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Power Rankings: NL West makes waves

July 30, 2018

The National League West race was predicted to be one of the best in baseball when the season started, and with two months remaining, that division features three teams locked in an air-tight scrum, all jockeying for position for the top spot.The Dodgers, after a terrible start, have in more

The National League West race was predicted to be one of the best in baseball when the season started, and with two months remaining, that division features three teams locked in an air-tight scrum, all jockeying for position for the top spot.
The Dodgers, after a terrible start, have in more recent times resembled the club that took the World Series to seven games last year. They're in first place in their division, but only by a hair. The D-backs are a half-game back, and, perhaps a bit surprisingly, the Rockies are hot on the D-backs' heels, in third place, but only by percentage points.
Through Sunday's games, the Dodgers, D-backs and Rockies have nearly identical records.
Keep an eye on the Rockies, who are in the midst of a more challenging part of their schedule, and have so far passed several tests with high marks.
After the All-Star break, the Rox took two of three from the D-backs, split a two-game set with the Astros and swept the A's. That's only the beginning of a potentially tough long-term stretch. In the coming weeks, they play all contenders: the Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Dodgers, Astros and Braves. Colorado's next game against a sub-.500 team arrives on Aug. 21, when it opens a homestand with the Padres.
This week's Power Rankings, the final one before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, features limited movement at the very top, but tons of changes in the middle.
Biggest jump: The Pirates jumped six spots, from No. 20 to No. 14. The Bucs are one of a handful of teams that are suddenly giving their GM a reason to be active -- as buyers -- in the final hours leading up to the Trade Deadline. The Pirates have thrown a Major League-leading 12 shutouts this year, half of which were started by right-hander Trevor Williams (most recently on Saturday). They have won 15 of their past 19. Is it unrealistic to think Pittsburgh, seven games back in the NL Central standings, can overtake the Cubs? Probably. But they're only four back in a Wild Card race that has a chance to go down to the wire, given every team has enough flaws to make running away with a playoff spot unlikely.

Biggest drop: The Braves dropped six spots, falling from No. 7 to No. 13. It's that time of year when the narrative about a team that's struggling goes one of two ways. If it's a veteran club, it's, "Every good team goes through a lull at some point." For young teams, like Atlanta, it's, "They may be running out of gas." The Braves are a young team that may have to dig deep to find that extra gear when September arrives. They've been modest buyers of late, adding to the bullpen without dipping too far into their Minor League talent pool, which should help.
Power Rankings Top 5
1. Red Sox (1 last week)
With a win over the Twins on Sunday, the Red Sox are 41 games over .500, the first time since 1946 that they've reached that high-water mark. J.D. Martinez continues to mash at Fenway -- he had two more hits Sunday and is now slashing .354/.412/.762 with a 1.174 OPS in 49 games at home. In his past 29 games overall, Martinez is hitting .357 (42-for-115) with 34 RBIs.

2. Astros (2)
The Astros are playing without Jose Altuve (knee) and Carlos Correa (back), and it shows. They are riding a four-game losing streak for the first time this season, and they were swept over the weekend -- also a first for 2018 -- by the last-place Rangers. Houston had a nearly six-week stretch heading into the All-Star break during which it played almost exclusively against sub-.500 teams, and now the club is about to begin a month-long period of playing only contenders. The Astros don't play another sub-.500 club until Sept. 3, when they host the Twins on Labor Day.

3. Yankees (3)
The Yankees have also hit a bit of a lull, posting a mediocre record of 9-8 over their past 17 games. Like Houston, they're also playing without two key components of their club -- catcher Gary Sanchez, whose groin injury is expected to sideline him for another few weeks, and Aaron Judge, whose wrist fracture has him on a similar timetable, though he may be back sooner than Sanchez. On a positive note, Giancarlo Stanton has put together a fine month, hitting .333 (32-for-96) with five homers and 18 RBIs over 24 games in July.

4. Cubs (4)
Though they have had many stretches of mediocrity this season, the Cubs are well positioned to make a push in the NL Central, which they lead by a 1 1/2-game margin over Milwaukee. The Cubs believe they fortified their rotation with the addition of veteran lefty Cole Hamels, and they're optimistic that the eventual returns of several injured personnel -- Kristopher Bryant, Brandon Morrow and Yu Darvish -- will help down the stretch. In terms of healthy, always-reliable players, the success of Anthony Rizzo since he moved to the leadoff spot on July 13 has been encouraging. Entering Sunday's game, the first baseman had an MLB-best .524 on-base percentage over 14 games since moving to the top spot in the order.

5. Indians (6)
As the only team over .500 in their division, the Indians should have no issues not only winning the American League Central, but running away with it. Their Deadline moves -- adding relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber -- were designed for October, when they'll likely be facing some combination involving the Astros, Red Sox and Yankees. While the Tribe has the lowest number of wins of all first-place teams at 57, their bullpen additions seemingly keep them more on par with other elite teams.

The rest of the Top 20 

  1. Dodgers (5 last week)
  2. A's (12)
  3. Phillies (8)
  4. D-backs (10)
  5. Brewers (9)
  6. Rockies (16)
  7. Mariners (11)
  8. Braves (7)
  9. Pirates (20)
  10. Nationals (13)
  11. Rays (14)
  12. Cardinals (15)
  13. Reds (19)
  14. Angels (18)
  15. Blue Jays (NR)

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.