The MLB All-Star break is rapidly approaching, and a number of teams are still walking the line between buyer and seller in the middle portion of our weekly power rankings.
For the first time in weeks, a new team has broken through to claim a spot inside the top five. The Atlanta Braves crashed what had been an exclusive party attended only by the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays for several weeks running.
It's important to remember these rankings are a fluid process. Teams will rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.
Here are the rankings:
Teams That Impressed
The Los Angeles Dodgers (6-1) and New York Yankees (6-1) played their way into the top two spots in the rankings with stellar performances last week.
A case can be made that the Yankees' week was more impressive since they swept last week's No. 5 team (Tampa Bay Rays) and took three of four from last week's No. 1 team (Houston Astros) to solidify their spot as the top team in the American League.
At the same time, it's hard to justify not moving the Dodgers up. It's all about taking care of business in the games that are on your schedule, and both teams did that last week.
The Atlanta Braves (4-2) also claimed a pair of series wins by taking two of three from the New York Mets and Washington Nationals. They now have a 6.5-game lead in the NL East and a plus-49 run differential. The Nationals (plus-six) are the only other team in the division with a positive run differential.
After a trying month of May where they went 12-17 with a minus-21 run differential, the Cleveland Indians (5-2) have set to work tracking down the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central race.
The Indians have an AL-best 14-6 record in June with an impressive plus-40 run differential during that span, and they've trimmed the deficit in the division from 10.5 games to eight in the process. There's still a lot of work to do, though, and the Twins have shown no signs of cracking.
Further down the rankings, the Cincinnati Reds (5-2) put together one of the more impressive showings of the week.
They swept a three-game series from the Astros and then split a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers, pulling within four games of the .500 mark.
After a busy offseason, the Reds entered the season as a potential dark-horse contender, and they have a 24-23 record since the beginning of May. The upcoming homestand against the Chicago Cubs, Brewers and Texas Rangers could go a long way in determining how they approach the trade deadline.
Teams That Disappointed
What happened to the Philadelphia Phillies?
A brutal 0-6 week that included series sweeps at the hands of the Nationals and Miami Marlins sent them tumbling five spots in the rankings for the second week in a row.
They're now 2-11 in their last 13 games with a minus-43 run differential during that span. They were two games up in the NL East standings at the beginning of that slide and now sit 6.5 games back.
"It's not good," Bryce Harper told reporters. "We're just getting beat on both sides of the ball, pitching, hitting, everything. We have to do everything we can. We have to battle. Doesn't matter the count, who we're facing, if it's the Miami Marlins or L.A. Dodgers."
Their next 16 games are against NL East foes, so this upcoming stretch will have a significant impact on where they stand in the division.
Meanwhile, the Houston Astros (1-6) laid an egg at the top of the rankings. They were swept by the Reds and dropped three of four to the Yankees in what was a golden opportunity to flex their muscles as the team to beat in the American League. This is still a stacked team and one of the clear title contenders, but that doesn't save them from slipping after a rough week.
The Arizona Diamondbacks (1-5) also had a tough go of it last week to fall below .500 and out of the top 20 in the rankings for the first time in weeks.
The Baltimore Orioles (1-6) were the only other team to lose both series, as they become more firmly entrenched in that No. 30 spot with each passing week.
Players of the Week
AL Hitter: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Stats: 14-for-29, 2 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 7 R
The best player in baseball is in the midst of the best season of his career.
After another strong showing last week, Mike Trout is now hitting .307/.466/.642 with 22 home runs and 56 RBI, tallying more walks (68) than strikeouts (59) along the way.
His on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS (1.108) all lead the American League and all represent career highs if he can maintain that level.
His production has actually ticked up this month, as he's hitting .358/.485/.765 with nine home runs and 22 RBI in 22 June games.
Sit back and enjoy it, folks. We're watching one of the best ever in the prime of his career.
AL Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees
Stats: 2 GS, W, ND, 15.0 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 K
Amid injuries and inconsistency from the rest of the staff, Masahiro Tanaka has been the rock of the Yankees starting rotation this season.
