The Cardinals continue to rule the roost in the latest edition of Power Rankings, but the week's big risers are the red-hot Orioles and streaky Nationals.
For the fifth straight week, the Cardinals remain the No. 1 team in our Power Rankings, but this week's edition sees the two Beltway teams make a big jump. The Nationals, powered by some strong pitching, have pushed their way into the top five, while the red-hot Orioles have soared into the top 10 on the heels of a four-game winning streak. That wasn't enough to dislodge St. Louis from the top spot, however, with the Cards taking all seven first-place votes. The Royals are the new No. 2 team, bumping the Dodgers to third, with the Astros sitting pat at fourth and Washington knocking the Pirates out of fifth.
We're No. 1: Cardinals
It was another banner week for St. Louis, which has won six straight games and swept series against the Marlins and Cubs. In the process, the Cardinals became the first team in the majors to reach 50 wins this year, and at 51–24, St. Louis has a whopping nine-game lead in the National League Central. By Baseball Prospectus's playoff odds, the Cardinals are a 99.1% lock to make the postseason. The team's .680 winning percentage, meanwhile, puts St. Louis on pace to win 110 games, which would set the franchise record for victories; the 1942 Cardinals won 106 games en route to a pennant and a World Series win over the Yankees.
Is there anything that could derail St. Louis' good times? The pitching staff remains excellent, with every starter besides Tyler Lyons currently holding an ERA+ of 114 or better. The bullpen has been untouchable: Trevor Rosenthal has put last season's struggles behind him to record 23 saves and a 0.52 ERA, and Kevin Siegrist (45 strikeouts in 33 1/3 innings) has emerged as a lockdown setup man. The offense has been strong as well, with a .733 team OPS that ranks eighth in baseball and a .330 on-base percentage that's good for fifth. In short: Barring serious injuries—of which St. Louis has already suffered several—this Cardinals team looks built to run rampant through the rest of the season, and October as well.
Cellar Dweller: Phillies
A silver lining to the Phillies' weekly appearance in the bottom spot of the rankings: They didn't earn every last-place vote, finishing 29th on one ballot. Of course, that's an awfully thin positive in what's been a gloomy mess of a season, and despite taking two of three from the Yankees to start the week, Philadelphia then dropped two of three to the Nationals, with a loss on Sunday making it the first team to 50 defeats on the year. That led to the exit of manager Ryne Sandberg, and with Andy MacPhail set to take over the role of team president, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. may not survive much longer either.
While there hasn't been a lot for Phillies fans to enjoy this year, there have been a few bright spots, none more so lately than Ben Revere. The team's centerfielder has hacked and slashed his way to a .289/.326/.378 line—good for just a 95 OPS+, but coupled with his strong defense in the outfield, he's been worth 1.8 WAR on the season, the third-best mark on the team behind Cole Hamels (2.6) and Aaron Harang (1.9). Revere has also been near unstoppable in June, hitting .354/.380/.469 over 100 plate appearances with 11 multi-hit games. He even popped his first home run of the year last weekend, knocking a pinch-hit blast off Max Scherzer in Philadelphia's 5–2 loss on Friday. The 27-year-old Revere won't keep up that hot streak all year, but his good season to date should at least give the Phillies some hope that he can join Maikel Franco and prospects J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola as part of the team's next young core.
Biggest Riser: Orioles/Nationals
Both the O's and Nats jumped four spots from last week, with Washington going from ninth to fifth and Baltimore moving from 11th to seventh. The Nationals, who have won eight of their last 10 and lead the Mets by 2 1/2 games in the NL East, have been led by their starting pitching. The team's starters had combined for 48 straight scoreless innings across seven games over the last week, with the streak finally snapped in Scherzer's start against the Phillies on Friday. The righthander has been exactly the ace Washington envisioned, with a 1.79 ERA and 211 ERA+ on the season, but the returns of Doug Fister and Stephen Strasburg from the disabled list could prove to be the key for D.C. Fister, who was beat up by the Rays on June 18 in his first post-DL start (allowing nine hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings), rebounded by throwing seven shutout innings against the Pirates last Wednesday. Strasburg, meanwhile, held Philadelphia to two runs across seven innings in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader and has allowed just two runs over 12 innings with 15 strikeouts since coming off the DL.
As for the Orioles, they've won four straight and seven of their last eight to become the latest team to occupy first place in the constantly shifting AL East. The offense has come alive for the O's in June, as they've posted a .794 OPS that is the league's third-highest on the month, behind only the Yankees (.821) and Blue Jays (.799). Leading the charge has been Manny Machado, who has blitzed opposing pitchers to the tune of a .364/.414/.617 line in 26 games this month. The 22-year-old's hot hitting has helped Baltimore survive the loss of Adam Jones, who has been limited to just 13 plate appearances since June 15 due to a shoulder injury.
Biggest Faller: Rangers
Despite the presence of the Astros in first place in the AL West, all is not well in the Lone Star State, where the Rangers have dropped seven of their last eight to fall from No. 13 to No. 18 in the rankings. Texas now trails Houston by 5 1/2 games in the division, though the Rangers are only three games back of the AL's second wild card spot.
Texas' rotation could use a boost. Yovani Gallardo has been quietly excellent, with a 147 ERA+ and 2.72 ERA in 96 innings, while rookie Chi Chi Gonzalez has been an unexpected gem; since getting called up on May 30, the righthander has a 2.59 ERA over 41 2/3 innings and six starts, albeit with a disquieting strikeout-to-walk ratio of 14/17. Nick Martinez and Wandy Rodriguez, however, have come back to earth this month. Rodriguez has a 5.09 ERA since June 1 and was torched for eight runs in four innings against Oakland on Wednesday, while Martinez was hammered for nine runs (eight earned) against Toronto in his most recent start and carries a 6.35 ERA in his last five turns. Pitching reinforcements are on the horizon for Texas, with Matt Harrison (back) and Martin Perez (Tommy John) currently on rehab assignments, but the pressure will be on them to perform right away to help the Rangers right the ship—and on GM Jon Daniels to find replacements if they can't.