Power Rankings: Yankees on a tear
A look at this week's MLB Power Rankingsshows that plenty of teams that are below .500 can't be counted out of anything at this point.
The addition of the second Wild Card delivered on what was promised. A lot more teams are staying in the race and should still be there when crunch time arrives in late September.
Even though only six American League teams and seven National League teams have winning records heading into play on Monday, amazingly, three teams below .500 -- the Orioles, Rays and Tigers -- are no more than four games back in the Wild Card standings.
Biggest jump: Three teams jumped three spots, the highest being the Yankees, who improved from seventh last week to fourth this week. The Yankees have been on a bit of a tear since play resumed after the All-Star break, thanks in part to the very consistent Alex Rodriguez, who is putting together a season few were expecting. The Yankees aren't running away with the division, but a 6 1/2-game cushion over the second-place Blue Jays is significant, considering it wasn't that long ago that fewer than two games separated the first- and fourth-place teams in the AL East.
Biggest drop: Pittsburgh dropped five spots, from second to seventh. The All-Star break really couldn't have arrived at a worse time for the Pirates. They ended the first half with two heart-stopping and uplifting wins over the NL Central-leading Cardinals, then started the second half with the thud, being swept by the last-place Brewers. They've picked it up lately, though, having taken three of four from the Nationals at home over the weekend.
The MLB.com voting panel's top five
There are all kinds of reasons why the Cardinals remain in control in their division and atop our rankings week after week. We know they're deep. We know they weather injury storms better than anyone. But if we had to pick just one thing, look no further than the team ERA of 2.67, the only sub-3.00 ERA in baseball.
The Royals have been steady and consistent all season, but there were questions about a rotation that just didn't seem strong enough to be carrying a first-place team. They took care of that by trading for Johnny Cueto, and with a 7 1/2-game lead over the second-place Twins, it's hard to imagine Kansas City won't be able to easily win the AL Central.
Zack Greinke allowed a run on Sunday for the first time in more than five weeks and sports a 1.37 ERA, completely overshadowing co-ace Clayton Kershaw, who is having an All-Star season in his own right, even if his numbers aren't quite as eye-popping as they were a year ago. Dodgers fans are watching and waiting to see what the team does at the non-waiver Trade Deadline to shore up the rest of the pitching staff, and they're reportedly one of two leading candidates to land Cole Hamels. Stay tuned.
As mentioned above, July has been kind to the Yankees, who are 14-5 this month after taking two of three from the Twins over the weekend. They've won eight of their last 10 and have won a ton at home this season, boasting a 30-17 record at Yankee Stadium.
The Angels accomplished plenty when they won 13 of 15 through the first half of July, the most significant a move into first place in the AL West, taking over a spot the Astros occupied for more than two months. The Angels are still a bit streaky -- they lost three straight recently to the Twins and Rangers -- but Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are doing plenty to keep the Angels in a comfortable position.
6. Astros (8); 7. Pirates (2); 8. Nationals (5); 9. Giants (11); 10. Cubs (10); 11. Twins (9); 12. Mets (14); 13. Blue Jays (15); 14. Rays (16); 15. Tigers (13); 16. Orioles (12); 17. Rangers (20); 18. White Sox (NR); 19. D-backs (17); 20. Padres (NR)