MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 4 Weeks to Go

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2016

MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 4 Weeks to Go

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    Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

    When September rolls around, it means rosters have expanded and we're now less than a month away from the start of the 2016 MLB postseason.

    The Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals can rest easy knowing they're all but a lock to make the playoffs and safe bets to win their respective divisions. Outside of those four teams, there's still a lot to be sorted out.

    The AL East features four legitimate contenders and what is shaping up to be a two-team battle between the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays for the division title, while three games separate the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the NL West standings.

    The Detroit Tigers and New York Mets were the biggest risers in this week's rankings. They're getting hot at the right time in their push for a wild-card berth, while the Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins are quickly playing their way out of contention.

    At the bottom of the rankings, the Atlanta Braves put together an unlikely 6-0 week to climb several spots, and the Minnesota Twins finally won a game.

    As always, one thing remains true: These rankings are a fluid process as teams move up or down based on where they ranked the previous weekIf a club keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.

30. Minnesota Twins (51-86, Previous: 30)

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    Brian Dozier
    Brian DozierKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-5

    The Minnesota Twins snapped a 13-game losing streak Thursday, and they wrapped up the month of August at 9-20 with a minus-50 run differential.

    Byron Buxton is back with the big league club now that rosters have expanded. He's gone 9-for-16 with three doubles and three home runs in four games since. That's obviously a small sample size, but if he can provide any sort of hope that he's taken a step forward in his development, it would greatly improve the team's outlook for 2017 and beyond.

    "Forget the hits and homers and stuffhis approach looks a little different, which is good," teammate Brian Dozier told reporters. "He seems to have a little swagger, which is good, instead of being afraid to attack balls and stuff, which you could kind of see in the past."

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Brian Dozier (.302/.358/.714, 38 H, 9 2B, 13 HR, 27 RBI, 27 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Ervin Santana (4 GS, 2-1, 3.00 ERA, 8 BB, 28 K, 27.0 IP)

29. San Diego Padres (56-80, Previous: 27)

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    Luis Perdomo
    Luis PerdomoCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 1-5

    The San Diego Padres began last week with a sweep by the Atlanta Braves, marking just the third time all season the Braves have swept someone. They followed that up by dropping two of three to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    The team finally parted ways with Alexei Ramirez over the weekend, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, releasing the 34-year-old to open up more playing time for the young guys.  Ramirez had posted a .606 OPS and an MLB-worst minus-2.3 WAR on the year.

    Luis Sardinas will likely see the bulk of the playing time at shortstop over the final month. He could establish himself as the everyday option for next season with a strong finish. The former top prospect is still just 23 and is hitting .273/.385/.455 in 39 plate appearances since being acquired from the Seattle Mariners last month.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Ryan Schimpf (.253/.359/.655, 22 H, 6 2B, 7 HR, 20 RBI, 16 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Luis Perdomo (5 GS, 2-3, 3.24 ERA, 13 BB, 22 K, 33.1 IP)

28. Cincinnati Reds (57-78, Previous: 25)

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    Brandon Finnegan
    Brandon FinneganDavid Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-4

    The Cincinnati Reds are now 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers as they look to avoid a second consecutive last-place finish in the NL Central.

    They were swept by the Los Angeles Angels to begin last week, before taking two of three from the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend.

    Speedy Jose Peraza has moved into a super utility role of sorts in an effort to get him as much playing time as possible. After piling up 10 hits last week, he's now batting .336/.368/.409 with 14 stolen bases in 144 plate appearances on the year.

    Billy Hamilton suffered a strained oblique on Sunday, per Cody Pace of MLB.com, and the timetable for his return is still unknown, so that could open up regular playing time in center field for Peraza.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Joey Votto (.394/.471/.636, 39 H, 8 2B, 4 HR, 26 RBI, 19 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Brandon Finnegan (6 GS, 2-2, 2.65 ERA, 13 BB, 41 K, 37.1 IP)

27. Philadelphia Phillies (60-76, Previous: 23)

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    Cesar Hernandez
    Cesar HernandezEric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 0-6

    The Philadelphia Phillies are 4-13 in their last 17 games. They'll enter the week looking to snap a six-game losing streak after getting swept by the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves last week.

