There's a new No. 1 atop Power Rankings
Every contending team needs exceptional depth to get through a baseball season, but what the Astros are doing these days without one of their most valuable hitters is somewhat remarkable.
José Altuve has been sidelined with a strained left hamstring and has not played since May 10. In his absence, the Astros have lost just once, dropping a close 4-3 decision to the Red Sox in Boston Sunday. Before that, Houston strung together 10 wins in a row, seven of which came with Altuve on the shelf.
Over the past two weeks, the Astros have hit 37 home runs, a club record for a 15-game span. During that stretch, they're 13-2 with 111 runs scored.
No one would suggest Altuve, the longest tenured Astros player and the spark of their lineup, isn't missed. Houston also may be without George Springer for a spell after he left Sunday's game early with back discomfort.
But Houston has reinforcements galore, with multiple players appearing in the top 10 in most offensive categories. They also have an 8 1/2-game lead in the American League West and are the only team in that division with a winning record.
The Astros will enthusiastically welcome back Altuve once he completes a short rehab assignment and proves himself healthy. Carrying on without him has clearly not been an issue.
Biggest jump: Two teams jumped three spots: the Phillies, from No. 11 to No. 8, and the Braves, from No. 16 to No. 13. Over their past 13 games, the Phillies bullpen has combined for a 2.30 ERA (11 earned runs over 43 innings). Take out the finale of the Milwaukee series last Thursday, when relievers allowed seven runs over the final four innings, and the numbers are even more impressive: four earned runs over 39 innings, for a 0.92 ERA. Meanwhile, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman continues to rake -- he homered in a fourth consecutive game Sunday, increasing his season total to 11 and his career mark to a nice, even 200.
Biggest drop: Two teams dropped three: the Cardinals, from No. 7 to No. 10, and the Mariners, from No. 15 to No. 18. Dating back to May 2, the Cardinals have lost 13 of 17 games and have scored 29 runs over that stretch.
Power Rankings Top 5:
1) Astros (2 last week)
With no disrespect to the Dodgers, this one really wasn't even close. The season is not yet two months old and the Astros already have had two 10-game winning streaks. Before they lost to the Red Sox Sunday, they had a plus-96 run differential, by far the best in baseball. They also entered Sunday slugging .511 for the season, which is 20 points higher than the best all-time -- .491 by the 2003 Red Sox.
2) Dodgers (1)
Perhaps as impressive as the Astros' relentless offense is the Dodgers' lockdown pitching. Dodgers starters are 21-8 with an ERA just over 3.00, with a lot of the credit going to Hyun-Jin Ryu, who racked up seven more scoreless innings on Sunday to extend his streak to 31 innings without allowing a run. Dating back to last September, Ryu has allowed two runs or fewer in 12 straight regular-season starts.
3) Yankees (4)
So much of the Yankees' season has centered around the dozen or so very relevant players who were out injured. These days, more of the focus has been on the players who are healthy, and who are getting it done, in a big way. For example, where would the Yankees be without Gio Urshela, who enters Monday was hitting .368 (14-for-38) with one homer and 10 RBIs in his last 12 games? It's also notable that the Yankees' landslide 13-5 win on Sunday pushed them into first place in the American League East, a half-game ahead of the team they beat, the Rays.
4) Rays (3)
Falling out of first place does not mean the Rays have fallen off the radar. Before losing to the Yankees, Tampa Bay had owned first place in the division 48 of 52 days of the season, and even with the loss to the Yankees, the Rays are 10-3-2 in series played this season. The weeks ahead will be a test for the Rays -- after having four off-days over the course of 12 days, they'll play 34 games in 34 days with just one off-day and a doubleheader in Boston on June 8. From now until the All-Star break, the Rays will play 47 games in 48 days.
5) Cubs (5)
The Cubs have played well at home, which has helped to cancel out a rather pedestrian showing on the road so far this season. With their win Sunday, they are 12-11 on the road, but they're a sterling 15-6 at Wrigley Field. Kris Bryant has been on fire of late, batting .345 (19-for-55) with 16 runs scored, eight homers and 17 RBIs over his past 14 games. That includes his three-homer performance in the opener with Washington on Friday.
The rest of the top 20:
- Twins (6)
- Red Sox (9)
- Phillies (11)
- Brewers (8)
- Cardinals (7)
- D-backs (10)
- Indians (12)
- Braves (16)
- Rockies (13)
- Padres (14)
- Pirates (18)
- Nationals (17)
- Mariners (15)
- Angels (21)
- Mets (19)