1. St. Louis Cardinals (47-29, previous No. 1) – As much as we wanted to have new No. 1 team, it could not be justified, even after the Cards were swept by the Texas Rangers over the weekend. The losses were by a combined five runs and St. Louis still leads all of baseball in wins. The Cards’ pitching continues to dominate as they’ve allowed four runs or less in five of their last seven games. Their reign at the top could come to an end soon though, with their next eight games on the road against the Astros, Athletics and Angels.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (46-30, previously No. 6) – For pretty much the entire season people have played “wait and see” with the Pirates, but now is the time to start taking them seriously as they are neck-and-neck with the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. Despite scoring only 3.77 runs per game going into Sunday, their pitching has been outstanding as they are tied for the NL lead in ERA at 3.20 and fourth in the league in strikeouts with 591. They’ve won four in a row after sweeping the Angels and will continue their West Coast trip with two games against the Mariners.
3. Cincinnati Reds (45-32, previous No. 4) – There is no denying the NL Central is the best division in baseball as the top three teams all come from the same division. The Reds dropped two -of-three to the Diamondbacks, but still find themselves right in the thick of the division race. Going into Sunday they were third in the NL in runs per game with 4.47 and third in home runs with 80. The Reds will continue their West Coast swing with games against the Athletics and Rangers this week, giving them a good test against top AL teams.
4. Texas Rangers (44-32, previous No. 9) – Following their sweep of the Cardinals over the weekend, the Rangers jumped five spots and back into the top five. It’s been clear all year long they’re one of the most talented teams in the American League, but didn’t play to their potential for an extended period. The Rangers are in a tight race for the division lead with the Athletics, as they leap-frogged them for the top spot by taking three-of-four from them last week. Things don’t get much easier as they take on the Yankees and Reds this week.
5. Atlanta Braves (44-33, previous No. 5) – Atlanta continues to run away with the NL East as it is the only team in the division with a positive run differential, plus-55. It goes to show how dominant the Braves have been this year as they went 3-5 this week, but still maintain their comfortable division lead. They will look to get back to their winning ways with games against the Royals and Diamondbacks this week.
6. Boston Red Sox (45-33, previous No. 2) – Injuries and poor starting pitching are starting to catch up to the Sox as they dropped four spots in the rankings this week. They went 3-4 last week, allowing a total of 35 runs on those seven games. The Sox still have a plus-69 run differential this year, which is second best in the American League. They will open a seven-game homestand this week, where they are 23-15, against the Rockies and red-hot Blue Jays as they look to separate themselves from the rest of the AL East.
7. Detroit Tigers (42-32, previous No. 8) – Detroit wrapped up a 4-3 week, capped off by taking three-of-four from the Red Sox at home over the weekend. Their offense has been the key as they scored 27 runs in the weekend series with Boston and are second in the AL in runs per game, averaging just over five going into Sunday. They will continue their homestand with three games against the Angels before traveling to Tampa.
8. Oakland Athletics (44-34, previous No. 3) – After going 2-5 this past week the Athletics dropped five spots in the rankings to No. 8. The issue was their pitching and defense as they allowed a combined 34 runs in their five losses, which is unusual for them as their staff has the fourth best ERA in the American League. The A’s are still in second place in the AL West, but have a brutal stretch this week with games against the Reds and Cardinals.
9. Baltimore Orioles (42-34, previous No. 7) – The Orioles were swept by the surging Blue Jays over the weekend and thus dropped down two spots. Their pitching has been an issue of late as they have the second worst ERA in the American League and gave up 34 runs in their six games this week. The good news is they are still in second place in the AL East and will play their next six games at home against the Indians and Yankees.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (41-34, previous No. 12) – Arizona won four in a row at one point this past week, which enabled them to take a three-game lead in the NL West standings. Their pitching has been outstanding of late as they’ve allowed just 28 runs in their last nine games. Arizona has a tough East Coast trip upcoming, as they will play their next 10 games against the Nationals, Braves and Mets.
11. New York Yankees (41-34, previous No. 10) – The Yankees remain in third place in the competitive AL East, but still are within striking distance at any time. They spilt both their series’ this week against the Dodgers and Rays. Their offense hasn’t been Yankee-like, primarily due to injuries as they are 11th in the AL in runs per game, averaging just under four. Two difficult series’ await the Yanks this week, first hosting the Rangers before traveling to Baltimore.
12. Toronto Blue Jays (38-36, previous No. 19) – No one can deny the Blue Jays are the hottest team in baseball right now as they’ve won 11 in a row after Sunday and thus moved up seven spots in the rankings. After a mediocre stretch to start the month, the Blue Jays have really flipped a switch in the latter half of June. During their 11-game win streak they’ve outscored their opponents by an astonishing 63-17 margin. They will look to continue their streak on a seven-game road trip this week with stops in Tampa and Boston.
13. Tampa Bay Rays (39-37, previous No. 13) – The Rays had a difficult seven-game road trip against the Red Sox and Yankees and came out of it 3-4. They remain in fourth place in the AL East with the Blue Jays right behind them. Unlike seasons past, their offense has performed up to par with their pitching as they are fourth in the league in runs scored per game with 4.75 going into Sunday. A six-game homestand is coming up with games against the Blue Jays and Tigers.
14. Colorado Rockies (39-38, previous No. 11) – Following a five-game losing skid this week, the Rockies won their last two on Saturday and Sunday and find themselves in second place in the tightly bunched NL West. Their offense couldn’t get anything going as they only scored seven runs in those five losses, but rebounded with seven in each of their last two. Colorado will wrap up its East Coast trip with two games with the Red Sox beginning Tuesday.
15. Cleveland Indians (38-36, previous No. 18) – Despite being just two games over .500, the Indians still find themselves in second place in the weak AL Central, behind the Tigers. Cleveland could look to trade away some of its assets at the deadline if they don’t get anything going soon on the field. A big stretch is upcoming for them with 11 straight games away from home against the Orioles, White Sox and Royals.
16. San Francisco Giants (38-37, previous No. 16) – The Giants went .500 this past week and are now in a tie for second place in the NL West, three games behind the Diamondbacks as of Sunday. The Giants are second in the league in batting average, hitting .273, but their pitching hasn’t been as good as they have a team ERA of 4.03. A very difficult 10-game road trip awaits them this week beginning in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on Monday.
17. San Diego Padres (38-38, previous No. 14) – As has been the case virtually the entire season, the Padres were right around .500 with a 3-4 mark last week. For them to make any sort of run at a division title their pitching will need to step up as they are currently 12th in the NL in team ERA at 4.12. They host the Phillies for three games at the beginning part of the week before departing for the East Coast and a long road trip.
18. Washington Nationals (37-38, previous No. 15) – Having a run differential of minus-30 normally wouldn’t have you in second place in your division, but that’s what’s happening with the Nats as the Braves are running away with the NL East and there isn’t much competition. After dropping their last two games they will look to get back on the right track by taking on the Diamondbacks and Mets this week.
19. Philadelphia Phillies (36-40, previous No. 17) – The Phillies find themselves third in the NL East and below .500, primarily because of their offense, which ranks 12th in the NL in runs per game going into Sunday. They could be big sellers at the deadline with a lot of good starting pitching that other teams will be after. Philadelphia will begin a 10-game road trip Monday in San Diego.
20. Kansas City Royals (35-38, previously not ranked) – Kansas City cracked the rankings this week despite losing four in a row in the middle of this past week. They are third in the AL Central and are last in the entire American League by averaging just 3.86 runs per game. They will open this week with the NL East-leading Braves before a series in Minnesota.
*Stats and records through Sunday, June 23
Follow Metro MLB writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84