    If there's been one positive takeaway of late, it's the emergence of rookie right-hander Jake Thompson. The 22-year-old followed up a great start against the Nationals last Monday (7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 ER) with an even better game against the Braves on Sunday (7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER), trimming over three runs off his ERA in the process.

    "It's nice to get a little momentum going," Thompson told reporters. "Now I've got a pretty good bulk of innings to work off of. I know what to expect, now I've got to work off that."

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Cesar Hernandez (.283/.374/.478, 26 H, 5 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 17 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Hector Neris (14 G, 8 HLD, 0.61 ERA, 2 BB, 21 K, 14.2 IP)

26. Atlanta Braves (54-83, Previous: 29)

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    Jim Johnson
    Jim JohnsonJoe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 6-0

    The Atlanta Braves enter the week riding a six-game winning streak after sweeps of the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies.

    They no longer have the worst record in baseball as a result, having moved a full three games ahead of the Padres. It marks the team's longest winning streak since it won nine in a row in June 2014.

    With two quality starts last week, Julio Teheran lowered his ERA to 3.01 on the year, good for ninth in the NL among qualified starters. His 1.027 WHIP is also fourth in the league.

    Sorting out the future of the starting rotation behind Teheran will be one of the main areas of focus over the final month. The Braves' farm system is loaded with quality pitching talent, but most of their top-tier guys are still in the lower minors and at least a couple of years away.

       

    Hitter of the Month

    • Freddie Freeman (.313/.460/.688, 30 H, 9 2B, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 26 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Jim Johnson (12 G, 7/7 SV, 0.75 ERA, 2 BB, 18 K, 12.0 IP)

25. Oakland Athletics (58-78, Previous: 21)

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    Kendall Graveman
    Kendall GravemanJohn Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 1-5

    The Oakland Athletics climbed several spots in last week's rankings after picking up series wins over the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals. They're heading back in the opposite direction this week. The A's went winless in three against the Houston Astros before they dropped two of three to the Boston Red Sox over the weekend.

    Two pitching prospects are set to make their MLB debuts this coming week, with Raul Alcantara scheduled to start Monday and Jharel Cotton taking the ball Wednesday, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Alcantara, the team's No. 29 prospect, per MLB.com, was 9-6 with a 3.58 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 135.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

    Meanwhile, Cotton checks in as the team's No. 14 prospect after coming over from the Dodgers in the deal that sent Rich Hill and Josh Reddick to Los Angeles. He's gone 3-1 with a 2.82 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 38.1 innings for Triple-A Nashville since the trade.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Khris Davis (.275/.336/.578, 28 H, 5 2B, 8 HR, 17 RBI, 21 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Kendall Graveman (6 GS, 3-2, 3.40 ERA, 5 BB, 17 K, 39.2 IP)

24. Tampa Bay Rays (58-77, Previous: 26)

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    Brad Miller
    Brad MillerKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    The Tampa Bay Rays split last week, dropping two of three to the Baltimore Orioles before picking up a quality series win against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend.

    Despite being 19 games under .500, they've gone a respectable 25-31 against the rest of the AL East and will be in prime position to play divisional spoiler in September with the other four teams still in the playoff mix.

    The Rays boast a 3.37 ERA as a team since the All-Star break, best in the AL and second only to the Chicago Cubs (2.57) leaguewide. Meanwhile, the offense is fifth in the majors with 229 runs scored in the second half.

    If nothing else, they've found a solid middle-of-the-order run producer this season in Brad Miller, who has an .821 OPS with 26 home runs and 69 RBI.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Brad Miller (.283/.367/.575, 30 H, 7 2B, 8 HR, 26 RBI, 16 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Jake Odorizzi (6 GS, 4-0, 2.48 ERA, 12 BB, 31 K, 36.1 IP)

23. Milwaukee Brewers (60-76, Previous: 28)

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    Ryan Braun
    Ryan BraunJake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    The Milwaukee Brewers lost six in a row before beating the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday to avoid a sweep. They followed that up by sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    It was a rough month for the Brewers as they finished 10-20 with a minus-27 run differential, but they still hold a 2.5-game advantage over the Cincinnati Reds for fourth place in the NL Central standings.

