The Angels have jumped to the top of the Power Rankings, ending the Athletics' two-month long stay at No. 1.
For the first time in two months, a new champion has emerged in the Power Rankings. Fresh off taking the top spot in the American League West, the Angels have finally displaced the Athletics at No. 1 in our rankings by a single point. Oakland slipped one spot to No. 2, just ahead of the Nationals, who have taken firm control of the NL East and sit in third in the rankings. The Orioles clock in at No. 4, with the Brewers breaking into the top-five as a result of their strong weekend and the Dodgers' recent skid.
They're No. 1: Angels
Owners of the league's best winning percentage (.590, just ahead of Oakland's .589), the Angels have taken hold of the AL West lead. A fair amount of that is due to the Athletics' post-trade deadline stumble, but the Angels had a good week to vault them up the division standings, sweeping a two-game set in Philadelphia and winning two of three in Texas over the weekend. Looming on the horizon: A three-game series in Oakland that will go a long way toward determining who will win the AL West. One big factor for Los Angeles could be its recent travel schedule. The team went from California to Texas last week, heads to Boston for a four-game series that begins on Monday night, then flies cross-country to Oakland for that three-game tilt.
Cellar Dweller: Rangers
At this point in Texas, the focus is less on the season at hand and more on when the Rangers are mercifully allowed to stop playing. Locked in a tight battle with the Rockies for ownership of next year's No. 1 pick in the draft, the Rangers are likely only a week or two away from being mathematically eliminated from postseason contention (though they were long ago realistically eliminated, given their current 25-game deficit in the AL West). Texas' other big hope has to be that the team can get through the season without any more major injuries. Yu Darvish's bout with right elbow inflammation sent him to the disabled list, but it doesn't appear to be serious. Nonetheless, his absence means that the Rangers are currently trotting out the likes of Miles Mikolas and Nick Tepesch to soak up innings. That can't be what Rangers fans envisioned happening in August.
Biggest Riser: Braves
It was an up-and-down week for the Braves, who dropped three of four to the Dodgers at the outset only to bounce back with a three-game sweep of the Athletics. Their eight-game losing streak earlier in August has left their NL East title hopes in dire shape — the team trails the Nationals by six games in the division — but the wild card is still very much in play. Atlanta sits 1 1/2 games behind San Francisco for the second spot, currently tied with Pittsburgh. The Braves got impressive pitching performances against the A's, with staff ace Julio Teheran and Alex Wood shutting down Oakland's offense. The most important start, however, came from Mike Minor, who held the Athletics to two earned runs in seven innings, striking out seven. That's a big step forward for a pitcher who came into Sunday's outing with a 5.33 ERA. Minor has been hit hard all season after missing the first month of the season with shoulder problems. His re-emergence would go a long way toward bolstering Atlanta.
Biggest Faller: Dodgers/Reds
Neither Los Angeles nor Cincinnati fell all that far in the rankings this week — three spots each — but each team is facing some tough times. For the Dodgers, injuries continue to wreak havoc. Since the start of August, the team has lost Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe to the disabled list, with Beckett done for the year. The Beckett and Ryu injuries have thinned out the rotation, forcing the Dodgers to turn to the likes of Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia for the time being. Both have pitched well so far, with Hernandez allowing three earned runs in 12 innings over two starts and Correia tossing a quality start in his first Dodgers appearance. But their weak track records, Dan Haren's below-average season and a thin bullpen can only offer so much hope.
In Cincinnati, meanwhile, the Reds' miserable week — 1-5 with series losses to the Red Sox and Rockies — have all but ended their hopes in the NL Central, where they trail Milwaukee by 8 1/2 games. Even the wild card is looking bleak, with the Reds stuck behind the Braves and Marlins, 4 1/2 games out of the second spot. The Reds will likely get Brandon Phillips back soon from a thumb injury, but the combination of his absence and that of Joey Votto seems to have been too much for Cincinnati to overcome. Since both last appeared in a game together on July 6, the Reds have gone 15-19.
A Few Words About The...
Tigers: Detroit keeps sliding down the rankings, falling to ninth this week. Worse for the Tigers, their skid has knocked them out of first place in the AL Central and out of the playoff picture entirely; Detroit trails Seattle by half-a-game in the wild card standings. Equally worrisome is the slump that Miguel Cabrera is mired in. The two-time MVP hasn't homered since Aug. 2 against Colorado, a span of 68 plate appearances. In that time, he's slugging just .358 with only four extra-base hits. That's dropped his slugging percentage on the year to a mere .511, which would be his lowest mark in that category since 2004. Cabrera is still getting on base at a sterling clip, but without his power, Detroit's lineup grinds to a halt.
Pirates: Pittsburgh picked a bad time to hit a rough patch, as the Pirates are stuck in a five-game losing streak that included a three-game sweep at the hands of the Nationals. That's dropped them to a daunting 5 1/2 games out in the NL Central and 1 1/2 games out in the wild-card chase. Playing in place of the injured Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte has done all he can to approximate the defending NL MVP, hitting .340/.426/.553 in 54 PA since McCutchen went down. But pitching is the bigger concern right now: The Pirates gave up 36 runs over seven games last week, and their already-thin rotation took another blow with the loss of Charlie Morton to a hip injury. Gerrit Cole will reportedly rejoin the rotation soon, but it may be too little, too late for Pittsburgh's hopes.
Marlins: Miami refuses to give up in its chase for a playoff spot, pulling off series wins against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks last week to move to within 3 1/2 games of the second wild-card spot. The return of Henderson Alvarez from the DL should give the Marlins a boost for the stretch run, but one has to wonder how long their pitching staff can hold up. You know things have gotten desperate when you're willingly handing starts to Brad Penny in 2014. There's also the matter of how many innings Miami's young starters have left. Tom Koehler, currently at 148 1/3 innings, has a career-high of 166, set last year. Nathan Eovaldi, meanwhile, is at 157 innings, the most he's ever thrown in a season. Those are two of Miami's top three starters, leaving the Marlins in a precarious position of protecting their arms at the cost of potentially ending their playoff hopes.