The Cardinals are in first place in the third week of SI.com's Power Rankings, just ahead of the Mets, while the Rays and Marlins benefited from a hot week to move up the list.
The third week of our Power Rankings features a new team at No. 1. Coming off a 4–2 week that featured series victories over the Nationals and Brewers, the Cardinals jumped over the Tigers and held off the Mets for top honors, earning three of the seven first-place votes. New York slides in at runner-up, still with the best record in baseball but smarting after losing two of three Subway Series games to the Yankees over the weekend. The Dodgers dropped from second to third, the Royals jumped a spot to No. 4, and Detroit took a small tumble to fifth place.
St. Louis may be sitting pretty in the rankings, but the outlook isn't as rosy on the field, where the Cardinals must contend with the loss of Adam Wainwright to an Achilles tendon injury. Wainwright, who hurt himself taking an at-bat in Saturday's win over Milwaukee, is likely done for the year, leaving St. Louis with a gigantic hole to fill in its rotation. That starting five has been the Cardinals' greatest strength so far: The team leads the majors in rotation ERA at 2.39, but with Wainwright (1.44 ERA in 25 innings so far this year) now done, St. Louis will need to keep up that early strong start to hold off a competitive NL Central. Young arms Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez have so far carried the Cardinals: Wacha has a 1.33 ERA through 20 1/3 innings, and Martinez has been just as good, posting a 1.35 ERA with 21 whiffs in 20 frames. Both 23-year-olds, however, will likely face innings limits down the road, leaving St. Louis with an uncertain pitching future.
While the Cardinals try to figure out how to patch together their rotation, the Rays are seeing theirs come together beautifully. Tampa Bay ripped off five wins in six games last week to move into a tie for first place in the AL East and from 21st to 10th in this week's rankings, thanks in large part to its pitching. Rays hurlers gave up just 13 runs over 54 innings last week, and Tampa's rotation now boasts a 3.45 ERA, third-best in the AL. Chris Archer has led the way for the Rays: The righthander has a brilliant 0.84 ERA and 37 strikeouts through 32 1/3 innings and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last four starts. He hasn't been alone in his strong start, though, with fellow righty Jake Odorizzi contributing a 1.65 ERA in 27 1/3 innings over four starts. And reinforcements are coming for Tampa, with Drew Smyly off the disabled list after a bout of shoulder tendinitis and Alex Cobb now throwing bullpen sessions as he recovers from forearm tendinitis. Those two plus Archer, Odorizzi and the rehabbing Matt Moore (who is expected to return in June from Tommy John surgery) could combine to give Tampa the AL's best rotation.
Tampa isn't the only team in Florida flying high right now. The Marlins have jumped all the way from 28th to 14th in this week's rankings, thanks to a five-game winning streak and a sweep of the division rival Nationals. It helps that Giancarlo Stanton is back to his old self: After a slow start (.239 average with 17 strikeouts through April 19), the Miami slugger hit a scalding .348/.423/.870 with three homers last week. But he's had some help, primarily from the infield trio of Dee Gordon, Martin Prado and Adeiny Hechavarria. Gordon leads the team with a .390 batting average and has already racked up eight steals; Prado has eight hits and six RBIs in his last 23 trips to the plate; and Hechavarria was a one-man wrecking crew last week, batting a cool .500 (12-for-24) with a homer and 10 RBIs. That's helped overcome some shakiness in the rotation (Miami's starting five has a collective ERA of 4.11) and gets the Marlins back into the early race in the NL East.