    With more value being placed on controllable late-inning relievers in today's game, Tyler Thornburg could emerge as a highly sought-after arm in the offseason. In 58 appearances, the 27-year-old has posted a 1.72 ERA and 0.867 WHIP while striking out 75 hitters in 57.2 innings of work. He's also converted all six of his save chances since taking over the closer's role, and with team control through the 2019 season he could fetch a significant return.

       

    Hitter of the Month

    • Ryan Braun (.283/.345/.636, 28 H, 5 2B, 10 HR, 28 RBI, 17 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Tyler Thornburg (12 G, 1-1, 4/4 SV, 0.00 ERA, 5 BB, 15 K, 13.0 IP)

22. Arizona Diamondbacks (58-78, Previous: 24)

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    Jean Segura
    Jean SeguraGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-2

    After splitting a quick two-game series with the San Francisco Giants, the Arizona Diamondbacks took two of three from the Colorado Rockies to post a winning week.

    Veteran outfielder Michael Bourn was traded to the Baltimore Orioles ahead of the Sept. 1 waiver trade deadline, and moving him will open up playing time for Socrates Brito, who was promoted when rosters expanded. The 23-year-old currently ranks as the team's No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com. If he can turn his plus tools into on-field production, he has a chance to be significant in the club's future.

    Meanwhile, A.J. Pollock has picked up where he left off last season, going 9-for-28 with a home run and four stolen bases in eight games since returning from a broken elbow that had sidelined him since spring training.

    "It's awesome to play the game I love again, and really just not even thinking about my elbow, which is incredible," Pollock told reporters.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Jean Segura (.346/.391/.561, 37 H, 12 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 17 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Robbie Ray (5 GS, 2-2, 2.70 ERA, 9 BB, 38 K, 30.0 IP)

21. Chicago White Sox (65-71, Previous: 19)

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    Chris Sale
    Chris SaleRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-5

    Entering last week, the Chicago White Sox had gone 6-2 in their last eight games and were once again closing in on the .500 mark.

    However, after getting swept by the Detroit Tigers and then splitting a four-game set with the Minnesota Twins, they're once again six games under .500 in their pursuit of their first winning record since 2012.

    Jose Abreu is as hot as any hitter in baseball, having posted a .370/.413/.677 triple-slash line with 11 home runs and 30 RBI in his last 31 games. That includes a career-high seven RBI on Sunday, when he homered twice.

    On the pitching side, Carlos Rodon has gone 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break. The young left-hander has always had front-line potential; it's simply a matter of finding some consistency with his command.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Jose Abreu (.362/.414/.648, 38 H, 6 2B, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 17 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Chris Sale (6 GS, 1-3, 2.89 ERA, 10 BB, 52 K, 46.2 IP)

20. Miami Marlins (68-69, Previous: 18)

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    Christian Yelich
    Christian YelichSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 1-6

    The struggles continued for the Miami Marlins last week. They're now 11-21 since Aug. 1 and 3-10 in their last 13 games.

    They are still in the playoff hunt. The Marlins are four games back with three teams to pass for the second NL wild-card spot, but they're certainly not trending in the right direction as the season's final month gets underway.

    Catcher J.T. Realmuto and reliever Kyle Barraclough deserve more attention as two of the league's biggest breakout performers this season.

    Realmuto is hitting .311/.353/.435 with 36 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases. He's also thrown out 37 percent of base stealers. Barraclough has 26 holds with a 3.08 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 64.1 innings as the team's primary setup man.

    The Marlins take on the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers at home this week as they look to right the ship.

    Hitter of the Month

    • Christian Yelich (.270/.339/.505, 30 H, 5 2B, 7 HR, 22 RBI, 13 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • David Phelps (5 GS, 2-1, 2.22 ERA, 10 BB, 32 K, 24.1 IP)

19. Pittsburgh Pirates (67-67, Previous: 16)

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    Andrew McCutchen
    Andrew McCutchenGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 0-6

    The Pittsburgh Pirates are now 3.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second NL wild-card spot after being swept by the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers last week.

    That includes shutouts in three of their last five games. The offense has gone ice cold at the worst possible time.

    Elsewhere, Jung Ho Kang is expected to return to the active roster on Monday after completing a rehab assignment for a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since Aug. 20, according to Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-GazetteAce Gerrit Cole is also on the mend from a right elbow inflammation, currently scheduled to return to action on Sept. 12 against the Philadelphia Phillies.

    The team will have some decisions to make about the rotation.

    "We’ve got some pitchers that may benefit from a pushed-back start, a skipped start," GM Neal Huntington told Nesbitt. "It’s going to be an interesting puzzle to put together for September. Right now, it depends upon Gerrit. We’ve got the day/night doubleheader [in Cincinnati] thrown in for good measure on the 17th, which always makes life interesting. It’ll be a mix and match."

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Andrew McCutchen (.280/.391/.419, 26 H, 2 2B, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 10 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Ivan Nova (5 GS, 4-0, 2.87 ERA, 1 BB, 22 K, 31.1 IP)

18. Los Angeles Angels (61-75, Previous: 22)

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 5-1

    It's too little, too late as far as the playoffs are concerned, but the Los Angeles Angels have been playing significantly better baseball recently. After sweeping the Cincinnati Reds and taking two of three from the Seattle Mariners last week, they're now 10-3 in their last 13 games and winners of four straight series.

    Ricky Nolasco twirled a four-hit shutout against the Reds on Wednesday for his fifth career shutout and first since Sept. 9, 2012.

    In by far the scariest moment of the week, starter Matt Shoemaker took a 105 mph line drive off the bat of Kyle Seager to the head Sunday. He suffered a small skull fracture and small hematoma, according to the team's Twitter page.

    "That was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball field," Seager told reporters. "That’s a lot bigger than baseball. That was real. You see him sitting there on the ground and all the trainers and doctors out there and you really don’t care that much about a stupid game at that point."

    We wish Matt all the best in his recovery.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Mike Trout (.349/.486/.651, 29 H, 5 2B, 6 HR, 18 RBI, 20 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Matt Shoemaker (6 GS, 4-2, 3.15 ERA, 6 BB, 25 K, 40.0 IP)

17. Colorado Rockies (65-71, Previous: 20)

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    DJ LeMahieu
    DJ LeMahieuRon Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    The Colorado Rockies continue to hang on the fringe of contention, entering this week six games under .500 and 6.5 games back for the second NL wild-card spot.

    For a team that checked in at No. 27 in our Opening Day power rankings, it's fair to say they've exceeded expectations.

    Outfielder Raimel Tapia became the latest top prospect to join the Rockies when rosters expanded. With an outfield of Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl seemingly in place for 2017, it will be interesting to see if his continued development opens the door for a trade of CarGo or Blackmon.

    Catcher Tom Murphy will also be one to watch in September. He's auditioning for what will be an open position with Nick Hundley headed for free agency.

    The 25-year-old hit a 443-foot bomb on Sunday for his first homer of the season, after posting a .327/.361/.647 line with 26 doubles and 19 home runs in 322 plate appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • DJ LeMahieu (.439/.534/.643, 43 H, 4 2B, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 25 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Tyler Anderson (6 GS, 2-2, 3.57 ERA, 12 BB, 36 K, 35.1 IP)

16. Seattle Mariners (69-67, Previous: 12)

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    Robinson Cano
    Robinson CanoCaylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 1-5

    The downward spiral continued for the Seattle Mariners last week as they were swept by the Texas Rangers and lost two of three to the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend.

    That brings their record to 3-11 in their last 14 games, dropping them to five games back in the wild-card standings with four teams to pass for the second spot.

    A shaky starting rotation has been the biggest issue of late. Taijuan Walker was absolutely shelled last week when he allowed six hits and five runs (three earned) to the Angels. He recorded just two outs.

    "It wasn’t good," Walker told reporters of the rough outing. "That was pretty much it—just bad all the way around. I felt really good in the bullpen and didn’t transfer over."

    The Mariners kick off this week with a four-game series at home against the Rangers, whom they've gone 4-11 against with a minus-28 run differential so far this season.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Robinson Cano (.314/.336/.534, 37 H, 5 2B, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 18 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Felix Hernandez (6 GS, 4-1, 3.51 ERA, 18 BB, 38 K, 41.0 IP)

15. New York Yankees (70-65, Previous: 15)

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    Masahiro Tanaka
    Masahiro TanakaJoe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    The New York Yankees began last week with a nice series win against a hot Kansas City Royals team before dropping two of three to the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend.

    That leaves them 3.5 games back in the wild-card standings as they get set to kick off a 10-game homestand Monday against one of the teams they're chasing, the Toronto Blue Jays.

