Searching for an unlikely playoff spot, the red-hot Rangers are this week's big riser in the Power Rankings, while the Cardinals get a big challenge for first place.
It looked like St. Louis's reign atop the Power Rankings had finally come to an end. With only two first-place votes to their name and several other teams amid hot streaks, the Cardinals seemed ripe to be knocked out of their first-place perch for the first time in nearly three months. But neither of the Blue Jays, Royals, Pirates or Astros were able to build enough of a consensus among our eight voters to take the No. 1 spot away from St. Louis, which once again held off all comers and remains in first for this week. Toronto, which earned four first-place votes, finished second, with Kansas City ranking third, Pittsburgh at fourth and Houston in fifth.
Team of the Week: Blue Jays
Off to a 5–1 start on their road trip through Philadelphia and Anaheim—with Arlington, Texas, yet to come—the Blue Jays have retaken first place in the AL East and held onto the second spot in this week's Power Rankings. Their potent offense continues to hum, hitting a combined .325/.385/.545 and averaging 9.6 runs per game for the stretch. Meanwhile, Josh Donaldson has clubbed his way into the AL MVP discussion alongside Mike Trout, hitting .524/.560/1.143 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 25 plate appearances in his last five games. Thanks to that binge, he now leads the league in both runs and RBIs (95 and 100, respectively), ranks second in homers (34) and Wins Above Replacement (7.1), third in OPS+ (161) and fourth in slugging percentage (.585). Edwin Encarnacion (.450/.458/1.000) and ex-Phillie Ben Revere (.450/.542/.500) have both been on fire during that stretch as well, and the team's 36 runs against the Angels set a franchise record for a three-game series.
On Sunday, the Jays overcame a 5–1 first-inning deficit to win 12–5, but if there is cause for concern, it is R.A. Dickey's sudden return to earth. Over a 13-start stretch spanning from June 7 through Aug. 12, he posted a 2.69 ERA with 11 quality starts and just one game with five or more runs allowed. He's yielded five in each of his last two turns (including Sunday), getting tagged for 20 hits in 10 innings; his ERA is now all the way up to 4.26.
Team of the Weak: Rockies
After a road trip that ended with a four-game sweep by the Mets in Queens, the Rockies have found that Coors Field is no comfort. Colorado has gone 2–7 since returning home, taking just one of three in series against the Padres and Phillies and then getting steamrolled in three straight by the Mets, two of them by the score of 14–9. Of the 14 games in which they've allowed at least 10 runs, four of them have come in their last 10 games. Add it all up, and you have the Rockies falling into last place in this week's rankings.
If there's a glint of optimism to be found amid the rubble of a pitching staff that has been rocked for 6.38 runs per game during a 10–24 second half, it's the recent work of Yohan Flande. In five starts and one extra-inning relief appearance totaling 28 2/3 innings dating to July 28, the 29-year-old righty delivered a 3.77 ERA, capped by a seven-inning, two-run effort against the Nationals last Thursday, one in which his only real mistake was serving up a two-run shot to Michael Taylor that set a Statcast record at 493 feet. While Flande has served up seven homers in that span, four of them have been solo shots, and he's the only Colorado starter besides Jorge De La Rosa with a second-half ERA below 5.94.
Big Riser: Rangers
Thanks to a 22–13 second half—second-best in the league behind only the Blue Jays—the Rangers have leapfrogged the fallen Angels and taken over the AL's second wild-card spot as well as moved up to 11th in this week's rankings. Though they're hardly as strong as they might be had they not lost Yu Darvish to Tommy John surgery, Texas can thank its much-improved run prevention for the unexpected playoff spot: The Rangers have yielded just 3.90 runs per game this month, allowing four runs or fewer in 10 straight games and 16 of their last 18—no mean feat in the Texas heat.
While deadline acquisition Cole Hamels has just a 4.73 ERA since being acquired from the Phillies, he's delivered back-to-back quality starts against the Mariners and Tigers since skipping a turn due to a groin problem. Derek Holland made a strong showing in his first start in more than four months, holding Seattle to two runs and striking out six against only one walk in 6 1/3 innings. Martin Perez has a 2.84 ERA this month after being drubbed for a 10.50 mark in his first three turns since coming back from Tommy John surgery, and Colby Lewis has given the team seven quality starts out of eight dating to July 11, with just five runs allowed in 21 innings over his last three turns.
Big Faller: Reds
With sweeps by the Royals and Diamondbacks, the Reds' losing streak has reached nine games, and they've lost 15 of 18 to boot, dropping them all the way to 28th in the rankings, better than only the Phillies and Rockies. They've also lost Billy Hamilton to a shoulder sprain, though that's probably of more consequence to fantasy players than to the NL Central's basement dwellers. Hamilton's 54 steals (in 61 attempts) lead the league, but he's hitting just .226/.272/.290 for a 55 OPS+; the last two of those numbers are both lows among NL qualifiers.