins since their 6-1 start, going just 6-8 in his absence with a strained right calf. (On Wednesday he began a light running program, though no timetable has been set for his return.)
 
6San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 11
The Giants' impatience at the plate has been documented in this space before but never quite so eloquently as this line from beat writer Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. Noting wasted opportunities during their Earth Day game, Baggarly wrote, "The Giants' lineup continues to be so wasteful in RBI situations, they might as well drive Hummers to the batter's box."
 
7San Diego Padres
Last Week: 8
Is rookie starter Wade LeBlanc better at baseball or basketball? His pitching has been very good (0.82 ERA in two starts), but his Nerf hoops performance alongside Triple A second baseman Matt Antonelli was even better.
 
8New York Mets
Last Week: 21
Former first-round draft pick Mike Pelfrey has appeared to come into his own in his four starts of 2010, pitching to a 4-0 record with a major-league leading 0.69 ERA (for pitchers with at least 20 innings). As a bonus, he made one relief appearance, too, and got the save.
 
9Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 9
The Tigers' decade of heart attack closers is over. Thanks to the addition of Jose Valverde, there's no more rotating door of Matt Anderson, Todd Jones, Joel Zumaya or Fernando Rodney, volatile former closers who even when getting saves were prone to making things interesting. In Valverde's first 11 appearances, he's six-for-seven on save opportunities and, just as importantly, has a 0.90 WHIP.
 
10Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 10
Over the weekend the Angels became the first team to win a series against the Yankees, thanks to Bobby Abreu and Kendry Morales, who are a combined 19-for-46 (.413) with nine extra-base hits including five homers in six games against the defending world champions. Curiously, the Angels have only played three divisional games thus far (1-2 vs Oakland) and won't play another until May 7.
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