    The Yankees are 37-28 on the year at home, compared to 33-37 on the road, so this may be their best chance to make up legitimate ground in the standings.

    Rookie starter Chad Green suffered an elbow sprain in his most recent start, leaving the team in need of a starter for Wednesday's game. The team is deciding between Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell to make the start, according to its MLB.com pitching probables page.

    Also, after a 4-for-23, nine-strikeout week, it would appear Gary Sanchez is in fact human. Who knew?

           

    Hitter of the Month

    • Gary Sanchez (.389/.458/.832, 37 H, 9 2B, 11 HR, 21 RBI, 20 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Masahiro Tanaka (6 GS, 4-1, 3.00 ERA, 1 BB, 38 K, 39.0 IP)

14. San Francisco Giants (73-63, Previous: 11)

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    Denard Span
    Denard SpanDylan Buell/Getty Images

    Last Week: 2-4

    Another week, another losing record for a San Francisco Giants team that is now 16-30 since the All-Star break.

    After splitting a two-game series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, they were close to doing the same in their four-game series with the Chicago Cubs, but they coughed up the lead late Sunday and lost in extra innings.

    They managed just 14 total hits over the course of their four games in Chicago, and they've now lost 17 of their last 24 on the road.

    "I think it's fair to say that we need to get some guys going with the bats," manager Bruce Bochy told reporters. "That's having a keen sense of the obvious, I guess. But that's what good pitching does. It shuts down hitting, and that's what [the Cubs] did."

    The Giants now trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by three games in the NL West standings, while they hold a 2.5-game cushion for the No. 1 wild-card spot.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Denard Span (.336/.351/.536, 37 H, 7 2B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 15 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Jeff Samardzija (5 GS, 2-2, 2.76 ERA, 10 BB, 26 K, 32.2 IP)

13. St. Louis Cardinals (71-64, Previous: 13)

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    Carlos Martinez
    Carlos MartinezBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    The St. Louis Cardinals could only muster a 3-3 record against the two NL Central cellar dwellers as they took two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers but lost their weekend series with the Cincinnati Reds.

    They've spun their tires a bit of late with a 6-8 record in their last 14 games, and their lead for the second NL wild-card spot has been trimmed to just one game as the New York Mets have come on strong.

    Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver continue to hold their own filling in for the missing duo of Michael Wacha and Mike Leake, while Carlos Martinez has gone 3-0 with a 2.18 ERA in a run of five straight quality starts.

    The offense continues to rely heavily on the home run ball. The Cardinals have hit an NL-high 194 on the year after ranking 25th in the majors with 137 last season.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Brandon Moss (.272/.310/.553, 28 H, 5 2B, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 17 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Carlos Martinez (5 GS, 2-1, 3.38 ERA, 11 BB, 34 K, 32.0 IP)

12. Kansas City Royals (70-66, Previous: 7)

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    Ian Kennedy
    Ian KennedyPeter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-4

    The Kansas City Royals entered last week with an impressive 17-4 record in their last 21 games, but they finally ran into a rough patch with series losses to the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers.

    As good as they had been for most of August, they're still only four games over .500, so there's not much wiggle room to continue to struggle.

    A road trip to take on the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox this coming week provides a good opportunity to right the ship. They've gone 20-5 with a plus-54 run differential against those two teams on the year.

    Wade Davis blew the save in his return from the disabled list Friday but followed that up by striking out Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez on Saturday for his 22nd save of the year.

    "I wanted to pitch," Davis told reporters of his Saturday appearance. "But I would have been fine if we scored 10 or 12. I definitely wanted to get back out no matter when it was, to get some outs and get my feet underneath me."

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Alex Gordon (.265/.348/.510, 27 H, 4 2B, 7 HR, 13 RBI, 21 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Ian Kennedy (6 GS, 3-0, 1.86 ERA, 11 BB, 31 K, 38.2 IP)

11. New York Mets (71-66, Previous: 17)

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    Noah Syndergaard
    Noah SyndergaardLance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 5-2

    Amid ongoing injury issues, the New York Mets have strung together a nice run of success to pull within one game of a wild-card spot.

    Series wins over the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals helped take some of the sting out of the news that Neil Walker would undergo season-ending back surgery to repair a herniated disk.

