A single point separated the Cardinals and Dodgers for first and second place in this week's Power Rankings. But who came away with the No. 1 spot?
One point: That's all that separated the Cardinals and the Dodgers for first place in this week's Power Rankings. Ultimately, it was St. Louis that came away with the top spot, picking up four of the seven first-place votes to hold onto No. 1 for the third straight week. Los Angeles grabbed the remaining three first-place votes and stays at No. 2. The Royals jumped up to No. 3, leapfrogging the Yankees, who remained No. 4 for a second straight week. The Mets move up from No. 7 last week to round out the top five, pushing the Astros down to No. 6.
We're No. 1: Cardinals
St. Louis still has the majors' best record at 22–9 and boasts a 6 1/2-game lead over the Cubs in the National League Central, but are there cracks appearing in the Cardinals' facade? The team's pitching took a beating last week, giving up 36 runs in seven games, and while the Redbirds managed to go 4–3 in that span thanks to some timely hitting, manager Mike Matheny has to be concerned about some of his starters. In particular, Carlos Martinez was hammered for 14 earned runs in two starts while walking eight men in nine innings. The two disaster outings ballooned his ERA from 1.73 to 4.89, and his control continues to be an issue, as he carries an unsightly walks-per-nine rate of 3.7. Fellow young starter Michael Wacha has some dispiriting peripherals of his own: Despite tossing six scoreless frames in his last turn, Wacha struck out just one batter and has only 19 on the season in 38 2/3 innings. Those two need to get untracked if the Cardinals are to remain the best team in baseball.
Cellar Dweller: Phillies
As bad as Philadelphia is, it should be even worse. The Phillies are 11–21, but its Pythagorean record—which calculates wins and losses based on runs scored and allowed—is 9–23. That's thanks to a -60 run differential, far and away the game's worst. The lack of offense has been especially glaring: The Phillies are averaging just 2.84 runs per game and have hit only 17 home runs, both worst in the majors. Only two Philadelphia hitters—Ryan Howard and Freddy Galvis—have an OPS+ over 100, and only Howard and Chase Utley have broken the double-digit mark in RBIs. There isn't much hope for the Phillies' offense to perk up, either: Their lineup is comprised of over-the-hill veterans and flawed youngsters. In short, don't expect to see Philadelphia leave this spot in our rankings any time soon.
Biggest Riser: Blue Jays
Toronto climbed eight spots this week, shooting all the way up to 10th, on the strength of a 4–2 week that saw it win series against the Yankees and Red Sox. The offense has carried the load for the Blue Jays—they lead the majors with 5.38 runs per game, and the team's 113 OPS+ is fourth-best in baseball—but unless the pitching improves this may be a short stay in the top 10. Toronto is giving up a horrible 4.78 runs per game and has a collective ERA of 4.59. Most of that blame can go to the rotation, which has a 5.20 ERA in 174 2/3 innings so far. The Jays' combination of untested young arms and veterans hasn't worked to plan: Of the rookies, Daniel Norris is already back in Triple A after struggling with his control (12 walks in 23 1/3 innings), and the similarly challenged Aaron Sanchez (a whopping 25 free passes in 32 1/3 innings) may soon join him if he doesn't improve. R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, meanwhile, are showing their age: Buehrle, 36, has a 6.00 ERA and six homers allowed in 33 innings, while the 40-year-old Dickey has allowed 20 walks and seven home runs in 45 frames.
Both of these teams took a tumble: Baltimore went from No. 10 to No. 18, and Oakland fell from No. 15 to No. 23. The Orioles managed just one win in six tries last week, dropping a pair to the Mets and three of four to the Yankees, as the team's offense fell asleep. Baltimore scored just 18 runs in its six contests and ended the week by striking out 16 times against New York's Michael Pineda in a 6–2 loss. But for as bad as the Orioles looked, things are far worse in the Bay Area. The A's have lost five straight, dropped six of seven last week and sit in last place in the AL West at a sobering 12–21, already 8 1/2 games behind the Astros.
Oakland has been terrible in one-run games, going 1–10, and while that record tends to even out over the course of a full season, the main culprit for it—a struggling bullpen—may not. A's relievers have an unsightly 5.16 ERA and have surrendered 13 home runs in 99 1/3 innings. Manager Bob Melvin has no one in the 'pen he can trust beyond closer Tyler Clippard and Evan Scribner, a 28-year-old righty and former 28th-round draft pick who has struck out 20 in 18 innings. Aside from those two, it's been a wasteland: Dan Otero has a 4.73 ERA in 13 1/3 innings and top lefty Fernando Abad has a 5.79 mark to date. Sean Doolittle, an All-Star closer last year, remains sidelined with a shoulder injury, so the A's will simply have to go forward with a shaky unit for the time being and hope things improve.