Power Rankings: New team enters Top 5

June 1st, 2021

A few weeks ago, most of the chatter surrounding the Cubs centered around who they could reasonably deal away when the time came to be Trade Deadline sellers. When May began, they were fifth in the National League Central and five games behind the Brewers for the division lead.

That narrative has shifted. The Cubs, winners of eight of their past 10, finished up May with a 19-8 record and are in first place in the NL Central, a division that is, for now, a three-team race that includes the Brewers, who are also on quite a roll.

Cubs pitchers produced a 2.52 ERA in May: 3.18 for starters, and 1.59 for relievers.

The Cubs may know more about where they’re headed in another week and a half. They’re in a 10-day stretch of games against only two teams -- the Padres and the Giants, who, record-wise, are the two best clubs in the NL.

The Cubs passed the first test, beating San Diego on Monday, 7-2, at Wrigley Field. After two more games, they’ll travel to San Francisco for a four-game set, and then to San Diego for three more.

Biggest jump: The Rays jumped six spots, from No. 8 to No. 2. By beating the Yankees on Monday, Tampa Bay set a club record for the most wins in a calendar month (22), and has won 16 of the past 17 games.

Biggest drop: The D-backs dropped five spots, from No. 24 to No. 29. They ended a 13-game losing streak on Sunday with a 9-2 win over the Cardinals, avoiding matching the longest string of losses in franchise history.

1. Padres (1 last week)
While they fell one win short of finishing the month with 20 wins, the Padres’ loss to the Cubs Monday does little to diminish the roll they’re on. Winners of 13 of 17, the Padres have also won five of their past six series. Individually, Fernando Tatis Jr. continues to dazzle. In his past 13 games, he’s batting .435 (20-for-46) with eight homers, 25 RBIs and 17 runs scored.

2. Rays (8)
Including their 3-1 win in the series opener at Yankee Stadium on Monday, the Rays have won 20 of their past 27 games vs. the Yankees, dating back to the start of September 2019 and including the playoffs. And there’s still three games to be played between these two teams in the Bronx this week. Also notable, as the Rays ramp up their seven-game trip through New York and Texas: they’re an MLB-best 20-7 on the road this season.

3. White Sox (3)
The White Sox run differential of +80 is impressive enough on its own, but considering they’re the only team in their division with a positive number in that category, it’s fair to wonder if the American League Central race will be a race at all.

It’s not just the offense that is humming -- prior to their doubleheader with Cleveland on Monday, Chicago starters produced a 2.24 ERA over an 11-game stretch, allowing one earned run or fewer nine times.

4. Red Sox (2)
Prior to their blowout loss to the Astros on Monday, the Red Sox had won 10 of 14, mostly against teams with sub-.500 records. The schedule gets significantly more challenging in the near future -- after their current four-game set in Houston, the Sox will play the Yankees for three in the Bronx, a makeup game with the Marlins and then three with Houston and four with Toronto at home.

5. Giants (5)
The first-place Giants have won six of seven, including taking three of four from the Dodgers in Los Angeles over the weekend. The pitching was the difference-maker: Anthony DeSclafani, Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman produced a 1.72 ERA over 15 2/3 innings, compared to a 6.35 ERA from the trifecta of Walker Buehler, Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw. The Giants’ starters have combined for a 2.87 ERA this season, one of the five lowest marks in baseball.

The rest of the field of 30:

6. Dodgers (4 last week)
7. A’s (9)
8. Cardinals (10)
9. Astros (6)
10. Yankees (7)
11. Cubs (15)
12. Mets (13)
13. Blue Jays (12)
14. Indians (11)
15. Brewers (14)
16. Braves (16)
17. Marlins (18)
18. Royals (21)
19. Phillies (17)
20. Mariners (22)
21. Twins (26)
22. Nats (20)
23. Reds (19)
24. Angels (25)
25. Rangers (23)
26. Pirates (30)
27. Tigers (27)
28. Rockies (29)
29. D-backs (24)
30. Orioles (28)

Voters: Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Jesse Sanchez, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn.