Entering this season, we knew the National League East race was bound to be a dogfight that involved two teams. Two months in, the division is indeed one of the most competitive in baseball -- it just involves more than just the usual suspects, the Nationals and Mets.
Wouldn't it be something if come September, the two teams clawing their way through the stretch run were the Braves and Phillies? They are proving to be not only young, hungry and homegrown, but also talented and highly entertaining to watch.
Four teams in the NL East are playing better than .500 baseball and are within three games of each other. It's been a perfect case study: two teams that have been building toward this for years in the Braves and Phillies, and two that have been in win-now mode for quite a while in the Mets and Nats.
If early returns are any indication, the NL East may end up as the most competitive division in baseball.
Biggest jump: Two teams jumped six spots: the Brewers, from No. 11 to No. 5, and the Mariners, from 16 to 10. We talk about the Brewers below, so in this space, let's give a hat tip to the Mariners, who have weathered challenges and are very much in contention. It won't be easy without Robinson Cano, who's out for several months due to a PED suspension, and Seattle will have to stay away from injuries that have derailed past seasons. The club has had a very good week recently, winning five of seven, including taking three of four against the Tigers over the weekend.
Biggest drop: The Nationals dropped eight spots, from No. 4 to No. 12. This comes with a caveat, though -- they had a terrible rain-soaked week that involved one suspended game, two postponements and a dreaded doubleheader. They didn't win any games during that stretch, losing twice to the Dodgers on Saturday before dropping the finale Sunday. The Nats sprung to life Monday against the Padres, however, topping them, 10-2. And how about the kid? Juan Soto, the 19-year-old rookie sensation, connected with the first pitch he saw for an opposite-field three-run homer.
Power Rankings Top 5
1. Yankees (1 last week)
The Yanks' infusion of youth has been a perfect complement to their veteran core. While we hear more about rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, don't forget about Christopher Austin, who through Sunday ranked second among all Major League rookies with eight home runs and a .910 OPS. From the veteran side, Giancarlo Stanton continues to hit. Over his past 10 games, he is hitting .350 (14-for-40) with two homers and seven RBIs.
2. Astros (2)
Houston could easily have slid into the No. 1 spot on our rankings -- when it comes to the Yankees, Astros and Red Sox, a case can be made for any of the three. Through Sunday, the Astros' rotation ERA of 2.25 was more than a full run lower than the next-lowest in the American League -- the Indians, at 3.42. When Lance McCullers is considered a fourth or fifth starter, that's a sure sign that the Astros' starting pitching is in a class all its own.
3. Red Sox (3)
Boston has the third-lowest rotation ERA in the AL, and the offense is positively scorching. Through Sunday, Mookie Betts is 30-for-75 (.400) with seven homers, 14 RBIs and 19 runs scored in his past 18 games. J.D. Martinez has reached base safely in 25 consecutive games and has 11 homers and 26 RBIs during that stretch. Andrew Benintendi is 16-for-36 (.444) with 11 RBIs in his past nine games.
4. Braves (9)
Welcome to the Top 5, Atlanta! The Braves were shut out by the Phillies on Monday, but before that, they had scored 18 runs over two games against the Marlins, including five to walk it off on Sunday. Through Sunday, Atlanta had the fifth-lowest team ERA in the NL (3.51), the highest collective batting average (.266) and slugging percentage (.437), and the second-highest on-base percentage (.338). Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis are in the top five in batting average, and Ozzie Albies is one behind Bryce Harper among home run leaders with 13.
5. Brewers (11)
Also making their Power Rankings Top 5 debut are the Brewers, winners of nine of their past 13 through Sunday and in first place in the NL Central. Milwaukee has been getting contributions from all parts of its roster, but one reliever -- Josh Hader -- is making his own, separate headlines. The lefty has faced 95 batters this season and struck out a staggering 56. Hader, who has a WHIP of 0.51 and a 1.32 ERA, has appeared in 16 games, and the Brewers have won all of them.
The rest of the Top 20
6. Cubs (5 last week)
7. Phillies (12)
8. Cardinals (10)
9. Angels (8)
10. Mariners (16)
11. Diamondbacks (6)
12. Nationals (4)
13. Indians (7)
14. Pirates (13)
15. Rockies (14)
16. Mets (17)
17. Dodgers (19)
18. Athletics (21)
19. Blue Jays (18)
20. Giants (20)