1. Tampa Bay Rays (62-43, previous No. 3) – The Rays are by far the hottest team in all of baseball as they have won 21 of their last 25 games and briefly took over first place in the AL East this week. They’ve done it with their pitching, as they are 24-1 in the last 25 games started by David Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Chris Archer. First place in the AL East will be on the line when they play the Red Sox in a makeup game Monday before 10 straight games against the NL West.
2. Boston Red Sox (63-43, previous No. 1) – Although the Red Sox have a half game lead in the AL East they aren’t playing the best of baseball of late, as the Rays completely shut down the Sox’ bats. Before their weekend series in Baltimore the Sox scored two runs or less in five of eight games. The schedule gets easier for Boston, however, as after their makeup game with Tampa the Sox are home for six straight against the Mariners and Diamondbacks.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (62-40, previous No. 2) – Even after being swept over the weekend by the Braves, the Cardinals still remain in the top three of the rankings and are currently the best team in the National League. St. Louis’ offense is in a bit of a funk as it has averaged just 1.5 runs over its last four games. St. Louis will need to turn things around quickly as it will travel to Pittsburgh for an important five-game series against the second place Pirates beginning Monday.
4. Oakland Athletics (62-43, previous No. 5) – Oakland has built a six-game lead in the AL West and has won three in a row and six of its last eight. The Athletics’ offense has been impressive since the break as in their four-game series against the Angels this past weekend they averaged 5.5 runs per game. They could look to bolster their pitching staff at the deadline as they are said to be the front-runner to land Jake Peavy. Oakland will continue its nine-game homestand with games against the Blue Jays and Rangers this week.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (61-42, previously No. 4) – Even though many have been waiting for the Pirates to fall off all season, they continue to hang with the Cardinals at the top of the NL Central. The Pirates have lost three of their last four, with losses to the Marlins and Nationals, which is something they cannot afford to do. Pittsburgh’s pitching has gotten it to where it is now, as its starters lead all of baseball with a 3.08 ERA. A critical five-game series at home against St. Louis awaits the Bucs this week.
6. Atlanta Braves (60-45, previous No. 8) – Atlanta continued its dominance at home with a weekend sweep of the Cardinals, improving its record to 34-15 at home this season. The Braves have opened up an eight game lead in the NL East and don’t seem to have any threats coming the remaining two months before the playoffs. Atlanta will now host the Rockies for a four-game set before traveling to Philadelphia next weekend.
7. Detroit Tigers (59-45, previous No. 10) – Besides the Rays, the Tigers are the hottest team in the American League as they have won three in a row and seven of their last 10 to take a three game lead over the Indians in the AL Central. They continue to lead the AL in runs per game, averaging 5.06. Detroit will continue its eight-game homestand by taking on the Nationals and White Sox this week.
8. Cincinnati Reds (59-47, previous No. 7) – The Reds are scuffling of late as they have lost three in a row to fall 5.5 games out of first in the NL Central. The Reds offense was completely shutdown by the Dodgers in their last three games as they didn’t score more than one run in any of the three games, which is unusual for them as they are second in the National League in runs per game, averaging 4.41. Cincinnati’s West Coast swing will continue with a series against the Padres before coming home to face the Cardinals next weekend.
9. Baltimore Orioles (58-48, previous No. 6) – Baltimore is struggling out of the break as the Orioles have lost five of their last six games and have fallen well behind the Rays and Red Sox in the AL East. Offense has been the issue in the losses as the O’s have scored three runs or less in all of the losses. Baltimore will look to get its offense going with games against the Astros and Mariners this week.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (56-48, previous No. 14) – The Dodgers are the hottest team in the NL jumping four spots in the rankings and overtaking the Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West. Los Angeles has won nine of its last 10 games with its offense being the main reason as it has averaged 4.6 runs per game in the 10 game stretch. The Dodgers have had the talent all year long and it has finally come together. They have two games at home with the Yankees before embarking on an eight-game road trip against the Cubs and Cardinals.
11. Cleveland Indians (56-48, previous No. 11) – Cleveland is beginning to catch fire winning six games in row, but unfortunately haven’t been able to gain much ground in the AL Central with Detroit playing well too. The Indians are third in the AL in runs per game averaging 4.77, but for them to make a run at the Tigers it is their pitching which will need to improve. It is a relatively easy week for the Indians with winnable games against the White Sox and Marlins.
12. Texas Rangers (56-49, previous No. 9) – For a team which was in the top five of the rankings for much of the year, the wheels have certainly fallen off for the Rangers as they now are out of the top 10 and six games behind the A’s in the AL West. Texas has lost four in a row and eight of its last 10, being shutout three times during that stretch. Texas will look to get things back on track with a home series against the Angels and a makeup game with the Diamondbacks, before a big weekend series in Oakland.
13. New York Yankees (55-50, previous No. 13) – Even though the Yankees traded for Alfonso Soriano this week, it still is difficult to see them being serious playoff contenders, as currently they are 7.5 games out of first place in the AL East. New York is only averaging 3.86 runs per game, third to last in the AL and very unlike Yankee teams of the past. New York is set to begin an eight-game road trip with stops in Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago this week.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks (54-51, previous No. 12) – Dropping two in a row and three of their last five, the Diamondbacks have been overtaken by the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. Arizona still ranks fifth in the NL in runs per game at 4.22, but will need its pitching to improve as they look to get back to the top of the division. The Diamondbacks travel to the East Coast for series’ against the Rays and Red Sox, with a makeup game with Texas in between.
15. Washington Nationals (52-54, previous No. 17) – Even though the Nationals have won three in a row, they are still eight games behind the Braves for first in the NL East. Their pitching staff is sixth in the NL in runs allowed per game at 4.01, which is decent, but not where the Nationals expected considering the talent on their staff. Washington will play its next five games on the road taking on the Tigers and Brewers.
16. Colorado Rockies (51-55, previous No. 16) – The Rockies had seven straight games against the Marlins and Brewers, but yet Colorado could not gain much ground the NL West, which has really been the story of its season. Even though its offense averages the third most runs per game in the NL at 4.39, its pitching is in the bottom third in runs allowed with 4.35. Colorado will travel to the East Coast for a brutal 10-game road trip taking on the Braves, Pirates and Mets.
17. Seattle Mariners (50-55, previous No. 18) – Over the past few weeks Seattle has been one of the best teams in the American League, currently winners of seven of its last 10 games. Over the last four games the M’s have allowed an average of 2.75 runs per game. They will surely be tested this week with road games against the Red Sox and Orioles.
18. Philadelphia Phillies (49-56, previous No. 15) – Things are falling apart for the Phillies as they have lost eight straight games and now trail the Braves by 10.5 games. Philly’s offense has been at the bottom of the NL all season long, currently third to last in the NL, averaging just 3.79 runs per game. A nine-game homestand awaits the Phillies this week with games against the Giants and Braves.
19. Chicago Cubs (48-55, previously not ranked) – The Cubs have won three in row and four of their last five. They’re playing pretty good baseball of late with pitching leading the way as they get back in the rankings for the second time this year. In its sweep of the Giants this weekend, Chicago held the Giants to two, zero and one runs. Chicago will play its next eight games at home against the Dodgers and Brewers.
20. San Diego Padres (48-58, previously not ranked) – San Diego is back in the rankings this week after winning two in a row and three of its last four. Its offense erupted for 12 runs against the Diamondbacks on Saturday. The Padres sit in fourth place in the competitive NL West. A difficult stretch for the Friars begins Monday with home games against the Reds, Yankees and Orioles.
*Stats and records through Sunday, July 28
Follow Metro sports writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84