1. Atlanta Braves (76-48, previous No. 1) – The Braves continued their impressive play of late and even extended themselves from the rest of the league for the best record in baseball. Atlanta went 4-2 this past week and has now won 19 of its last 22 games. Atlanta’s pitching has led the way, as its 3.21 team ERA is the best in the National League. In 16 of their last 18 games the Braves held opponents to four runs or less and currently have the second-best run differential in the NL at plus-132. The Braves will take on the Mets in New York Monday and Tuesday before a big four-game weekend series in St. Louis.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (72-51, previous No. 6) – Los Angeles finally lost a game Sunday after winning 10 in a row, but are still, easily, the hottest team in the majors as since late June. They are 42-9 since June 22 and have complete control of the NL West with a 7.5 game lead. Their starting pitching has been most impressive as their 3.26 ERA is the third-best in all of baseball. They will wrap up their East Coast trip with four games in Miami before hosting the Red Sox next weekend.
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3. Detroit Tigers (73-51, previous No. 4) – All of a sudden Detroit has opened up a commanding 6.5 game lead in the AL Central. The Tigers have the best run differential in all of baseball at plus-155 by way of their American League leading 5.04 runs per game. They also lead the AL in average, hitting .280. Detroit will look to extend its lead even more beginning with a three-game set against the Twins followed by a weekend series in New York against the Mets.
4. Boston Red Sox (73-53, previous No. 2) – With the Yankees taking two-of-three from the Red Sox over the weekend, the Sox have now lost four of their last five games and seven of 10 to now hold just a one-game lead over the Rays in the AL East. Despite being second in the AL averaging 4.98 runs per game, Boston’s offense has gone cold, averaging just 3.71 runs in its last seven games. The Red Sox will now head to the West Coast for three games against the Giants and then three against the red-hot Dodgers.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (72-51, previous No. 3) – By losing seven of its last 10 games Pittsburgh’s lead in the NL Central has been cut to one game. Scoring runs has been the issue, as in their last 10 games the Pirates have averaged just 3.3 runs per game. The Pirates will look to get their division lead back over the Cardinals against the NL West, as their next two series’ will come against the Padres and Giants, both on the road.
6. Texas Rangers (71-53, previous No. 5) - It’s a good thing the Rangers have won seven of their last 10 games as the Athletics are surging, now just half a game behind Texas for the AL West lead. Despite being ninth in the AL in runs per game, Texas has averaged 5.9 runs in its last 11. The Rangers will look to extend their lead with a three-game series against the Astros before taking on the White Sox this coming weekend.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (71-52, previous No. 7) – The Cardinals took two-of-three from the Cubs this past weekend and going along with the Pirates’ poor play of late, they are now just one game out of first place in the NL Central. The Cardinals will play three games in Milwaukee against the Brewers before hosting the best team in the league, the Braves, for a four-game weekend series.
8. Cincinnati Reds (70-54, previous No. 10) – After falling well back of the Pirates and Cardinals in the NL Central, the Reds have quickly gotten right back in the race by winning seven of their last 10 games and now only trail Pittsburgh by 2.5 games. Cincinnati’s pitching has been the major difference for the turnaround as it has only allowed 1.83 runs per game over its last 10. The Reds will open a seven-game homestand Monday against the Diamondbacks, followed by a weekend set with the Brewers.
9. Oakland Athletics (70-53, previous No. 8) – Even though the Athletics are playing better baseball of late, they still trail the Rangers by half a game in the AL West. There is no doubt the A’s pitching will be there, it is their hitting which will be the difference as right now they are 12th in the AL in average, hitting .244 as a team. Oakland will host Seattle for three games before a seven-game road trip beginning in Baltimore.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (70-52, previous No. 9) – Although the Rays aren’t playing anywhere close to as good as they were a few weeks ago, they still are finding ways to win and are just a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. Tampa has played much better at home this season as they are 41-23 at the Trop, compared to 29-29 on the road. They will look to improve on that road record with a three-game series in Baltimore beginning Monday.
