Tampa Bay and the Yankees actually lost series last week, both to Toronto, but they're still entrenched at the top of the Major League Baseball world. That is until Philadelphia pushes them for top billing.
The Phillies have won 13 of 20 games and they are doing it without names like Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard -- all injured. They'll likely spend the next weeks nursing those three back until Philadelphia makes a final push to overtake Atlanta in the divisional race. The Phillies have gained a lot of ground already, and if the team hasn't caught the Braves by September, these stars should push them over the top for the NL East lead.
The Reds play three this week against St. Louis and will desperately try to hold them off, too. The Cardinals are two games back in the division (as of Monday morning) with six games remaining against Cincinnati. They are five spots behind Cincy in the power rankings after dropping a series to Houston.
The White Sox, Twins, Padres and Giants all are battling in the respective divisions. But while Chicago and Minnesota are winning and climbing in the poll, the Padres and Giants have hit road bumps and are dropping.
- 1. Yankees | Record: 69-41 | Previous Week: 2
The last seven days featured odd injuries for A-Rod and A.J. Burnett and a frigid start to Lance Berkman's Yankee career, but there doesn't seem to be anything that will keep the Yankees down for long. They fell out of first place at the start of the week but were back up by 2 1/2 games by the end of play on Sunday, and little feels more inevitable than the Yankees playing in October. - Josh Alper
- 2. Rays | Record: 67-44 | Previous Week: 1
That sound you heard was the excrement hitting the fan in Tampa Bay. The Rays nearly missed getting no-hit for the third time this season on Sunday, but still lost their fifth straight game to fall further behind the Yankees. Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis are both having their shoulders examined and they gave up eight homers to the Jays on Saturday. The good news is that things could be worse but that's also the bad news. - Josh Alper
- 3. Phillies | Record: 62-49 | Previous Week: 6
There aren't too many teams that are hotter right now than the Phillies. They've won seven of their last 10 and 19 of their last 30 to close a lot of ground on the division-leading Braves. While the team is hot, they are still anxiously awaiting the return of stars like Howard, Victorino and Utley from the disabled list.
- 4. Twins | Record: 63-49 | Previous Week: 3
Tuesday is the first day of a huge series for the Twins in Chicago, and it couldn't be a better time for Joe Mauer to continue his recent surge. So far Mauer is hitting .474 with an OPS of 1.156 and nine RBI in eight August games and has his average back up to .322. Is it a coincidence that he seemed to wake up when the White Sox were in Minnesota last month? - Tom Fornelli
- 5. Reds | Record: 64-48 | Previous Week: 10
With the big Cardinals series looming this week, the Reds have won seven of eight and nine of 11. That gives them a two-game lead on St. Louis, and it means that they can emerge from their three-game series this week in first place as long as they don't get swept. - Pat Lackey
- 6. Braves | Record: 64-47 | Previous Week: 12
The Braves' controversial All-Star, Omar Infante, is riding an 11-game hitting streak as he fills in for the injured Martin Prado. Infante is hitting .388 (19-for-49) during the streak, and the Braves are happy to be playing at home where they are now 39-15. What the team isn't happy about is that its lead in the division has been whittled down to just two games by the Phillies.
- 7. Giants | Record: 63-49 | Previous Week: 5
Turns out the Giants' offensive resurgence in July may have been more about the opposition. Since July 1, the Giants scored 6.9 runs per game and hit .283 against the Brewers, Nationals and Diamondbacks. Against all other opponents (Rockies, Dodgers, Mets, Marlins, Braves), they scored 3.9 runs and hit .245. - Jeff Fletcher
- 8. Rangers | Record: 61-44 | Previous Week: 11
Nolan Ryan was the winning bidder in his journey to buy the franchise, but Texas has to figure out how to deal with a fading Vladimir Guerrero, who started the season extremely well but is losing steam right now due to fatigue. Ron Washington does think he's found out how to keep closer Neftali Feliz focused. He's repeatedly told Feliz to work quickly and get out of the inning fast.
