1. Boston Red Sox (54-36, previous No. 2) – Even though the Red Sox dropped two of three to the Angels over the weekend, the Sox take over the top spot as they had won five in a row before the series and have won a major-league leading 54 games on the year. Pitching has been the story of late as their starters have six straight quality starts dating back to a week ago Sunday. They will wrap up the first half of the season by completing a 10-game West Coast trip with games in Seattle and Oakland.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (53-34, previous No. 3) – The Cardinals continue to prove they are one of the most balanced teams in all of baseball and thus the best team in the National League. As of Sunday they have the best team average in the NL at .274 and also the third-best team ERA in the NL at 3.34. They will look to extend their three-game win streak with very winnable games this week against the Astros and Cubs.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates (53-34, previously No. 1) – After making their debut at the top spot last week the Pirates didn’t have the best of weeks, going 2-4 against the Cubs and Phillies. It is a bit surprising how successful the Pirates have been having only averaged 3.93 runs per game, but their pitching is by far the best the NL has to offer, particularly their bullpen as they lead the NL in holds with 54.
4. Oakland Athletics (52-37, previous No. 6) – A 4-2 week last week has the Athletics back on top in the AL West by the slimmest of margins over the Rangers. Their hitters have cooled off since the beginning of the season, but their pitching has been much improved as they have the third-best team ERA in the AL at 3.72 as of Sunday. The A’s will be put to the test before the All-Star break with games against the Pirates and Red Sox this week.
5. Texas Rangers (51-37, previous No. 5)–The Rangers are one game back in the loss column of the first place Athletics in the AL West after a .500 week last week. The explosive Rangers offense hasn’t been that explosive of late as going into Sunday they were averaging 4.36 runs per game, just below the league average of 4.42. Like the A’s, the Rangers too have a difficult week to close out the first half with games against the Orioles and Tigers, both coming on the road.
6. Atlanta Braves (50-38, previous No. 4) – Atlanta has been dominant at home going 29-13, but haven’t been the same on the road, going 21-25 going into Sunday. Their lead in the NL East has been cut to four games, but they still are the only team in their division with a positive run differential of plus-76. The Braves will close out their first half with a series with the Marlins before taking on the Reds at home.
7. Cincinnati Reds (50-38, previous No. 8) – Cincinnati lost two of three to the Mariners over the weekend and have fallen three games behind the Pirates and Cardinals for first place in the best division in baseball, the NL Central. Their offense has been the key to their success this season as they entered play Sunday averaging 4.41 runs per game, which is good for third in the NL. The Reds will play seven games on the road before the break taking on the Brewers and Braves.
8. Tampa Bay Rays (49-40, previous No. 11) – The Rays have won eight of their last nine games and have surged up the AL East standings, sitting in second place. Their pitching has been very good of late, as they’ve moved up to eighth in the AL with a 4.01 team ERA — they were near the bottom of the league for the majority of the season. Tampa will continue its 10-game homestand with games against the Twins and Astros this week.
9. Detroit Tigers (48-39, previous No. 10) – Detroit has the second-best run differential in the AL at plus-90, but the Tigers still find themselves only nine games over .500 and only own a 2.5 game lead in one of the least competitive divisions in all of baseball in the AL Central. Their 5.10 runs per game going into Sunday are behind only the Red Sox in the AL. Games against the White Sox and Rangers will close out the first half for Detroit.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (47-41, previous No. 12) – Winners of five in a row, the Diamondbacks have separated themselves from the rest of the NL West. Their pitching and defense has been outstanding in their winning streak, allowing only 1.8 runs per game. They will continue their 10-game homestand with series’ against the Dodgers and Brewers this week.
11. Baltimore Orioles (49-40, previous No. 7) – The Orioles have lost three of their last four and now find themselves tied for second place in the AL East with the red hot Rays. Their offense has been carrying them as they are third in the AL in runs scored per game, but are No. 12 in team ERA. Home games with the Rangers and Blue Jays will wrap up the first half for the Orioles this week.
12. New York Yankees (48-40, previous No. 13) – New York won six in a row before losing to the O’s on Sunday and now sit in fourth place in the AL East, but the Rays, Orioles and Yankees are all within a half game of each other for second. Three of Yanks’ six wins were one-run games. The Yankees will end the first half with six home games taking on the Royals and Twins.
13. Washington Nationals (46-42, previous No. 14) – Washington has won four games in a row and narrowed the gap to four games in the NL East behind the Braves. In those four games the Nats have averaged eight runs per game. They will hope their offense can continue to perform like this in the final week of the first half with games against the Phillies and Marlins, all on the road.
14. Cleveland Indians (46-41, previous No. 9) – The Indians were in first place in the AL Central to begin the month of July, but now have seen the Tigers overtake them at the top. They had dropped four in a row before beating those Tigers in their series finale Sunday afternoon. Their pitching staff will need to get things back together as they have allowed six runs or more in their last five games. Cleveland will finish its series with the Tigers Monday before taking on the Blue Jays and Royals to close out the first half.
15. Los Angeles Angels (43-45, previous No. 18) – The Angels are one of the streakiest teams in baseball and are currently on one of their hot streaks, winning 10 of their last 12 and taking two of three from the Red Sox at home over the weekend. In those 12 games they have averaged 5.42 runs per game, which is something they will look to continue in the second half as they certainly have the talent to make a run at the postseason. They will go into the All-Star break with a five-game road trip taking on the Cubs and Mariners.
16. Toronto Blue Jays (43-45, previous No. 17) – After it appeared the Blue Jays might be making a surge up the AL East, they’ve dropped off of late – now losers of four of their last six. They are below the league average in both team ERA and runs scored per game, both things that will need to get better for Toronto to have a shot at the postseason. The Jays will end the first half with a six-game road trip stopping in Cleveland and Baltimore.
17. Philadelphia Phillies (43-46, previous No. 19) –At 7.5 games back of the Braves in the NL East the Phillies continue to weigh whether or not they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline later this month. They have a number of starting pitchers that teams will be after as they currently have the most quality starts (56) in the entire National League. The Phillies will finish their 10-game homestand with games against the Nationals and White Sox this week.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers (42-45, previously not ranked) – Winners of six of their last eight, the Dodgers have moved into second place in the NL West, trailing the Diamondbacks for first place. For the Dodgers to have any chance at catching them their offense will need to get it together as currently they are second to last in the NL in runs scored per game at 3.83. It is a big week for LA as it has games against division rivals Arizona and Colorado.
19. Colorado Rockies (42-47, previous No. 19) – The Rockies are in a bit of a funk as they have lost six of their last seven, all of which have come against division opponents, dropping them to third place in the tightly bunched NL West. Offense has been the problem in the losses as in those games they’ve scored two runs or less five times. Road games with the Padres and Dodgers will end the first half for Colorado.
20. Kansas City Royals (41-44, previously not ranked) – Kansas City made it back into the rankings this week by winning three of its last five. The Royals currently sit in third place in the AL Central. For KC to have any shot at a playoff run it will need to start scoring more runs as it ranks in the bottom third of the league in runs per game at 4.06. A difficult seven-game road trip stands between them and the All-Star break with the Yankees and Indians on tap.
*Stats and records through Sunday, July 8
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84