The Cardinals hold onto first place, the Yankees rocket their way into the top five and the Angels take a huge drop in this week's Power Rankings.
This week's Power Rankings sees a familiar team at No. 1: The Cardinals, who are in first for the second straight week and for the fifth time in nine weeks. St. Louis snatched up all seven first-place votes to outdistance the Dodgers, who remain at No. 2. The rest of the top five got a little bit of a shakeup: the Pirates knocked the Royals out of third place, with Kansas City falling to fourth, and the red-hot Yankees grabbed the fifth-place spot.
We're No. 1: Cardinals
The Cardinals didn’t just maintain their hold on the top seed this week, they strengthened it: St. Louis went 5–2 last week, capped by winning three of four at Dodger Stadium. The Cardinals held L.A. to just six runs in that four-game set thanks to strong seven-inning starts from Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Jaime Garcia and nine scoreless innings from their bullpen. That sort of stinginess has been St. Louis' calling card this season. Despite the early loss of ace Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals have allowed just 2.81 runs per game on the season, more than one-half run better than any other team in baseball. While there has been some good fortune involved, the club's Fielding Independent Pitching mark of 3.20 is also the best in the majors.
St. Louis has now gone 11–3 over its last 14 games, including 5–2 against the Dodgers during that span. The Redbirds lead the majors with 38 wins (four more than the Astros’ second-place total), a .667 winning percentage and a +70 run differential (which is 21 runs better than L.A.’s second-place mark). St. Louis' 6 1/2-game lead in the NL Central, meanwhile, is three games larger than that of any other division leader.
Cellar Dweller: Phillies
Despite going 3–3 on the week and actually winning their series against the Reds, the Phillies find themselves at No. 30 in our rankings for the second week in a row, making this their fourth time in the cellar on the season. Zoom out a bit and you can see that Philadelphia has gone 4–12 over its last 16 games; go a little further, and you can see the team's major league-worst -74 run differential. That stems from having the worst offense in the majors to this point in the season, one that has produced just 3.21 runs per game. The Phillies' team OPS+ of 78 is also dead last in the bigs.
Given all of that, third base prospect Maikel Franco’s big week at the plate had to be particularly encouraging for Philadelphia. The 22-year-old Franco—called up in mid-May to take over third base for Cody Asche, who has since been relocated to leftfield, pushing Grady Sizemore off the roster—went 10-for-25 with four home runs and three doubles over the last week, picking up at least one hit in all six of the Phils' games and an extra base-hit in five of them. If there’s a way forward for this team, Franco, who hit 31 home runs between Class A and Double A in 2013, will have to be a big part of it.
Biggest Riser: Yankees
New York jumped up an impressive nine spots, moving from No. 14 to No. 5 after going 6–0 over the last week. The Yankees outscored the Mariners (in Seattle) and Angels (in New York), 37–17, averaging more than six runs scored per game and allowing fewer than three runs per game. In Seattle, New York routed Felix Hernandez on June 1, got an extra-innings win the next day thanks to big hits from Stephen Drew and Garrett Jones, and in Wednesday's series fianle, saw Masahiro Tanaka make an impressive return from the disabled list. He held the Mariners to one run on three hits over seven innings, striking out nine and walking none. The Yankees then came home and dropped 22 runs on the Angels to sweep a weekend series.
With those six wins, New York leads the AL East by 1 1/2 games over the second-place Rays, who went 5–2 last week, and is 4 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays, who have won five in a row themselves and still have the division’s best run differential at +45.
Biggest Faller: Angels
The Angels followed a five-game winning streak with a still-active five-game losing streak to fall from No. 9 to No. 18. Los Angeles has allowed at least six runs in each of those last five games, most of those coming against its starters. C.J. Wilson, who entered June with a 3.18 ERA, allowed 11 runs in 13 innings in two starts last week and is now 1–3 with a 6.00 ERA over his last five turns. His rotation-mates didn't fare much better in their starts: Hector Santiago gave up five runs in five innings, Jered Weaver gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings, and Garrett Richards gave up six runs to the Yankees on Saturday and got the hook before he could record the third out of his first inning of work.
With that losing streak, the Angels have fallen back below .500 on the season with a run differential to match (-5). They have been between four and 6 1/2 games out of first place since April 28 (currently 5 1/2) and haven't been more than four games above .500 all season. After winning the most games in the majors last year (98), Los Angeles enters the week at 28-29 and looks like a thoroughly mediocre ball club.