Thanks to a 10-game win streak, the Astros have bashed their way into the top five of this week's Power Rankings, while the slumping White Sox continue to fall.
The Cardinals remain first in our latest Power Rankings, but this week's big story is the rapid rise of the Astros. On the strength of a 10-game win streak and the second-best record in baseball, Houston has rocketed all the way from 11th place to third in the rankings. Overall, St. Louis hung on to the top spot thanks to three of the six first-place votes this week, with the Dodgers right behind them at No. 2. The Astros check in at third, with another red-hot American League team, the Yankees, jumping up to fourth. The Royals round out the top five.
It's been all systems go in Houston through the first month of the season, with the team sporting an 18–7 record and a two-game lead in the AL West. The Astros bashed their way through a perfect 7–0 week, sweeping the Padres and the Mariners thanks to some stellar offense. In those seven games, Houston crushed 18 home runs—more than nine different teams have on the season—and now leads the majors with 40 round-trippers. Leading the home run barrage was Evan Gattis. The burly designated hitter was ice cold to start the year, hitting just .156/.194/.250 with 22 strikeouts and three walks in 67 plate appearances through April 27. But last week, Gattis exploded for five homers and 12 RBIs, including a two-homer game to finish Houston's sweep of Seattle on Sunday.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Astros are the rapidly sinking White Sox, who are 8–14 on the year and fell all the way to 28th in this week's rankings. Chicago has lost five straight games and went winless last week, getting routed by the Orioles in an empty Camden Yards and then dropping a entire four-game series to the Twins on the road. Pitching has been the sore spot for the White Sox, who gave up 39 runs in those five games. Jeff Samardzija's 4.78 ERA is the best mark among the team's five main starters, and the back of the rotation has been absolutely hammered, with John Danks and Hector Noesi sporting ERA+ marks of 66 and 62, respectively. Most troubling, however, has to be the slow start from Chris Sale. The White Sox' ace has a 5.32 ERA in 22 innings and was lit up by Minnesota in his lone start last week, giving up nine runs (eight earned) in just three innings. Sale's peripherals are still relatively strong (8.2 strikeout-per-nine ratio and only two walks per nine), but the results have yet to come for the lanky lefthander.
Speaking of the Twins, they were one of this week's biggest risers, going all the way from 28th to 19th. They had a slow start to the week, dropping two of three to Detroit, but a four-game sweep of Chicago has them sitting a game above .500 at 13–12 and just 3 1/2 games back of the Tigers in the AL Central. Minnesota's bats did the heavy lifting last week, scoring 45 runs in seven games, including 12- and 13-run outbursts against the White Sox. Trevor Plouffe led the way with three homers and 11 RBIs, and Danny Santana hit a scorching .393 (11-for-28), but the Twins could use more pop. Their 16 home runs rank next-to-last in the American League, and of their seven players to have gone yard, only one—Plouffe, with five—has hit more than two. Three Twins regulars haven't hit a longball yet, including Joe Mauer, though the veteran first baseman does have a solid 117 OPS+ on the season and a team-high .382 on-base percentage.