Will every team in the National League West be a postseason contender when we get to September?
The last-place team -- the Padres -- are just 6 1/2 games out, and have been on a nice run of late, winning six of their past 10 games. All of the other teams have proven to be both talented and flawed, making it nearly impossible to point to one as having the best chance to run away with the division.
The Dodgers, the perennial division champs, are just now climbing out of the deep hole they dug themselves into the first two months. The Diamondbacks, while back in first place thanks in part to Paul Goldschmidt, slumped terribly after their hot start.
And the Giants and Rockies have managed to hang in there despite dealing with their own deficiencies. Special kudos go to the Giants for fulfilling their goal of simply hanging around the .500 while waiting for ace Madison Bumgarner to heal.
The NL West is the only division where the last-place team does not have a double-digit deficit. This could be an interesting race -- for all five clubs.
Biggest jump: The biggest jumps this week were by two teams that have had their ups and downs -- way down -- this season but are still favorites to qualify for the postseason. The Dodgers and Nationals each jumped three spots, the Nationals from No. 8 to No. 5, and the Dodgers from No. 13 to No. 10.
The Dodgers are 7-2 in June and are back in the thick of the race in the NL West division. An unsung hero is right-hander Thomas Stripling, who, as a starter, is 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He has walked 11 and struck out 72.
Biggest drop: The Brewers dropped three spots, from No. 5 to No. 8. Milwaukee, 4-5 in June, conceded first place [for now] in the NL Central to the Cubs, who beat them in 11 innings Monday. After the current three-game set, the two teams won't meet again until August. This is probably welcome news to the Brewers, who have lost eight of nine against the Cubs this season.
Power Rankings Top 5
1. Yankees (2 last week)
With 103 home runs, the Yankees are the only team in the Majors to have reached triple digits in this category. They're also first in the American League with a .462 slugging percentage, and their 338 runs scored are second only to the Red Sox, who have 341. They're also proving to be one of the most complete teams in baseball; while they're mashing at the plate, their pitchers are dealing, with a 1.16 WHIP, second-lowest in the AL, behind only Houston (1.06). The Yanks have won nine of their past 11 games, scoring 50 runs with 19 homers.
2. Astros (3)
The Astros are a season-high 17 games above .500 after sweeping a four-game set vs. the Rangers in Arlington. It was a bizarre pathway to their first-ever four-game sweep over their in-state rivals. Right-hander Charlie Morton walked six batters and plunked four in an abbreviated start in Game 3 of the series, and Dallas Keuchel blew a 6-0 lead he was staked to early in the finale, but Houston won the game on a balk that manager AJ Hinch saw before the umpires. Since the Astros are currently on their longest road trip of the year, this is an apropos time to point out that Jose Altuve is slashing .413/.452/.594 with a 1.046 OPS on the road.
3. Red Sox (1)
Mookie Betts' teammates were likely happy to hear the outfielder wasn't heading out on a rehab assignment after his stay on the disabled list. Instead, he was inserted into the lineup for Boston's opener in Baltimore. Betts leads the Majors with a .359 average and 1.187 OPS, and without him, the Red Sox were just a tick below the spectacular team they've proven to be 2 1/2 months into the season. Before beating the Orioles on Monday, the Sox had lost three of four, scoring eight runs while logging two hits in 37 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
4. Cubs (4)
Anthony Rizzo's 401-foot solo homer in the 11th inning of their thriller against the Brewers on Monday extended his streak of having at least one RBI in eight straight games. It's the longest stretch by a Cub since Moises Alou had 10 straight in August 2004. Dating back to the start of May, Rizzo has 10 homers and a Major League-best 37 RBIs.
5. Nationals (8)
After a rough start, the Nationals are back at the top of the NL East, percentage points ahead of the Braves. But Washington has a challenge ahead, given the recent injury news. They'll be without Stephen Strasburg for a while; the righty was placed on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Also, reliever Brandon Kintzler is out with a right forearm strain, forcing manager Dave Martinez to re-examine his late-inning options. Though the offense has been rather pedestrian, the Nats' pitching has been a strength. The rotation's 3.01 ERA is the best in the league.
The rest of the Top 20
6. Braves (6)
7. Mariners (7)
8. Brewers (5)
9. Indians (10)
10. Dodgers (13)
11. Angels (11)
12. Cardinals (9)
13. Diamondbacks (12)
14. Phillies (14)
15. Rockies (15)
16. Athletics (16)
17. Giants (19)
18. Pirates (17)
19. Blue Jays (20)
20. Rays (NR)