The Angels are still tops in the Power Rankings, but another California team has pushed its way toward the top of the table.
Just as in real life, the Angels are the runaway No. 1 team in baseball. Thanks to a resounding four-game sweep of the Athletics, Los Angeles is in firm command of the AL West and of this week's Power Rankings, grabbing all six first-place votes. Oakland's miserable weekend knocked the team out of its No. 2 perch to fourth, with the Orioles moving up to second place. The Nationals remained steady at No. 3, with the Dodgers rounding out the top-five, staying just ahead of another red-hot California team: The Giants.
They're No. 1: Angels
Has Los Angeles locked up the AL West? The four-game sweep of Oakland has opened up a five-game division lead for the Angels with just 26 games to go. More importantly, the A's and Angels have only three head-to-head games remaining. Baseball Prospectus certainly seems to think the West is won; by BP's odds, the Angels now have a 92.7 percent chance of winning the division, and a 100 percent chance of making the postseason.
If Los Angeles can hang on, it would be the team's first AL West title since 2009, when the Angels won 97 games but fell in the American League Championship Series to the eventual world champion Yankees. And with 83 wins already in the books, the Halos have an outside chance at winning 100 games for only the second time ever (they last did so in 2008). They'd have to go 17-9 in September, a .653 winning percentage, to reach the century mark; anything better would give them their most wins in franchise history.
Cellar Dweller: Rangers
At the other end of the AL West spectrum: The Rangers, who are making a serious run at 100 losses for the first time in over four decades. What's more, Texas tied a dubious record last week. The callup of Ryan Rua on Aug. 29 made him the 59th player used by the Rangers this season, tying a record held by the Padres (twice, in 2002 and 2008) and Indians (2002). And when the Rangers bring starter Derek Holland off the disabled list on Tuesday, they'll have the record all to themselves, as well as the record for most pitchers used in one season, at 38.
Unsurprisingly, Rua was called upon after outfielder Jim Adduci went on the DL with a concussion, the 26th disabled list placement for Texas this season. That makes it all the more amazing that Holland, who has spent all year on the shelf with a knee injury, will be starting on Tuesday. After all, for most of 2014, if a Rangers player went on the DL, there was a good chance he was never coming off.
Biggest Riser: Giants
San Francisco isn't ceding the NL West just yet. A 6-1 week, including a three-game sweep of the Brewers, has the Giants on a six-game win streak and back in the hunt for a division title. San Francisco was 2 1/2 games out of the NL West lead going into Monday's action, a pseudo-doubleheader against the Rockies, and leads the race for the wild card, boasting a two-game lead over the Brewers. BP now gives the team an 89.4 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Leading this stretch run charge is Hunter Pence, who had the kind of week players dream about. In seven games, Pence hit a jaw-dropping .520/.581/.680 in 31 plate appearances, driving in six. He capped that white-hot week off with a four-hit game in the Giants' 15-5 demolition of Milwaukee, picking up a triple and two doubles and finishing a homer shy of the cycle.
Biggest Faller: Brewers
Perhaps fittingly, this week's big faller is the team that San Francisco routed en route to its current win streak: The Brewers, who after losing 4-2 to the Cubs on Monday are now mired in a six-game skid. What's worse, they've fallen out of first place in the NL Central for the first time since Apr. 5, as they now trail the Cardinals by one game.
This fall has been a long time coming for Milwaukee, which is now 22-31 since the start of July and has a run differential on the season of just +13, putting them closer to a .500 ballclub than a true contender. It certainly doesn't help when your pitching staff gives up 42 runs in six games, as the Brewers did last week, including 13 and 15 runs each in two games against the Giants. The return of Matt Garza to the rotation from a strained oblique should help, but one wonders if it won't be too little, too late for Milwaukee's NL Central hopes.