1. Atlanta Braves (78-52, previous No. 1) – The Braves lost three-of-four over the weekend in St. Louis, but still remain the league’s best team with their 78 wins and an 11.5 game lead in the NL East. Atlanta is second in the NL in runs per game, averaging 4.41, but in its last four losses the Braves have scored a total of eight. They will look to get back on track with a nine-game homestand beginning Tuesday against the Indians.
2. Boston Red Sox (77-55, previous No. 4) – Going to the West Coast for six games could have gone badly for the Sox with the way they’ve played there the past two seasons, but they won four of the six games, including taking two-of-three from the Dodgers, the hottest team in the league since the break. The Red Sox’ pitching led the way as their starters posted a 1.17 ERA in the six games. The Sox now return home to Fenway for nine straight games beginning with the Orioles on Tuesday.
3. Detroit Tigers (77-53, previous No. 3) – Detroit’s dominance at home has been a major key to its success this year as seen by their six game lead in the AL Central standings over Cleveland. The Tigers are 41-23 at home, the second-most wins in the AL, compared to a 36-30 record on the road. Fortunately for the Tigers, all of their games this week will be at home as they host the A’s and Indians.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (76-54, previous No. 2) – The Dodgers dropped two-of-three to the Red Sox over the weekend, but still remain 9.5 games up in the NL West and are still playing the best baseball of any team in the National League since the All-Star break. Despite being below the league average in runs per game, the Dodgers have risen all the way sixth in the NL, at 4.03. Los Angeles will host the Cubs for three games before a weekend series with the Padres.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (76-54, previous No. 7) – Despite losing on Sunday, St. Louis has won seven of its last 10 games to now share first place with the Pirates in the NL Central. The Cardinals’ offense has led the way this year as they lead the National League in runs per game at 4.88 and in average, hitting .272. It doesn’t get any bigger for the Cardinals coming up as each of their next 13 games are against either the Pirates or Reds, in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive pennant race.
6. Texas Rangers (75-55, previous No. 6) – Even after dropping two-of-three to the White Sox, the Rangers still hold a 2.5 game lead over the Athletics in the AL West. Texas’ offense has been hot of late, averaging nine runs in its last four wins. Hot bats are a common trend in Texas as the Rangers are fifth in the AL in runs per game, averaging 4.53. The Rangers will look to increase their lead as their next two series’ are against the Mariners and Twins, both having disappointing seasons.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates (76-54, previous No. 5) –Pittsburgh is now in a tie with St. Louis for the NL Central lead after losing three of its last five games. Many thought the Pirates would fall off in the second half, which they have, as they’ve lost 10 of 16 games overall, but are still in good position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1992. The Pirates will open a six-game homestand beginning with the Brewers on Tuesday and a weekend series against St. Louis.
8. Tampa Bay Rays (74-54, previous No. 10) – Tampa Bay has turned a corner after a rough few weeks as it has now won seven of its last 10 to now only trail the Red Sox by one game in the AL East. The Rays’ pitching staff has gotten back to where they were, as they have held opponents to four runs or less in 10 of their last 11 games. Tampa will play a makeup game with the Royals on Monday before hosting the Angels for a mid-week series.
9. Cincinnati Reds (74-57, previous No. 8) – Because of Cincinnati’s impressive record at home, 41-23, the Reds find themselves just 2.5 games behind the Pirates and Cardinals for the NL Central lead, which has proven to be the best division in all of baseball. Unfortunately for the Reds, their road record isn’t even above .500, at 33-34, which is one of the reasons why they haven’t been able to overtake St. Louis or Pittsburgh. Their road record will be put to the test this week by taking on the Cardinals and Rockies – both coming on the road.
10. Cleveland Indians (71-59, previous No. 12) – Despite winning seven of its last 10 games, Cleveland still trails the Tigers by six games in the AL Central. Even though the Indians are 12th in all of baseball in starters ERA, their entire pitching staff has allowed just 12 runs in their last six games. Cleveland has a tough six-game road trip beginning Tuesday with stops in Atlanta and Detroit.
11. Oakland Athletics (72-57, previous No. 9) – Oakland has lost four of its last five games to now trail Texas by 2.5 games in the AL West. The A’s pitching has let the team down of late as in their least five games they’ve allowed 6.4 runs per game. Overall this season, Oakland has allowed the third fewest runs in the American League at 3.89 per game. A difficult stretch awaits the A’s as they take on the Tigers for four games to open the week, before hosting the Rays for a weekend series.
12. Baltimore Orioles (70-59, previous No. 11) – The Orioles have played .500 ball the past few weeks and thus have not been able to gain any ground in the AL East. Although there is still just over a month left in the year, Baltimore will need to make a move soon if it wants to get back to the playoffs for a second straight year. A big week is on tap for the Orioles with six road games taking on the Red Sox and Yankees.
13. New York Yankees (69-61, previous No. 14) – New York seemed to catch a spark after Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez last Sunday night as the Yankees have won six of eight games since. A lack of offense is still holding them back, however, as they have only averaged 3.98 runs per game, which is 11th in the American League. New York will play three games in Toronto beginning Monday as it continues to make a run at the Wild Card.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks (66-63, previous No. 13) – Even with the Dodgers running away with the NL West, with their 66 wins, the Diamondbacks wouldn’t be in any other division race. Surprisingly, the D’Backs have averaged the fourth-most runs in the National League at 4.21, but their pitching has held them back. Arizona will open a nine-game homestand beginning Monday against the Padres.
15. Washington Nationals (65-65, previous No. 16) – Washington seems to have been in the same position virtually the entire season, playing .500 ball and not even coming close to threatening the Braves in the NL East. The one positive this season has been its home record as Washington is 36-29 in D.C. The Nats will now begin an incredible stretch where their next 26 games are against NL East opponents.
16. Kansas City Royals (65-64, previous No. 15) – The Royals have virtually taken themselves out of playoff race by dropping seven of their last 10 and are now are 11.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. The one bright spot for Kansas City has been starting pitching as its 3.58 ERA is seventh in all of baseball. The Royals will play a make-up game with the Rays Monday before a three-game set on the road against the Twins.
17. Colorado Rockies (61-71, previous No. 18) – A 25-44 road record has held the Rockies back this season as they have actually hit pretty well, scoring 4.30 runs per game, fifth in the National League. Colorado has a good chance to disrupt the NL playoff race as two of its next three series’ are against playoff-contending teams in the Giants, Reds and Dodgers.
18. Philadelphia Phillies (59-71, previously not ranked) – The Phillies make a return to the rankings after winning six of their last eight games. It’s been a disappointing year overall for the Phils, especially considering the talent on their roster. Philadelphia will begin a seven-game road trip Monday with stops in New York against the Mets and Chicago against the Cubs.
19. San Diego Padres (59-71, previous No. 17) – Although the Padres were competitive for much of the season in the NL West, the wheels have fallen off, as San Diego is now 17 games behind the Dodgers. A poor road record stands out for the Padres, as they are 23-39 away from home this season. Each of their next 12 games come against NL West opponents, beginning with the Diamondbacks on Monday.
20. Seattle Mariners (59-70, previous No. 19) – Pitching has been a major reason for Seattle’s struggles this season as the Mariners have the fourth-worst starters’ ERA in all of baseball at 4.33. They never had a chance this year as the Rangers and A’s got off to terrific starts in the AL West, putting Seattle in an early hole. The Mariners will host Texas for three games before a weekend series in Houston.
*Stats and records through Sunday, August 25
Follow Metro sports writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84