1. Boston Red Sox (54-36) +1
The Sox move into the top spot in the rankings this week thanks to a 4-2 week, though they dropped the last two games in Anaheim. Boston holds a 4.5 game cushion over the rest of the AL East, which matches the largest divisional lead in baseball. Infielder Jose Iglesias is hitting a robust .395/.446/.507 through 152 at bats this year; a slash line made even more remarkable when you consider he is a career .244/.296/.292 hitter in over 900 plate appearances at Triple-A.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (53-34) -1
After winning nine straight, Pittsburgh dropped back-to-back series against the Phillies and Cubs this past week, scoring 12 runs in their two wins but totaling just nine runs in their four losses. The Pirates did get some good news as right hander A.J. Burnett returned from a torn ligament in his right calf to toss five innings in his first start back on Sunday. Burnett allowed a single unearned run in a no-decision at Chicago.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (53-34) –
The Cardinals swept Miami over the weekend, which makes their week look a lot better after dropping two of three in Anaheim. After posting a 1.66 ERA through his first six starts this season, Jake Westbrook had struggled since coming off the DL. On Saturday, Westbrook returned to form by limiting the Fish to one run on three hits in seven frames.
4. Oakland Athletics (52-37) +3
The A’s moved up three spots and overtook the Rangers for first place in the division. The A’s took two of three from the Cubs before repeating that success in Kansas City over the weekend. All-star snub Josh Donaldson is carrying the load for a good offensive club, posting a .319/.388/.536 line this year while Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick have both struggled.
5. Texas Rangers (51-37) –
Texas dropped a home series to Seattle before taking the rubber match of a three games set versus the Astros over the weekend. It wasn’t a strong week for the Rangers, but they’ve basically kept pace with Oakland atop the division. Yu Darvish ran into some trouble this week, allowing a season-high five earned runs in a loss to Houston on Saturday. Although he has improved his walk rate dramatically in this, his second, Major League season, Darvish has issued eight free passes in his past 12 innings of work.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (49-40) +7
The biggest mover in the rankings this week, Tampa Bay is riding a four game winning streak and has won eight of their past nine overall. Rays pitching has held the opposition to one or fewer runs in five of their past eight games, including three shutouts and reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price has twirled a pair of gems since coming off the DL, totaling 16 innings of one run ball with 15 strikeouts and without walking a batter.
7. Atlanta Braves (50-38) -1
Dropping four of six to the Marlins and Phillies this week, Atlanta continues to coast along after a stellar start to the season. For all the talk about the struggles of B.J. Upton this year, and they are merited, younger brother Justin Upton has posted a .219/.323/.307 since the first of June. Big brother has actually out-homered little brother five to three since that date as well.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (42-45) +1
Though they are still three games under .500, the Dodgers have moved from last place up to second in the NL West and they have been the only team in the division winning consistently of late. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez has been on fire of late himself, going 16-for-his-last-33 over the past eight games, with four doubles, two triples, and two homers during that stretch.
9. Baltimore Orioles (49-40) -5
Baltimore drops five spots this week after salvaging the final game of a weekend series at the Yankees and finishing a rough road trip at 2-4 on the week, with a pair of losses coming against the hapless White Sox. Closer Jim Johnson leads the league in saves with 29, but he’s also just 2-7 on the season and has an earned run average of 4.07 on the year. Give Johnson credit for one thing: when he blows a save, he makes it count. In his seven losses this year, Johnson has allowed 17 hits, nine walks, and 15 earned runs in just five innings of work.
10. Los Angeles Angels (43-45) –
A 4-2 week keeps the good times rolling for the Angels, who have now won 10 of their last 12 to draw to within two games of .500 for the first time since April 7. Jered Weaver, a 20-game winner a season ago, has gotten his groove back in his last three starts, tossing a combined 20.2 innings and allowing just two earned runs while striking out 17.
11. Detroit Tigers (48-39) –
The Tigers offense has come alive in winning five of their last six games while averaging 7.7 runs per game over that span. The bad news for the Tigers: just as Justin Verlander seems to be righting the ship, Doug Fister has fallen on some hard times. Including Sunday’s no-decision at Cleveland, Fister has allowed six earned runs in three of his past four starts.
12. Cincinnati Reds (50-38) –
This is an admittedly low ranking for a team with one of the better records in baseball and one that usually plays so well at home. Cincinnati dropped a home series to Seattle this weekend, however, and there is reason for concern in the starting rotation. With Johnny Cueto injured, rookie Tony Cingrani has reclaimed a starting role but has issues 10 walks in his past 9.2 innings of work.
13. Washington Nationals (46-42) +3
The Nats have won four straight and six of their past eight to finally begin to put some distance between themselves and .500, a mark they’ve been hovering around for most of the campaign. Washington shaved two games off the Braves lead in the division last week and they’ve been boosted by the return of Bryce Harper to the lineup. Just as important has been the recent play of Jayson Werth, who is hitting .365 over his past 21 games.
14. New York Yankees (48-40) +3
The Bombers dropped the series finale to Baltimore on Sunday, putting to rest a season-high six game winning streak. Of course, four of those wins came against the Twins and New York almost never loses to Minnesota so it’s tough to read a lot into that sweep. The Yankees are keeping themselves within hailing distance of first place, however, and that is important as Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez begin to work their way back to the lineup.
15. Cleveland Indians (46-42) -7
The Tribe’s offense lead them briefly into first place in the AL Central last week, but ultimately their pitching has been as issue of late. Despite winning six of their past 10, Cleveland has surrendered 64 runs during that stretch. Even the great set-up corps of the Indians bullpen has been giving it up of late. If their bullpen isn’t lights-out, the Cleveland offense will have to produce even more to keep them in the race.