- 9. White Sox | Record: 64-47 | Previous Week: 4
The White Sox are clinging to a half-game lead over the Twins as they prepare to enter what could be the most important stretch of their season. Their next nine games feature six against Minnesota and three against Detroit. The division could be won or lost. - Tom Fornelli
- 10. Cardinals | Record: 61-49 | Previous Week: 8
It's obviously way too early for a talented team like the Cardinals to panic or be playing "must-win games," but we are getting into the final third of the season and eventually second place is second place. A two-game deficit can turn into something much more difficult to surmount with a poor performance in Cincinnati this week. The Cards will send both Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright to the mound in this series, so a standings-flipping sweep isn't out of the question. - Pat Lackey
- 11. Blue Jays | Record: 59-52 | Previous Week: 15
The dreams of a playoff berth died a while ago, but the Jays did a nice job of playing spoiler this week. They took five of six from the Yankees and Rays thanks to strong pitching and plentiful power. Now they've got three games with the Red Sox that could wind up seriously damaging Boston's chance of competing in the postseason. - Josh Alper
- 12. Red Sox | Record: 63-49 | Previous Week: 7
Dustin Pedroia took some good steps back from his broken foot over the weekend, and the Sox are optimistic that they can get him back in a week or so. Now they just need to go out and play like there's some hope that Pedroia's return will be more than a moral victory. - Josh Alper
- 13. Padres | Record: 64-46 | Previous Week: 9
If you're still trying to figure out how the $38 million Padres have remained atop the National League West, here's the one-word answer: bullpen. Ryan Webb used to be part of the San Diego bullpen. With a 95-mph fastball and a 3.05 ERA, Webb is good enough to pitch for a lot of teams. But when the Padres needed to clear a roster spot, Webb was sent to Triple-A Portland last week. Ernesto Frieri was retained, and it was an easy decision. Frieri had an ERA of 0.00 after 10 outings and 8 2/3 innings. The Colombian's strikeout-to-walk ratio was 8:1. - Tom Krasovic
- 14. Rockies | Record: 58-53 | Previous Week: 16
Pitcher Aaron Cook has gone from staying put in the rotation to possibly headed to the bullpen and now the disabled list. Colorado is also unsure about the return of Todd Helton, who is setting his own timetable on when he'll return to the team from a rehab stint in Class-A Casper. The only known statement is about Carlos Gonzalez, who was just named NL Player of the Week. He's definitely been the Rockies' offensive MVP this season.
- 15. Dodgers | Record: 58-54 | Previous Week: 17
Remember when Andre Ethier looked like he might make a run at the triple crown in May? He then went on the disabled list, and since he's been back he's hit .243 with a .305 on-base percentage and seven homers over the past 59 games. - Jeff Fletcher
- 16. Athletics | Record: 56-54 | Previous Week: 14
There is finally going to be something to watch when the A's are at the plate. Chris Carter, the A's most exciting power prospect in years, is expected to be up for his major league debut Monday. Carter hit 27 homers at Triple-A. No one has hit more this season for Oakland. - Jeff Fletcher
- 17. Brewers | Record: 53-59 | Previous Week: 25
Since the All-Star break, Rickie Weeks is on an incredible tear with a .611 slugging percentage and eight homers in just 23 games. Seeing what Weeks is capable of over a full season is one reason this year hasn't been a complete loss for the Brewers, even though they're almost completely out of contention in early August. - Pat Lackey
- 18. Marlins | Record: 54-56 | Previous Week: 13
Edwin Rodriguez told closer Leo Nunez that he either had to start bringing the heat with his fastball and stop relying on his changeup or he would remove him from his ninth-inning duties. Nunez has blown consecutive saves, one on Thursday and the next on Saturday, to place himself in hot water.
- 19. Angels | Record: 56-57 | Previous Week: 18
The Scioscias seemingly have reached the same conclusion that West Coast Bias reached two months ago. It's not their year, so it's time to get on with the transition. Hence the promotion of center fielder Peter Bourjos, more notable because of the graceful endorsement of Bourjos from veteran center fielder Torii Hunter. The nine-time Gold Glover praised Bourjos while accepting a move to right field, where he last played in 1999. The Angels still aren't very good, but the discovery process should help them prepare for 2011. - Tom Krasovic
- 20. Mets | Record: 55-56 | Previous Week: 19
There were rumors flying around that the Mets were looking into a trade, but they ended up calling up prospects Fernando Martinez and Ruben Tejada. It remains to be seen how Jeff Francoeur's playing time will be affected by the addition of Martinez, but it can only help the Mets to look to the future.