11. Baltimore Orioles (67-56, previous No. 11) – Baltimore is doing just enough to not go away in the AL East as they are 4.5 games behind Boston with a month and a half of the season left to play. Its offense will be the key moving forward as in its last seven wins Baltimore has scored seven or more runs five times. The Orioles will now embark on a brutal stretch with their next five series’ coming against the Rays, Athletics, Yankees, Red Sox and Indians.
12. Cleveland Indians (66-58, previous No. 12) – The Indians are starting to run out of time in the AL Central as they are seven games behind Detroit and don’t seem primed to make a run any time soon. Cleveland’s starting pitching will need to get hot if they want to get back in the division race as currently, as a staff, they are 20th in baseball in ERA - posting a 4.07 mark. The Indians will play nine of their next 12 games on the road starting against the Angels on Monday.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (64-58, previous No. 14) – Winning seven of its last 10 games one would think Arizona would be right back in the hunt for the NL West lead, but unfortunately for them the Dodgers are in the midst of one of their best winning streaks in years. The Diamondbacks still trail the Dodgers by 7.5 games and will begin a seven-day East Coast trip, taking on the Reds and Phillies.
14. New York Yankees (64-59, previous No. 15) – New York took two-of-three from the Red Sox in an emotional series in Boston over the weekend to now only trail Boston by 7.5 games. The Yankees' offense has dramatically turned things around as they were second to last in the AL in runs per game just a few weeks ago, but now has climbed to 11th, averaging 3.99 runs per game. The Bombers will now play four games in Toronto against the struggling Blue Jays beginning Tuesday.
15. Kansas City Royals (64-59, previous No. 13) – After looking like they may be primed for a mid-season playoff push, the Royals have taken a step back after losing five of their last seven games to now trail the Tigers by 8.5 games in the AL Central. The Royals pitching has been great, allowing just 3.78 runs per game, the best mark in the AL, but they are third to last in runs scored, averaging 3.98 runs per game. Kansas City will now open a seven-game homestand starting with the White Sox on Tuesday.
16. Washington Nationals (60-63, previous No. 16) – Washington should now start looking forward to 2014 as it is now 15.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East. They do have some young, promising talent so the future does look bright. The Nats' road record has held them back this season as they have gone 24-34 on the road this year and will play their next seven games away from home.
17. San Diego Padres (56-68, previous No. 19) – The Padres were right in the thick of the NL West for the majority of the first half of the season, but things have changed as now they are 16.5 games behind the Dodgers. San Diego’s pitching has been the main reason for its lack of success this season as they are second to last in the NL in runs allowed per game, allowing 4.52 per. Six straight home games await the Padres this week, starting with the Pirates on Monday.
18. Colorado Rockies (58-67, previous No. 17) – A 22-40 road record has really held the Rockies back this season, as they are now 15 games out in the NL West. Like the Padres, their pitching has been poor this year as they currently are third to last in the NL in runs allowed per game at 4.48. Colorado will continue its East Coast trip with games against the Phillies and Marlins this week.
19. Seattle Mariners (57-66, previous No. 18) – A common thread between teams at the bottom of the rankings is weak pitching, as like the others the Mariners' staff hasn’t gotten it done. Seattle has the fourth to last starter's ERA in all of baseball at 4.33, making it very hard to get anything going. The M's will travel to Oakland for three games and then host the Angels over the weekend.
20. Los Angeles Angels (55-68, previous No. 20) – Poor performances from their stars along with plenty of injuries, the Angels haven’t had the season they had hoped for. They certainly aren't anywhere close to a playoff spot in mid-August. They will now look to play the role of spoiler with series’ coming up against playoff contenders, starting with the Indians Monday.
*Stats and records through Sunday, Aug. 18
Follow Metro sports writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84