Notice anything new this week? I’ll give you a second to scroll down (cue the Jeopardy theme). That’s right. After nine weeks at No. 1, the fading Dodgers have finally dropped from the top spot, ceding it to the surging Indians.
A quick Google search reveals that the temperature of the Sun is roughly 9,941 degrees Fahrenheit. After winning 19 straight, I’d wager the Indians must be hotter than that. This is really getting to be nonsense. Cleveland has outscored their opponents 132-32 during their streak and they’ve done it without the help of last year’s ALCS MVP Andrew Miller and All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley. Of course, when you have a Cy Young winner (Corey Kluber), a home-run-swatting superstar (Edwin Encarnacion), a 23-year-old shortstop prodigy (Francisco Lindor) and a popsicle-eating mastermind (that’s manager Terry Francona) at your disposal, things are going to go your way more often than not.
While Cleveland has taken the league by storm, the once-dominant Dodgers have completely lost their mojo, dropping 11 straight and 16 of their last 17. Reality has set in for the Dodgers’ offense as only one team in baseball has scored fewer runs this month (and that’s just because the Orioles have played two less games than them). It hasn’t been a day at the beach for L.A.’s pitching staff either. Even with a stacked rotation featuring Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill among others, the Dodgers have limped to a disappointing 6.07 ERA in September, which ranks 25th out of 30 big league teams. Maybe it’s good the Dodgers are getting this out of their system now, but it’s still cause for concern with the playoffs only three weeks away. Now for the Power Rankings and a new No. 1.
1. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 3
At one point in time, it looked like the Astros would have a cakewalk to the AL’s best record. Then came Cleveland. Francisco Lindor has had a year for the ages, leading all major league shortstops with 29 homers including four in his last nine games. Jason Kipnis is close to coming back from a hamstring injury, but where will he play? With Jose Ramirez settled in at second base and rookie Yandy Diaz manning third, Kipnis could be headed to center field, a position he’s never played in the big leagues.
2. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 4
The Nationals became the first team to clinch a playoff berth with Sunday’s win. Stephen Strasburg was lights out in that game, blanking the Phillies over eight dominant frames for his third straight victory. His 34-inning scoreless streak is a franchise record. We finally got our first glimpse of prized prospect Victor Robles, though the 20-year-old has only logged four at-bats since arriving in the majors last week.
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3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 1
When it rains, it pours. Corey Seager has been in and out of the lineup with elbow inflammation, Clayton Kershaw’s loss to the Rockies Thursday night was his first in four months (seriously) while the Dodgers’ .209 average this month is second-worst in the majors. Even Rookie of the Year favorite Cody Bellinger has lost his touch (6-for-34 with eight strikeouts and no homers over his last eight games). Once leading by 21 games in the NL West, the Dodgers now cling to a nine-game advantage over the surging D’Backs.
4. Houston Astros
Last Week: 2
New team, same dominant Justin Verlander. The former MVP was money in his Astros debut, notching seven strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball last Tuesday in a win over the Mariners. He holds a stingy 2.25 ERA since August 1. It’s easy to overlook him in a lineup full of All-Stars, but Josh Reddick has been as hot as anyone over the past two weeks, batting an absurd .500 over 28 September at-bats. His .315 average is the AL’s fourth-highest.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 5
J.D. Martinez missed all of April and half of May and still ranks fourth in the majors with 37 round-trippers. He’s averaged a home run every 8.1 at-bats since joining Arizona at the trade deadline. Maybe that line drive to the head gave Robbie Ray superpowers. He’s been incredible since coming off the disabled list, going 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA and a 15.99 K/9 over his last four starts.
6. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 6
Can the Red Sox ever finish a game in a reasonable amount of time? Last week’s 19-inning marathon against Toronto was their seventh game of 12 or more innings this season. Cy Young contender Chris Sale said “your move” to Corey Kluber by spanning six shutout innings in Saturday’s win over the Rays. An incredible 57 of Sale’s league-leading 278 strikeouts have come at Tampa Bay’s expense.
7. New York Yankees
Last Week: 8
After spending the past month in purgatory (aka middle relief), Aroldis Chapman has returned to the ninth inning. Dellin Betances’ reign at closer ended last Tuesday when he served up a walk-off homer to Orioles slugger Manny Machado. The right-hander has fallen on hard times, struggling to a dreadful 9.64 ERA over five September appearances. On the bright side, Aaron Judge’s 41 homers are the most by a Yankee since Curtis Granderson put 43 balls in the seats back in 2012.
8. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 7
While it’s nothing compared to the Dodgers’ epic late-season collapse, the Cubs have quietly dropped six of eight while watching their lead slip to two games in the NL Central. That’s no bueno, but let’s think glass half-full for a minute here. Stud catcher Willson Contreras is back from a month-long absence, Jake Arrieta (hamstring) is throwing again and trade acquisition Jose Quintana killed it in his last start Wednesday versus Pittsburgh (6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 6 Ks). No need to press the panic button, Cubs fans. You’ll be fine.
9. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 11
Nolan Arenado got the better of Clayton Kershaw on Thursday night (1-for-2 with a walk and a three-run homer), which has actually been a rather frequent occurrence. The All-Star third baseman has hit a surprisingly competent .319 with three homers, seven RBI and only five strikeouts over 47 lifetime at-bats against the best pitcher of our current generation. Arenado is also on pace for 138 RBI, which would be the most by a Rockie since Preston Wilson plated 141 runs in 2003.
10. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 9
The Brewers lost breakout star Jimmy Nelson to a strained rotator cuff but closed the gap to 2.5 games in the NL Central with a weekend sweep of the Cubs. Zach Davies notched his major-league leading 17th victory in Sunday’s series finale. He’s been automatic since the All-Star break, compiling an outstanding 2.16 ERA across 12 second-half starts. Ryan Braun’s home run on Friday was the 300th of his illustrious career.
11. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 14
Like life itself, Michael Wacha’s 2017 campaign has been full of peaks and valleys. He’s followed up a three-game losing streak by winning each of his last three starts. Wacha really brought it Sunday against Pittsburgh, limiting the Bucs to five hits across eight shutout innings. Yadier Molina has also been on top of things, providing two homers with seven RBI over his last two contests.
12. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 10
Brian Dozier won’t win a batting title any time soon (.248 lifetime average) but you have to admire his consistency. This will be his third straight season with at least 28 homers and the third time in four years he’s tallied 15-plus steals. We’ve been singing Byron Buxton’s praises around these parts lately, but he’s actually fallen into a mini slump, going 3-for-24 with nine strikeouts over his last six games while battling a bruised hand.
13. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 13
It’s been a rough week on the injury front for L.A. with Andrew Heaney battling shoulder issues and Alex Meyer out for the year (and maybe next year as well) with a torn labrum. Of course, it’s not all bad news for the Halos. Albert Pujols has caught fire again (.486 AVG, 15 RBI over his nine-game hitting streak) while Parker Bridwell got back on track with a quality start Sunday against Seattle.
14. Texas Rangers
Last Week: 16
Who needs Yu Darvish when you have Andrew Cashner, am I right? The right-hander has been magnificent over his last eight starts, going 4-1 with a 2.39 ERA during that stretch. June and July weren’t the best months for Nomar Mazara (combined .204 average over 162 at-bats). Since then he’s been much better, hitting a respectable .294 with six homers and 29 RBI in August and September.
15. Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 15
Mike Leake comes bearing gifts. He’s won both of his starts since coming over in a trade from the Cardinals late last month, posting a 2.77 ERA with a 12:1 K/BB ratio during that span. Seattle’s Wild Card chances are beginning to fade, but fear not. Help is on the way in the form of Felix Hernandez (shoulder) and James Paxton (pectoral), who are set to join the starting rotation later this week.
16. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 12
Jonathan Schoop is going where few second baseman have gone before. He’s on track to become the first second baseman to hit .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBI since Chase Utley pulled it off in 2006. Before this season, Tim Beckham’s career-high in homers was nine. This year he already has 20 including eight since joining Baltimore at the trade deadline.
17. Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 18
Well, it was fun while it lasted. Of course, I’m referring to Kelvin Herrera’s tenure as Kansas City’s closer. The hard-throwing right-hander entered the year with a career 2.63 ERA but has slumped to a 4.56 ERA with four blown saves in 2017. Eric Hosmer’s been firing on all cylinders lately. He’s rolled to an insane .591 average during his six-game hitting streak and now ranks third in the majors in hitting at .328. It may feel like the Royals are out of it, but they’re still just three games out of the AL’s second Wild Card spot.
18. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 17
It’s been an odd month for the Rays. First, they lent out their stadium to the Astros after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and this week they’re playing a home series at Citi Field in New York while Florida recovers from Hurricane Irma. Maybe it’s fatigue or just reality setting in but the Rays haven’t played their best baseball lately, losing four of their last five while falling four games back in the AL Wild Card hunt. Chris Archer’s struggles haven’t helped as the All-Star right-hander has lost two straight while watching his ERA rise from 3.66 to 4.00.
19. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 19
Brad Ziegler grabbed August by the horns (13 shutout innings) but September has been a real pain in the you know what. He’s struggled to a miserable 13.50 ERA with two blown saves and was made unavailable over the weekend due to “back issues.” Sure Marlins, whatever you say. Dee Gordon earned his 50th steal on Friday night and has a fighting chance to take over the league lead from Billy Hamilton (58), who suffered a season-ending thumb injury last week.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 20
The Pirates’ current playoff probability is 0.1 percent, which means they’ll need a New England Patriots-like comeback to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season. Of course, that takes most of the pressure off, which means the Pirates can spend the month evaluating their future. That begins with Tyler Glasnow, who is up from Triple-A, as well as Steven Brault, who looked sharp in his second start of the year Monday against Milwaukee (6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 6 Ks).
21. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 21
Teoscar Hernandez might be a thing, you guys. The return piece in July’s Francisco Liriano swap went berserk in Sunday’s win over the Tigers, pacing the Jays with two homers and a career-best five RBI. The September call-up did nice work in the minors this year, batting .265 with 18 homers, 66 RBI and 16 steals across 400 Triple-A at-bats between Buffalo and Fresno. On a less promising note, seven of Roberto Osuna’s league-high 10 blown saves have come since the All-Star break.
22. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 22
Johan Camargo has made himself an essential part of the Braves’ lineup, hitting .429 (6-for-14) with a homer and five RBI in four games since coming off the disabled list. Let’s just hope he learned his lesson about jumping over chalk lines. You won’t see the Braves in October this year but at least they’ve made the most of their final month with walk-offs wins over the Marlins on both Saturday and Sunday.
23. San Diego Padres
Last Week: 23
The Padres halted Arizona’s 13-game winning streak on Friday night, then used a six-run ninth inning to steal another victory on Saturday. Not a bad week and guess who decided to join us? That’s right, $83 million first baseman Wil Myers is finally proving his worth. The 26-year-old has lit it up this month, batting .405 with three homers and 10 RBI over 37 September at-bats.
24. New York Mets
Last Week: 24
Hey, remember Brandon Nimmo? You’ll be glad to hear our old friend is back and better than ever. Nimmo has been on a serious heater, batting a robust .345 for the month of September. Thursday he enjoyed his first career multi-homer game in a win over the Reds. Meanwhile Jose Reyes (somehow still on the Mets after their summer fire sale) has hit a healthy .323 with three homers, nine RBI and two steals over his last eight contests.
25. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 25
Don’t look now but the A’s have won five straight. Four of those came in a weekend sweep over the AL West-leading Astros. Matt Olson had a little something to do with that. Only Arizona’s J.D. Martinez has slugged more homers than Olson since September 1. Fellow rookie Matt Chapman has also been rolling, plating six runs with four extra-base hits (two homers, one double and a triple) over his last four outings.
26. Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 26
Adam Duvall is on the cusp of his second straight 100 RBI season. The last Red to do that was Joey Votto in 2010 and 2011. Billy Hamilton owners will have to find a new source of steals down the stretch. The center fielder is done for the year after breaking his thumb last week. We all know Bryan Price can be a hothead (and an unabashed potty-mouth) but it’s good to know he can put his rage aside to honor our country during God Bless America.
27. Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 27
This was the Tigers’ Opening Day lineup. This was their lineup Monday night against Cleveland. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that’s not a good lineup. The good news: Michael Fulmer is still a Tiger. The bad news: the reigning AL Rookie of the Year is headed for season-ending elbow surgery. Shocking but true fact: Miguel Cabrera (.222 AVG since the All-Star break) was just dropped in a redraft league I play in. Even more shocking: I won’t be rushing to the waiver wire to grab him.
28. Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 28
Jose Abreu hit for the cycle in Saturday’s win over the Giants, becoming the first White Sox player in 17 years to accomplish that feat. He followed that up by going deep twice in Sunday’s series finale, upping his season total to 31 homers. Former first-round pick Carson Fulmer was banished to the bullpen after struggling in his season debut (1 1/3 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 3 BB on August 21) but redeemed himself Sunday with an epic performance against the Giants, fanning nine over six innings of one-run ball.
29. San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 29
Earth Wind and Fire enjoys September and so does Joe Panik. The 26-year-old has cruised to a .421 average this month thanks in large part to a 12-for-15 series against the Rockies last week. Unfortunately, that’s about all that’s gone right for the Giants lately with Brandon Belt and Mark Melancon both out for the year and Madison Bumgarner in the midst of a three-game losing streak. And yes, the rumors are true—Pablo Sandoval finally got a hit.
30. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 30
What’s gotten into Ben Lively? He’s been dealing over his last three starts, going 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA during that span. Hate to break it to you, Phillies fans, but your team will not be partaking in any playoff baseball this year. But at least we’ll get a good look at J.P. Crawford, who made his big league debut last week. The former first-round pick is MLB.com’s No. 58 prospect and also has a pretty well-known cousin who used to play for the Rays, Red Sox and Dodgers.
Biggest Jump: Cardinals
Biggest Drop: Orioles