1. St. Louis Cardinals (62-40) +1
The best record and best run differential in baseball equals the best team, and this club can get even better if they add an upgrade at shortstop before the deadline. Matt Carpenter is a quiet MVP candidate with a .318/.392/.489 line this year.
2. Boston Red Sox (63-43) -1
Boston has a dog fight on their hands in the AL East, but they have the talent and resources to stay at the top. Lefty Jon Lester had a 6.13 ERA over his last eight starts before shutting out the O’s on Sunday.
3. Oakland Athletics (62-43) –
Smoke and mirrors? Maybe, but Oakland has pulled out to a six-game lead on Texas in the AL West and they’ve done it while getting virtually no production from their top two hitter a year ago. If Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick start to click, look out.
4. Tampa Bay Rays (62-43) +1
Since outfielder Wil Myers made his debut on June 18, the Rays have gone 26-10 and Myers has gone .328/.354/.537. He’s a shoo-in for AL Rookie of the Year.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (61-42) -1
The Bucs got bad news when closer Jason Grilli went down with a forearm strain, but the good news is that he could still pitch again this year. Now, Pittsburgh puts its faith in Mark Melancon to close games.
6. Detroit Tigers (59-45) +5
The Tigers swept Philadelphia over the weekend and are winners of six of their last seven. They did most of that work without Miguel Cabrera, who is once again healthy. Detroit has the best run differential in the AL, and it’s not close.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers (56-48) +2
The legend of Yasiel Puig grew even greater with his walkoff blast on Sunday, but shortstop Hanley Ramirez has been the real superstar of this team over the past two months. Ramirez is hitting .380/.431/.684 this year after missing two months with injury.
8. Atlanta Braves (60-45) -2
The Braces have extended their lead in the NL East thanks to some poor play by their competitors. Losing Tim Hudson hurts a good starting rotation, but Brandon Beachy arrives just in time to fill the void. He’s making his season debut this week.
9. Cincinnati Reds (59-47) -1
A big four-game sweep in San Francisco looked impressive, but the Reds were humbled a bit in their series with the Dodgers over the weekend. The good news is that Ryan Ludwick has begun a rehab assignment and could help bolster the offense soon.
10. Cleveland Indians (56-48) +4
Cleveland completed their first sweep of Texas in nearly 30 years over the weekend and did so by holding the Rangers without a run over the final two games of the series. The Tribe might think about adding one more bat to keep pace with Detroit, as Mark Reynolds is hitting just .159/.266/.203 since the start of June.
11. Baltimore Orioles (58-48) -1
The O’s are treading water of late, splitting their last 10 games. Third baseman Manny Machado remains among the league leaders in hits, but is batting just .189/.231/.351 since the all-star break.
12. Texas Rangers (56-49) -5
Texas has fallen six games off the pace in their division and the once-vaunted lineup has been the biggest issue. Texas was handed back-to-back shutouts over the weekend and is averaging just 2.6 runs per game over their last 26 contests.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (54-51) –
The D-back put up a valiant fight, but it looks like the Dodgers might run away and hide in the West. Arizona has racked up 19 blown saves this year, second-most in the majors.
14. New York Yankees (55-50) +1
Derek Jeter is back again and so is Alfonso Soriano and on Sunday they hit the first right handed home runs by the Yankees since late June. Make no mistake, these are big upgrades to a sagging roster, but in this division and with that rotation, I don’t think it will be enough.
15. Kansas City Royals (51-51) +5
Don’t look know but the Royals have won six straight to get back to .500 for the first time since June 17. During that winning streak they have gained only one game in the standings.
16. Washington Nationals (52-54) -4
No team in baseball has allowed a greater percentage of inherited runners to score than the 41 percent permitted by the Washington bullpen. Drew Storen hasn’t been the only problem.
17. Seattle Mariners (50-55) +4
Nick Franklin‘s two-homer game on Sunday was the 11th multi-home run game for a Mariners hitter this year. That’s the most by any team in the majors.
18. Chicago Cubs (48-55) +1
The Cubs are getting a glimpse of the future with Junior Lake. The shortstop-turned-outfielder is hitting .349/.378/.558 since his recall.
19. Toronto Blue Jays (48-56) -1
The biggest disappointment on the most disappointing team in baseball? Brett Lawrie, who looked like a future superstar in 2012, but is hitting .204/.272/.376 in 49 games this year.
20. Colorado Rockies (51-55) +2
The Rox actually have a positive run differential on the season, but only the Brewers get fewer innings per start than Colorado’s starters have offered.
21. Los Angeles Angels (48-55) -5
Every time you think they might turn it on, the Angels run into another losing skid. Now, they may have lost Albert Pujols for the rest of the season. It would be a good time for GM Jerry Dipoto to start thinking about 2014.
22. San Diego Padres (48-58) +4
The Padres have won five of their last seven and took consecutive series on the road this week. Set-up man Luke Gregerson figures to be traded soon, which should help re-stock the club for another run next season.
23. New York Mets (46-56) -1
Everyone knows about Matt harvey and Zack Wheeler, but, once upon a time, right hander Jenrry Mejia was New York’s ace prospect. Mejia turned in seven shutout innings in his first big league start of the year last week. If he can establish himself as a reliable major league starter, the Mets will have even better pitching than we thought.
24. Minnesota Twins (45-57) +1
The Twins have shown more fight of late than probably could have been expected. That said, continuing to give significant at bats to guys like Jamey Carroll and Clete Thomas is silly at this point. It’s well past time for GM Terry Ryan to be in full sell mode. If they have a veteran with any trade value at all, moves need to be made.
25. Philadelphia Phillies (49-56) -8
Speaking of needing to sell, the Phillies are only fooling themselves if they think they have a shot at contending this year and the weekend sweep in Detroit should hammer that point home. Philadelphia is an old and injured team, and one without much help to offer from their farm system.
26. San Francisco Giants (46-58) -2
GM Brian Sabean says he can’t imagine trading Tim Lincecum, but if he’s smart the Freak will be on the move soon. The Giants will be in great shape with better than 40 million coming off the books this Winter with the expiration of deals for Lincecum and Barry Zito, why not get started on next year’s club a little early?
27. Milwaukee Brewers (43-61) +1
Very little has gone right for the Brewers in 2013 and Ryan Braun‘s PED suspension is just the icing on the cake.
28. Miami Marlins (40-63) +1
The Fish are actually four games over .500 since the start of June and Giancarlo Stanton is hitting well of late. Perhaps he can be persuaded to stay after all.
29. Chicago White Sox (40-62) -2
The only reason this team isn’t last is that the Astros exist.
30. Houston Astros (35-69) –
The exodus of veteran has commenced. Time to see what some of the young kids can do, and Houston has some good ones to watch. Growing pains will be there, but there is more talent in the pipeline. This club is in much better shape going forward than many of the also-rans this year.