On the heels of a 6-0 week, Kansas City has climbed into the top-10 of the Power Rankings, but a familiar team still holds the No. 1 spot.
Make room for the Kansas City Royals. On the heels of a 9-1 stretch in their last 10 games, the Royals have busted into the Power Rankings' top-10 and are within shouting distance of the top-five. For now, Oakland is No. 1 yet again, with the Angels still right on the Athletics' heels. The Dodgers remain at No. 3 and the Nationals repeat at No. 5, but the Orioles have risen up from sixth to fourth, displacing the slumping Tigers.
They're No. 1: Athletics
Last week, we wrote that a second consecutive sub-par week could have imperiled Oakland’s status both atop the AL West and at No. 1 in these Rankings, the latter of which is a position they’ve held since mid-June. Surely such a slight was the motivation behind the A’s 5-2 week, which quadrupled their AL West lead from one game to four and clinched their ninth straight week at No. 1 on our list.
All three of Oakland’s recently acquired starters turned in strong outings. Jon Lester, who came over in a July 31 trade with the Red Sox, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel (both of whom arrived in a July 5 trade with the Cubs) combined for a 1.32 ERA on the week. The highlight of the week was Lester’s three-hit shutout of the Twins last Thursday, but of equal importance may have been Hammel’s strong showing. He had pitched to a 9.53 ERA in his first four starts with the A’s but posted a 0.75 mark in two outings last week.
Cellar Dweller: Rangers
As the A's keep their stranglehold on No. 1, so too does Texas maintain its iron grip on the No. 30 spot. For a fifth straight week, the Rangers finished in last place, just ahead of the equally woeful Rockies. Though Texas opened the week by taking two of three from the White Sox, including a 16-0 shellacking on Aug. 5, the Rangers stumbled in their opportunity to get out of the AL West basement over the weekend, dropping two of three to Houston.
At 46-71, the Rangers are tied with Colorado for the most losses in baseball, as the focus in Texas now shifts toward trying to lock up the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft. It's been a long time since the Rangers got to pick first overall — 41 years, to be exact. Back in 1973, Texas took high school pitcher David Clyde first overall, then rushed the 18-year-old lefthander to the majors that same year. Clyde threw only 217 1/3 innings for Texas over three abbreviated seasons, finishing his Rangers career with seven wins and a 4.60 ERA.
Biggest Riser: Royals
With a perfect 6-0 week, nine wins in their last 10 games and 15 in their last 20, the Royals are officially on a roll, carrying them into the Rankings' top-10. More importantly, Kansas City is putting a big scare into Detroit; going into Monday night's action, the Royals were just half-a-game out in the division, the closest they've been to the top since holding a half-game lead over the Tigers on June 19.
What's most impressive about Kansas City's surge is that the Royals are doing it without Eric Hosmer, who is sidelined with a broken hand. That's thrust Billy Butler into the starting first base role, and Country Breakfast has responded with a flourish. Since taking over as Kansas City's first baseman on Aug. 1, Butler has hit .382/.400/.706 in 35 plate appearances, including two homers and seven RBI.
Biggest Faller: Giants
Talk about missing a golden opportunity: As the Dodgers stagger through injury after injury, the Giants seem unable to make a move in the NL West. Instead, San Francisco has seen its division gap grow from half-a-game on July 26 to 4 1/2 games, including a miserable 2-5 stretch last week. That featured a sweep at the hands of the red-hot Royals, which knocked the Giants out of our top-10.
With just 21 runs scored in their last six games, the Giants have seen their offense go flat at a crucial time. Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence have been white-hot in August, but Mike Morse (.536 OPS since Aug. 1) and Brandon Crawford (.514) have been black holes all month. What's worse, the team is once again without Brandon Belt, who went back on the disabled list with concussion symptoms, opening a hole at first base.
A Few Words About The...
Orioles: The AL East leaders have pushed into the top-five after going 5-2 last week, including a crucial series win over the Blue Jays. Baltimore's strong week has helped it open a five-game lead in the division over Toronto, and the Orioles now look like a lock for the postseason: Baseball Prospectus puts their playoff odds at 88.4 percent, including 77.7 percent to win the division. The O's will get a big chance to open up that division lead even further when they host the Yankees for three games before embarking on a Midwest trip against the Indians, White Sox and Cubs.
Mariners: The AL West is out of reach for Seattle, which is now 10 games behind Oakland in the division. But the Mariners aren't giving up just yet, ripping off four wins in five games last week to stay within 1 1/2 games of the equally hot Royals for the second and final wild-card spot. If the Mariners can overtake the Royals, they'd be set for a wild-card showdown with the division rival Angels, against whom Seattle has gone 7-5 this season so far. Also encouraging is the idea of having Felix Hernandez start that game, as the Mariners' ace and AL Cy Young favorite has allowed just three earned runs in 21 2/3 innings against Los Angeles this year, striking out 29. First, though, Seattle has to get through a hugely important three-game set with Toronto, the team just behind it in the wild-card race.
Indians: Time is running out for the Tribe, which struggled through a four-game losing streak last week en route to a 3-4 record. Cleveland did rebound at week's end to take two out of three from the Yankees, but with less than two months left on the season, the Indians need an extended hot streak to have any hope of making the playoffs. Cleveland trails in the wild card race by five games, stuck behind three teams, and has just an 8.6 percent chance of making the postseason, by BP's calculations. Corey Kluber is doing everything he can to keep Cleveland in it, with a 0.68 ERA in 40 innings since the All-Star break. But the rest of the Indians' staff hasn't been up to snuff, including last year's wünderkind, Danny Salazar, who gave up five earned in four innings in his last start against Cincinnati, earning him a demotion to Triple-A.