Rangers, SF pass Cubs in W's, Rankings
Cubs fall to No. 3 for first time this season
It was bound to happen sometime, but the way the Cubs played the first seven weeks of the season, it was starting to look as if they were exempt from any sort of significant losing spell that even the best of teams experience over the course of a long season.
It's highly doubtful that one bad week will mushroom into multiple bad weeks or months, but the Cubs' poor showing against the Cardinals and Marlins last week did have a slight residual effect -- it knocked them from the top spot of our MLB Power Rankings for the first time this season.
The Cubs are no longer the keepers of the highest win total in baseball -- that distinction is shared by, unsurprisingly, the two teams now ahead of them in the rankings. The Rangers won their 49th game with a 6-2 victory over the Red Sox on Sunday, and the Giants later matched them with a walk-off victory over the Phillies.
Long season, folks...
Biggest jump: The Astros improved from 17 to nine, which is almost as dramatic as the leap they took in the division standings. Houston is now in second place in the American League West and two games over .500, a dramatic turnaround after a tough April start. The turning point may have been manager A.J. Hinch's decision to insert George Springer into the leadoff spot on May 24. Since then, the Astros have gone 22-9.
Biggest drop: Two teams dropped four spots: the Royals (10 to 14) and the Mariners (11 to 15). The Royals snapped a four-game losing streak with a win over the Astros on Sunday, but that doesn't mask the ugliness of the first two losses to Houston by scores of 13-4 and 13-5. The Mariners are even at 38-38, a stunning drop after a hot start that had them neck-and-neck with the Rangers. They're 8-17 in June with series with the Pirates and Orioles coming up this week.
Our Power Rankings Top 5:
Three injuries to key pitchers in the rotation (Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis) may catch up to the Rangers eventually, but so far, nothing has changed. The Rangers are now tied with the Giants for the most wins in baseball at 49 and went 4-2 in the past week, topping Baltimore in a makeup game, splitting a two-gamer with the Reds and taking two of three from the Red Sox. They've won 34 of their past 47 games and are off to their best 76-game start in team history. Their schedule leading up to the All-Star break appears favorable, considering seven of their 14 games will be played against the Twins.
Hard to decide who's No. 1 and who's No. 2 between these top teams. The Giants have lost twice in the past two weeks, and their upcoming schedule doesn't look terribly challenging, with four games with the A's, three with the Rockies and six with the D-backs that will take them into the break. They're 32-10 since May 11, the best record in baseball from that date. A big part of the equation has been Johnny Cueto, who, despite a not-so-hot outing on Sunday against the Phillies, has a 2.42 ERA on the year.
The Cubs lost six of seven and are still 22 games above .500. If that doesn't scream "no reason to panic," what will? The Cubs are still plenty good, but they had a bad week, first being swept by the Cardinals at home before losing three of four in Miami against the surging Marlins. The good news: they have six games with Cincinnati between now and the All-Star break. Not-so-great news: if they're losing because they're tired, it'll be a while before they get a breather. Thanks to a makeup game against the Braves at Wrigley Field on July 7, the Cubs will play 24 straight days heading into the break.
The Tribe heads into a new workweek with a nine-game winning streak, a five-game lead in the AL Central and every reason to believe that in three more months it will still be right in the mix in a very winnable division. Everything is going well for the Indians these days, but this week, let's give a special hat tip to a pitching staff that has the lowest ERA (3.51) and WHIP (1.18) in the AL, and a rotation whose 3.63 ERA is only the Rangers by a tick -- 3.63 to Texas' 3.62.
The season is almost half over, and the Orioles have yet to relinquish their positioning at or near the top of the very competitive AL East. The offense, which has been relentless all season, has enjoyed an especially fruitful month, leading the Majors with 51 home runs in June. Kudos to the relief corps, which entered Sunday's game with the second-lowest ERA in the Majors at 2.96.
The rest of the top 20
6. Nationals (3)
7. Red Sox (6)
8. Blue Jays (7)
9. Astros (17)
10. Marlins (14)
11. Dodgers (12)
12. Mets (13)
13. Cardinals (9)
14. Royals (10)
15. Mariners (11)
16. Yankees (18)
17. Pirates (15)
18. Tigers (16)
19. White Sox (NR)
20. Rockies (19)