    A strong week at the plate from Jay Bruce (8-for-20, 1 2B, 2 HR) is a promising sign, as he's been mostly awful since joining the Mets at the trade deadline, hitting .210/.278/.362 in 115 plate appearances.

    The same goes for a terrific start from Seth Lugo, who allowed six hits and one run over seven innings Sunday to earn the victory. He's now 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA in four starts since joining the rotation and has helped ease the loss of Steven Matz.

    The Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves await this coming week as the Mets look to keep things rolling.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Neil Walker (.389/.450/.667, 28 H, 2 2B, 6 HR, 10 RBI, 16 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Noah Syndergaard (5 GS, 3-2, 2.84 ERA, 9 BB, 34 K, 31.2 IP)

10. Baltimore Orioles (74-62, Previous: 10)

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    Manny Machado
    Manny MachadoGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    The Baltimore Orioles split the week against a pair of AL East foes, losing two of three against the Toronto Blue Jays before winning their weekend series with the New York Yankees.

    Kevin Gausman was terrific once again last week with six scoreless innings of two-hit ball, and he's now rattled off a run of 19 straight scoreless innings in his last three starts.

    "We all want to step up. We all want to be that ace," Gausman told reporters. "Every time I take the mound, I'm thinking of throwing a complete game. You just kind of have to have that attitude, especially with Tilly [Chris Tillman] being down, we know we have one less guy that's going to be a big innings eater for us."

    With one more home run last week, Mark Trumbo now has 41 on the season and a five-homer lead over Edwin Encarnacion for the AL lead.

    The Orioles have a big weekend series with the Detroit Tigers this coming week, as the two teams are currently tied for the second AL wild-card spot.

       

    Hitter of the Month

    • Manny Machado (.312/.320/.616, 39 H, 8 2B, 10 HR, 25 RBI, 21 R)

         

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Kevin Gausman (6 GS, 4-2, 2.45 ERA, 12 BB, 41 K, 36.2 IP)

9. Detroit Tigers (74-62, Previous: 14)

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    J.D. Martinez
    J.D. MartinezRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 5-1

    The Detroit Tigers are getting hot at the right time, and no one is hotter than J.D. Martinez.

    A sweep of the Chicago White Sox and a series win over the Kansas City Royals last week improved the Tigers to 10-3 in their last 13 games and moved them into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for the second AL wild-card spot.

    As for Martinez, he's hitting .397/.444/.707 with 12 doubles and eight home runs in 30 games since returning from the disabled list Aug. 3.

    He was edged out for AL Player of the Month honors by New York Yankees rookie catcher Gary Sanchez, but there's no doubt he's been a key part of the team's recent resurgence.

    JaCoby Jones will be one to watch in September, as he's gone 4-for-12 with three doubles since being called up from the minors. The 24-year-old ranks as the team's No. 9 prospect, per MLB.com, and he's seen time at third base and in center field.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • J.D. Martinez (.404/.446/.712, 42 H, 11 2B, 7 HR, 15 RBI, 21 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Justin Verlander (6 GS, 3-1, 2.43 ERA, 6 BB, 43 K, 40.2 IP)

8. Houston Astros (72-64, Previous: 8)

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    Jose Altuve
    Jose AltuveTroy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    The Houston Astros began last week with a bang, sweeping the Oakland Athletics to improve to 10-2 in their last 12 games.

    That gave them plenty of momentum heading into their weekend series with the first-place Texas Rangers, but they only managed to win one game, avoiding a sweep with a 7-6 victory Sunday.

    They're now 3-13 with a minus-24 run differential against the Rangers this year. Those two teams will meet one more time before the regular season is over.

    Things don't get any easier going forward, as they kick off this coming week with a four-game series against the Indians in Cleveland before hosting the Chicago Cubs over the weekend.

    The Astros have their work cut out for them if they hope to reach the postseason, but they've come a long way since starting the year 17-28.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Jose Altuve (.333/.358/.564, 39 H, 11 2B, 4 HR, 27 RBI, 17 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Ken Giles (11 G, 6-of-6 SV, 2.31 ERA, 2 BB, 22 K, 11.2 IP)

7. Boston Red Sox (76-60, Previous: 9)

24 of 30

    Rick Porcello
    Rick PorcelloRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    The Boston Red Sox picked up a game on the first-place Toronto Blue Jays in the standings last week with series wins over the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics, and they are now just one game back in the AL East race.