- 21. Tigers | Record: 54-57 | Previous Week: 20
August has been terrible to the Tigers so far -- they're 2-6 and now three games under .500 -- and they're in danger of being out of the race by the end of this week. The schedule does the reeling Tigers no favors either as their next 10 games come against the Rays, White Sox and Yankees. - Tom Fornelli
- 22. Astros | Record: 47-63 | Previous Week: 21
After their terrible start, the Astros have managed to pull themselves into fourth place in the NL Central. That's not worth much, but it's something. The 'Stros are 11-10 since the All-Star break and have managed to get Pedro Feliz off the field in favor of young guys like Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson, so that's at least some kind of progress. - Pat Lackey
- 23. Nationals | Record: 49-63 | Previous Week: 23
Stephen Strasburg is on his way back to town. He'll be activated from the disabled list for a start on Tuesday against the Florida Marlins. The team is 7-6 since Strasburg had trouble loosening up in the bullpen before a start. The rookie phenom's return shakes up the rotation more than imagined, but that's because Jason Marquis is coming back from injury, too. Craig Stammen is the odd man out and will slide to the bullpen.
- 24. Royals | Record: 47-64 | Previous Week: 24
It's August, so it's that time of year in Kansas City when you start thinking about next season. Unfortunately, it seems Zack Greinke has grown weary of all this talk of the future and you seriously have to start wondering if Kansas City's future will include Greinke. - Tom Fornelli
- 25. Indians | Record: 47-65 | Previous Week: 22
It's tough to be an Indians fan. Not only have you had to spend the last four months watching the Indians play baseball, but now that the deadline has passed and you can focus on nothing but the future, Carlos Santana suffers a scary knee injury that ends his season. - Tom Fornelli
- 26. Cubs | Record: 47-64 | Previous Week: 26
These guys were supposed to contend this year? They've now dropped 10 of their last 11, fallen behind the woeful Astros in the standings, and only have the Pirates to thank for the small shred of dignity that comes with staying out of last place. With the Giants, Cardinals, Padres, and Braves coming up on the schedule, they might not even have that in a couple of weeks if they can't improve their play. - Pat Lackey
- 27. Orioles | Record: 37-74 | Previous Week: 29
Jeremy Guthrie is peaking at the right time. He's allowed just seven earned runs in his last five starts and looking a lot like the promising starter of 2007 and 2008. If he gets through waivers, he could earn a hefty ransom for the Orioles on the trade market as they try to start the Buck Showalter era with as much potential as possible. - Josh Alper
- 28. Diamondbacks | Record: 43-69 | Previous Week: 27
Instead of screaming out with a fervor every chance they get -- as most teams would do -- the Diamondbacks kept their announcement of the new 2011 All-Star Game logo on the down-low. This was a strategic move considering the immigration law controversy surrounding the game. On the field, Arizona actually won a series against the division-leading Padres and got slugger Mark Reynolds back from injury. That's not a bad week.
- 29. Mariners | Record: 42-70 | Previous Week: 30
Chone Figgins has certainly turned things round since his incident in the dugout with manager Don Wakamatsu. He has 24 hits since that day (.407) and is 13-for-27 (.481) in his current seven-game hitting streak. Now if only the hitters could figure out how to score when Felix Hernandez is on the mound. For the second straight time, Hernandez went out and pitched well, but his team scored him zero runs.
- 30. Pirates | Record: 39-72 | Previous Week: 28
The Pirates are almost certainly destined for last place (they're still eight games behind the slumping Cubs) and a top-three draft pick, but little bits of sun keep poking through the darkness. Trade deadline acquisition James McDonald made a strong debut on Thursday with eight strikeouts in six innings and on Saturday, Pedro Alvarez treated a sell-out crowd to a dramatic two-out, 10th-inning, three-run, walkoff homer. - Pat Lackey