1. Atlanta Braves (83-53, previous No. 1) – There is no change at the top this week as the Braves continue to play consistent ball and maintain a firm grip on the NL East. Despite losing Sunday, the Braves have won six of their last seven and continue to get tremendous pitching as in five of the six wins they allowed two runs or less. Atlanta will host the Mets for three games before a weekend series in Philadelphia.
2. Boston Red Sox (82-56, previous No. 2) – It was a big week for the Red Sox as they were able to distance themselves from the rest of the AL East and now hold a 5.5 game lead over the Rays. Their pitching has led the way as by allowing six runs Sunday it snapped their streak of three runs or fewer allowed in the their last 11 games. The schedule doesn’t do the Red Sox any favors this week, however, as they will play three games with Detroit at home before a four-game weekend series in New York against the Yankees.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (81-55, previous No. 4) – The Dodgers rebounded from a bit of a down week as they are now winners of four straight and five of their last six. For the Dodgers the biggest change for them has been their offense, which ranked in the bottom third of the NL in the first half of the season and is now sixth, scoring 4.05 runs per game. Los Angeles will hit the road for six straight with games against the Rockies and Reds this week.
4. Detroit Tigers (80-57, previous No. 3) – Detroit has a significant lead over the Indians in the AL Central, but the Tigers aren’t playing their best ball as they have lost four of their last seven games. The Tigers still have a plus-165 run differential, which is due in large part to leading the AL in runs per game at 5.14. The Tigers have a big test to open the week with three games in Boston before a weekend series in Kansas City.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (79-57, previous No. 5) – The Cardinals went .500 this week and remain in a dead heat with the Pirates for the NL Central division crown. One thing St. Louis will need to be aware of is its offense, as in nine of its last 10 losses it has scored three runs or less, which goes against its overall season pace. The Cards score the most runs in the NL, averaging 4.79 per game. The brutal, telling stretch for the Cardinals continues with four games at the Reds and a weekend series with the Pirates.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (79-57, previous No. 7) – Pittsburgh took two-of-three from the Cardinals over the weekend to move back into a tie for first place in the NL Central, which is shaping up to be one of the more competitive and entertaining races down the stretch. As is the case with many of the top teams, pitching will be the key and they will look to sustain the success they’ve been having as the Pirates are second in the NL, allowing just 3.5 runs per game. Pittsburgh will now play nine straight games on the road beginning in Milwaukee on Monday.
7. Texas Rangers (79-57, previous No. 6) – Winners of four of their last five the Rangers have a one-game lead over the Athletics in the AL West, which should too be a race to watch in the last month of the season. Their offense has been hot lately as they have averaged 5.83 runs in their last 14 games. Texas will open a big series in Oakland Monday before continuing on for three games against the Angels at the end of the week.
8. Oakland Athletics (78-58, previous No. 11) – Oakland has won three in a row and seven of its last 10 games to now only trail the Rangers by one game for first place in the AL West. They currently lead the wild card standings. In sweeping the Rays over the weekend, A’s pitching allowed just five runs over the three games. Following the crucial three games with Texas, the A’s will host Houston for four over the weekend.
9. Cincinnati Reds (76-61, previous No. 9) – The Reds are struggling at the wrong time, as they have lost six of their last nine games to fall 3.5 games back in the NL Central. Still, they would be one of the two NL wild card teams if the season ended today. Cincinnati’s offense has led the way this season as it has averaged 4.36 runs per game. It will be a tough week for the Reds with four games against the Cardinals followed by three with the Dodgers.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (75-60, previous No. 8) – Tampa picked a bad time to lose four straight and seven of its last 10, as the Rays now trail the Red Sox by 5.5 games in the AL East. Fortunately for them, if the season ended today they would be one of the two wild card teams in the AL. The Rays have received good pitching despite their struggles, but their offense is holding them back, only scoring a combined 13 runs in their last seven losses. The Rays will continue their West Coast trip with a four-game set with the Angels starting Monday, followed by three games against Seattle.
11. Baltimore Orioles (72-63, previous No. 12) – Losers of five of its last eight games, Baltimore might need to shift its attention to the wild card as they trail the Red Sox by 8.5 games in the AL East. Interestingly enough, the Orioles are three games out of the final wild card spot, with the Rays in possession of that. Baltimore will travel to Cleveland for three games with the Indians before hosting the White Sox for four over the weekend.
12. Cleveland Indians (72-64, previous No. 10) – Just a few weeks ago there was belief that the Indians and Tigers would be in a close race for the AL Central title in September, but Cleveland hasn’t played well of late, losing five of six, including two-of-three to the Tigers over the weekend. Being 3.5 games out of the final wild card spot, every game is critical. Luckily for the Indians they will play nine straight games at home, starting with the Orioles on Monday.
13. New York Yankees (71-64, previous No. 13) – Despite everything that has happened this season, the Yankees are still within striking distance for an AL wild card spot, just 3.5 games back. For them to make any kind of run their offense will need to get going as they are 11th in the AL in runs per game at 3.99 per. The Yankees will play seven straight home games beginning with three against the White Sox and then a four-game weekend set with the Red Sox.
14. Kansas City Royals (70-66, previous No. 16) – In the first few months of the season no one would have imagined the Royals would have any shot at making the playoffs, but a sudden second half surge has placed Kansas City just 5.5 games out of a wild card spot. They’ve done so with their pitching staff having the best ERA in all of the American League at 3.45. Kansas City will look to climb the standings further with seven straight home games beginning with four games against the Mariners.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks (69-66, previous No. 14) – Arizona clearly has no shot at the NL West because of the Dodgers, but they are barely staying alive in the wild card race being six games out of the final spot. Scoring runs has been an issue for the Diamondbacks as they have scored just seven runs over their last four games. Arizona will host the Blue Jays for three games before going on a seven-game road trip.
16. Washington Nationals (68-67, previous No. 15) – Like the Diamondbacks, the Nationals are out of their division race because of the Braves impressive season, but they are holding out hope for a late surge and making a run at the wild card where they are currently 6.5 games out. If they want to make any kind of run their offense will need to start scoring runs as they are only averaging 3.93 runs per game, ninth in the NL. Washington will begin a 10-game road trip starting Monday, but they are all winnable games, taking on the Phillies, Marlins and Mets.
17. Colorado Rockies (65-73, previous No. 17) – It’s time to look forward to next season for the Rockies as they really don’t have a shot at either their division or the wild card. They are playing well of late, winning five of their last seven games. Their pitching has let them down this season as they are hitting very well, scoring 4.35 runs a game, third in the National League. Colorado will host the Dodgers for three games, before traveling to San Diego for a weekend series.
18. Philadelphia Phillies (62-75, previously not ranked) – The Phillies have really struggled on the road this year going 27-44, which is a major reason why Philadelphia has been a major disappointment. The Phils’ minus-117 run differential is worst in the NL. The Phillies will play 15 of their next 18 games at home, mostly against NL East teams.
20. Seattle Mariners (59-70, previous No. 20) – Seattle was playing fairly well, but they have now lost seven of its last 10 games, despite taking three-of-four from the Astros over the weekend. Offense has been the biggest downfall for the Mariners this year as they are fourth to last in the AL in runs per game at 3.90. The Mariners will play four games in Kansas City before hosting the Rays over the weekend.
*Stats and records through Sunday, September 1
Follow Metro sports writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84