    One of the biggest stories around baseball last week was the arrival of uber prospect Yoan Moncada among Boston's September call-ups.

    He's gone 4-for-10 with a double in his first three MLB games and has a chance to be a real X-factor the rest of the way.

    On the pitching side, Rick Porcello improved to 19-3 with a 3.23 ERA thanks to two more terrific performances. He's now gone at least seven innings with three runs or less allowed in each of his last eight starts.

    Eduardo Rodriguez flirted with a no-hitter Sunday, and he's now posted a 2.73 ERA over his last nine starts since returning from a brief trip to the minors.

           

    Hitter of the Month

    • Mookie Betts (.378/.414/.672, 45 H, 8 2B, 9 HR, 27 RBI, 21 R)

         

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Rick Porcello (6 GS, 4-1, 2.62 ERA, 4 BB, 41 K, 44.2 IP)

6. Los Angeles Dodgers (76-60, Previous: 4)

25 of 30

    Adrian Gonzalez
    Adrian GonzalezMatt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    Even in a 3-3 week that included a series loss to the Colorado Rockies, the Los Angeles Dodgers picked up a game on the San Francisco Giants in the NL West standings, as their division lead now stands at three games.

    The big news in Dodgers camp is the impending return of ace Clayton Kershaw.

    If all goes according to plan, Kershaw will take the ball Friday against Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

    The Dodgers also promoted top prospect Jose De Leon over the weekend. He allowed six hits and four earned runs over six innings while striking out nine to pick up the win Sunday.

    A team that has struggled to field a starting rotation all season is overflowing with rotation options as Kershaw and De Leon join Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart and Bud Norris.

           

    Hitter of the Month

    • Adrian Gonzalez (.330/.357/.606, 36 H, 9 2B, 7 HR, 24 RBI, 19 R)

          

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Julio Urias (5 G, 3 GS, 4-0, 1.99 ERA, 8 BB, 22 K, 22.2 IP)

5. Toronto Blue Jays (77-59, Previous: 3)

26 of 30

    Marcus Stroman
    Marcus StromanNick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    The Toronto Blue Jays scored a nice series win over the Baltimore Orioles to begin last week, but they were unable to do the same against the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend and settled for a 3-3 split on the week.

    With that, their lead in the AL East has shrunk to one game, and they'll welcome the second-place Boston Red Sox to town for a huge three-game series this coming weekend.

    Starting for the first time in 10 days, Aaron Sanchez allowed five hits and one unearned run over six innings against the Orioles on Wednesday. The team will continue looking for ways to limit his innings, but any thoughts of shutting him down or relegating him to the bullpen seem to be out the window at this point.

    On the offensive side, Josh Donaldson enjoyed another big week at the plate and is now hitting .295/.407/.574 with 27 doubles, 34 home runs and 92 RBI.

    The AL MVP race could come down to who wins the AL East, as Donaldson and Mookie Betts of the Red Sox are both strong candidates.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Josh Donaldson (.287/.396/.585, 27 H, 1 2B, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 19 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Marcus Stroman (5 GS, 1-1, 3.13 ERA, 5 BB, 39 K, 31.2 IP)

4. Washington Nationals (79-57, Previous: 5)

27 of 30

    Max Scherzer
    Max ScherzerMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    After sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals dropped two of three to the hard-charging New York Mets over the weekend.

    That said, their lead in the NL East standings is still a comfortable 8.5 games, and they remain more or less a lock for the postseason.

    Getting Stephen Strasburg back healthy and ready to go for October is priority No. 1 for the Nationals right now, and he could return to action as early as Wednesday, according to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.

    Joe Ross is also on the mend, as he'll make his third rehab start Monday. He may not be able to build his arm back up to start down the stretch, but he has the power stuff to potentially be a weapon out of the bullpen.

    The Nationals will look to further their lead in the standings as they welcome the Atlanta Braves and Phillies to town this coming week.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Trea Turner (.357/.366/.571, 45 H, 6 2B, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 27 R)

           

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Max Scherzer (6 GS, 4-1, 3.05 ERA, 8 BB, 51 K, 41.1 IP)

3. Cleveland Indians (79-56, Previous: 6)

28 of 30

    Jose Ramirez
    Jose RamirezRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 6-0

    A brief hiccup dropped the Cleveland Indians to No. 6 in the rankings last week, but they're back inside the top three after sweeping the Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins last week.

