A change in the configuration of a couple of races in recent weeks is a good cautionary reminder that handing a division title to a team with three months left in the season is probably not the best idea.
It wasn't that long ago that we were not only crowning the Twins as the American League Central champions, but we were also speculating whether they could finish the season with the best record in the league.
Those two things could still happen, but they seem less certain today than, say, three weeks ago. Minnesota’s double-digit lead in the AL Central is down to 5 1/2 games, due to a surging Indians team that is 7-3 in its last 10 games, compared to 4-6 for the Twins.
In the NL East, the Nationals are suddenly relevant again, going 8-2 in their past 10, turning a division race that was expected to be between three teams into … well, a three-team race. It's looking like the Braves, Nats and Phillies will all be playing for something important come September.
Biggest jump: Two teams had pretty dramatic jumps from one week to the next. The Indians improved from a No. 14 standing to No. 7, and the Nationals also jumped seven, from No. 16 to No. 9. The Tribe has outscored the opposition 41-12 during its six-game winning streak, its longest winning stretch of the season. Since June 14, the Indians have won 16 of 21 games.
The Nationals have won 15 of 19, including 10 of their past 13 at Nationals Park. They've also homered in 21 consecutive games, the longest streak in franchise history.
Biggest drop: The Rangers dropped five spots, from No. 8 to No. 13. If any team was happy to see the All-Star break arrive, it was the Rangers, who lost six of eight heading into the three-day hiatus. They'll need to come out of the break strong, and they'll be tested immediately -- they open with a four-game set with the first-place Astros, beginning tonight at Globe Life Park.
1) Dodgers (1 last week)
Many of the top teams in baseball have stumbled a bit lately, even the mighty Dodgers, who lost three of four to the Padres heading into the break. But they have reinforcements on the way, with Corey Seager (left hamstring) and David Freese (left hamstring) activated off the injured list, as well as the pending return of A.J. Pollock (right elbow).
2) Astros (5)
Houston won seven of eight heading into the break, due in part to a fantastic stretch by Yuli Gurriel, who homered in five straight games to end the first half. Gurriel, who was named American League Player of the Week, is batting .400 (18-for-45) with nine home runs and 18 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak.
3) Yankees (2)
The Yankees have homered in 76 of their 88 games this season, including 36 of their past 37. They've hit multiple homers in 14 of their past 19 games and 21 of 37. They're fourth in the Majors with 149 homers, their highest total through 88 games in team history. Second-half storylines for the Yankees include -- what else? -- the health status of some of their key players, including Giancarlo Stanton, who's out with a right knee sprain, and Luis Severino, who's dealing with a rotator cuff and lat strain.
4) Braves (3)
Dallas Keuchel, the newest addition to Atlanta's rotation, has had two strong starts in a row, allowing a combined four earned runs over 14 1/3 innings with a 0.91 WHIP. The Braves ended the first half on a high note, taking two of three from the Phillies and Marlins. They'll open up the second half with a six-game lead in the National League East division.
5) Twins (4)
The Twins have slipped a little bit lately, losing 11 of 20 games. They were 47-22 over their previous 69 games to open the season. Individually, Jason Castro is on a nice run, batting .533 (8-for-15) with two home runs in his past four games. Miguel Sano is hitting .400 (12-for-30) with four homers and nine RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak.
The rest of the Top 20:
- Rays (6 last week)
- Indians (14)
- Brewers (10)
- Nationals (16)
- Cubs (7)
- Athletics (11)
- Red Sox (9)
- Rangers (8)
- Phillies (13)
- Cardinals (17)
- D-backs (15)
- Padres (18)
- Reds (20)
- Angels (21)
- Pirates (19)