Last week's hot streak has the Dodgers back in the top five of this week's Power Rankings, where the Cardinals rule the roost yet again.
The Cardinals are No. 1 yet again in this week's Power Rankings, but their summer-long grip on the top spot may finally be loosening as the regular season heads into its final four weeks. The Blue Jays actually garnered more first-place votes (four) than St. Louis (two), but fell two points shy overall of being the first team other than the Cardinals to grab No. 1 since the Royals at the end of May. The Pirates jumped the Royals for No. 3, pushing Kansas City to No. 4, with the resurgent Dodgers moving into the top five, displacing the Astros.
Team of the Week: Dodgers
Los Angeles went 5-1 last week, but more importantly, it has created some sizable distance between itself and the Giants in the National League West standings. With a three-game sweep of San Francisco from Monday to Wednesday, the Dodgers are now up by 7 1/2 games in the division, a lead that puts their NL West title odds at 98.7%, according to Baseball Prospectus; the team's playoff chances are currently 98.8%. A four-game series against the Giants at AT&T Park still looms, but that won't start until Sept. 28, and by that point, the division may already be decided.
With the postseason a virtual lock, the question for the Dodgers now becomes who will make their playoff roster—specifically, if rookie Corey Seager will get a spot on the 25-man squad for October. The 21-year-old has looked good in his brief major league spell, going 5-for-15 with two doubles and three RBIs over four games and three starts last weekend; two of those came at third base, where Seager spelled Justin Turner. Ultimately, Seager's roster spot will depend on the health of Howie Kendrick and Kiké Hernandez, both of whom are sidelined with hamstring strains. With Kendrick reportedly suffering a setback in his rehab over the weekend, Seager may find himself going from the minors to the NLDS.
Team of the Weak: Braves
The Braves held down this spot last week too, which should give you some idea of just how bad they've ben since to earn this distinction again. Atlanta has now lost 12 straight and 19 of its last 20, and at 54–83, the team is just one game behind the Phillies for the worst record in baseball. The Braves even have a worse run differential than their fellow NL East doormat, -177 to Philadelphia's -176. Atlanta is a wretched 12–26 since the All-Star break and has been outscored 280 to 141 in that span. During their 12-game skid—which includes defeats of 15–4 (to the Yankees on Aug. 28), 20–6 (Yankees, Aug. 30) and 15–1 (Nationals, Sept. 3)—the Braves have lost by an average of 6.25 runs per game.
As Atlanta continues to stagger toward the end of the season, it may play spoiler in the NL East, but not in a good way. The Braves have seven games left against the Mets in September, but just three against the Nationals, who swept Atlanta over the weekend to climb within four games of New York for the division lead. Those extra four games that the Mets get against the Braves could be the difference as the team tries to fight off Washington for its first NL East crown since 2006.
Big Riser: Mariners
With a pair of wins over the Astros and a three-game sweep of the Athletics—all on the road—the Mariners have reeled off a season-high–five-game winning streak and won nine of their last 12 overall, moving them from No. 23 to No. 18 in this week's rankings. Helping to power the surge is Logan Morrison, who has three homers and 10 RBIs in the past five games, including a pinch-hit–two-run shot that provided the difference in last Tuesday's 7–5 win over Houston, and then a three-run blast the next night as well. At .228/.302/.392 with 16 homers, he has yet to salvage his season fully, but he's in better shape than Jesus Montero, who was optioned to Triple A Tacoma on Sept. 2—after rosters expanded—amid a 2-for-36 skid with 14 strikeouts and no walks. The 25-year-old former top prospect has torn up the PCL (.352/.395/.556 with 17 homers) but could be out of chances in the Emerald City, particularly with a new general manager due to be hired at some point after last month's firing of Jack Zduriencik.
More encouraging is Robinson Cano's hot streak. After hitting just .238/.277/.344 with four homers through the end of June, the former Yankees star has hit .328/.383/.519 with 10 homers since, a clip that's almost a dead ringer for his final year in pinstripes.
Big Faller: Padres
After a 27–25 run through July and August, the Padres have lost five of six, which appears to have cost them a chance at their first .500 season since 2010. After getting walked all over by the Rangers and Dodgers in Petco Park, San Diego would have to go 16–9 the rest of the way, something it hasn't managed over any 25-game span all season. That 2–5 stretch last week also dropped the Padres to No. 23 this week, down from No. 19.
As if to serve as a continued reminder of general manager A.J. Preller's poorly-constructed roster, manager Pat Murphy has lately taken to playing Jedd Gyorko at shortstop, giving him 10 starts in the team's last 19 games. While he's swung a hot bat in that context—12-for-36 with five homers—at a position where the rest of the team's options have hit .226/.278/.338, he's in over his head defensively, as his -4 Defensive Runs Saved in that tiny span suggests. Then again, this franchise has had some crazy ideas about who can play short for over four decades.