    Rookie Mike Clevinger will make a spot start Monday in place of Josh Tomlin, who is trying to iron out the issues that plagued him during an awful month of August. Tomlin went 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA and 10 home runs allowed in 26.2 innings.

    Manager Terry Francona told reporters:

    The biggest thing is over the course of those (outings) — not just the last couple, but six or seven — his fastball-cutter usage has flip-flopped so drastically. He's very aware of it. He did some digging on it himself. I think he understands one of his strengths is throwing his fastball in. And when he's going good, he does that, and then he opens up the plate for his cutter. And he had kind of gotten away from that.

    With a 5.5-game lead in the AL Central and the second-best record in the AL overall, the Indians have the luxury of giving Tomlin some time to try to get back to where he was in the first half, when he went 9-2 with a 3.51 ERA.

    A four-game home series against a good Houston Astros team will kick off the upcoming week.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Jose Ramirez (.350/.387/.581, 41 H, 10 2B, 5 HR, 18 RBI, 21 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Corey Kluber (6 GS, 5-0, 2.43 ERA, 13 BB, 44 K, 40.2 IP)

2. Texas Rangers (82-55, Previous: 2)

29 of 30

    Adrian Beltre
    Adrian BeltrePeter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 5-1

    The Texas Rangers became the first AL team to 80 wins when they swept the Seattle Mariners last week, and they continued flexing their muscles in the AL West by taking two of three from a hot Houston Astros team over the weekend.

    Cole Hamels was hit hard for the first time in a while Tuesday, allowing seven hits and six runs in 4.1 innings as his ERA climbed from 2.67 to 2.91.

    He'll look to return to what had been dominant form for much of the second half when he takes the ball Monday against Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners. The AL Cy Young race is wide open, and he's certainly a candidate.

    Meanwhile, Rougned Odor put together a big week at the plate last week (12-for-27, 5 HR, 15 RBI) and is now one homer shy of 30 for the season. His on-base skills leave a lot to be desired, but there's much to like about the 22-year-old slugger.

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Adrian Beltre (.333/.407/.657, 35 H, 7 2B, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 19 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Yu Darvish (6 GS, 3-1, 2.95 ERA, 10 BB, 45 K, 39.2 IP)

1. Chicago Cubs (88-48, Previous: 1)

30 of 30

    Kyle Hendricks
    Kyle HendricksDavid Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 6-1

    The Chicago Cubs are now 12 wins away from their first 100-win season since 1935, and with 26 games to go there's an awfully good chance they get there.

    The starting rotation continued its dominance last week in Chicago's series against the San Francisco Giants, allowing just 11 hits and 10 runs over the four games.

    The Cubs rallied Sunday to force extra innings, and Jason Heyward delivered the marquee moment of his time with the team so far when he came through with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 13th.

    It's been a disappointing first season in Chicago for Heyward after signing an eight-year, $184 million deal in the offseason, but he's continued to battle and has been a 1.0 WAR player thanks to his defense.

    "I feel like it's still coming," Heyward told reporters. "I feel like there are still flashes of it. But either way, it's just one day at a time, keep competing, keep trying to do something each game to help win. That's the bottom line."

    Meanwhile, the Cubs continue to play hard, even with a cushy 16.5-game lead in the NL Central.

    "My takeaway is the fact that we have the lead that we do right now and we're playing to win," manager Joe Maddon told reporters Sunday. "... There's something to be said for that. Nobody's mailing anything in. Nobody's taking anything for granted. We're playing it one game at a time."

        

    Hitter of the Month

    • Kris Bryant (.383/.472/.748, 41 H, 7 2B, 10 HR, 22 RBI, 29 R)

        

    Pitcher of the Month

    • Kyle Hendricks (6 GS, 4-0, 1.28 ERA, 7 BB, 36 K, 42.1 IP)

        

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. Hitter and pitcher of the month stats reflect games played Aug. 1 through Aug. 31. Any other stats referenced in the article are accurate through Sunday, Sept. 4.

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