The 30-year-old quietly ranks among the AL leaders in ERA (3.21, 10th), WHIP (1.12, 13th) and innings pitched (98.0, eighth), and he tossed the fourth complete-game shutout of his career against the Tampa Bay Rays last Monday.
He allowed only two hits and one walk while throwing a season-high 111 pitches and reaching double-digit strikeouts for the first time this season with 10 punchouts.
"It was big for [Tanaka] to kick off this homestand against a really good team with a lot of guys in that lineup that can hurt you," Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters. "You need performances like that sprinkled throughout the year to preserve guys. It was a big reset day [for the bullpen]."
His most recent shutout prior to Monday's game came on July 24, 2018, and it was also against the Rays.
Tankana followed up his shutout with a quality start against the Astros on Saturday, allowing two earned runs over six innings in a no-decision.
NL Hitter: Pete Alonso, New York Mets
Stats: 10-for-24, 3 2B, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 7 R
Darryl Strawberry burst onto the scene for the New York Mets during the 1983 season when he slugged a franchise-rookie-record 26 home runs and took home NL Rookie of the Year honors.
That record stood for 36 years. Then Pete Alonso arrived in New York.
It took Strawberry 120 games and 465 plate appearances to hit his 26th home run during his debut campaign. It took Alonso only 76 games and 314 plate appearances to send No. 26 into the seats on Saturday, and he broke the record Sunday with his eighth long ball of June.
"Congrats to Pete for breaking my record, which has stood for a long time," Strawberry said in a statement (via Russell Dorsey of MLB.com). "What he's done in a short period of time is most impressive. No goal seems out of reach. I wish Pete and the Mets all the best the rest of the year."
After his strong showing last week, Alonso is now hitting .276/.366/.642 with 17 doubles, 27 home runs and 61 RBI in 322 plate appearances.
NL Pitcher: Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
Stats: 1 GS, W, 9.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 16 K
A rocky beginning to the 2019 season that included an 8.25 ERA through his first three starts and a 5.22 ERA at the end of April now seems like a distant memory for Walker Buehler.
Since the beginning of May, he has posted a 1.89 ERA and 0.73 WHIP while holding opposing hitters to a .181 average and recording a dominant 76-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
On Friday, he twirled the first complete game of his career against the Colorado Rockies, striking out a career-high 16 batters along the way.
Two of the three hits he allowed were home runs, but he was in complete control for the entire game.
"I just can't picture a pitcher dominating a really good lineup like he did tonight, from the first throw, all 111 pitches had conviction," manager Dave Roberts told reporters. "He had no stress, didn't pitch out of the stretch until the ninth inning. Changed locations, kept them honest inside. And he wanted that ninth inning."
According to STATS (via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com), "Buehler is the only pitcher in Dodgers history with more than 15 strikeouts and no walks in a game since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893."
A truly impressive performance from one of the most exciting young arms in the game.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
Atlanta Braves vs. Chicago Cubs (Monday-Thursday)
There will be a lot to watch for when the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs meet up to kick off the upcoming week.
First off, it's a meeting of two teams that rank No. 5 and No. 7 in our power rankings, respectively, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers among NL clubs.
Monday's game will be a matchup of two seasoned veterans when Julio Teheran and Jon Lester square off.
Tuesday will be the first MLB start for Cubs rookie Adbert Alzolay, who impressed over four innings of relief to earn the win in his MLB debut this past Thursday.
Wednesday will be the second start of the Dallas Keuchel era in Atlanta after he lasted five innings in his 2019 debut on Friday.
Thursday will be afternoon baseball from Wrigley Field. The Braves will need to find a starter for the series finale after they optioned the struggling Mike Foltynewicz to the minors over the weekend.
The two teams met earlier this year at the beginning of April and the Braves walked away with a three-game sweep, outscoring the Cubs by a staggering 23-8 margin in the series.
The team that comes out on top this time will have a compelling case for a spot inside the top five in next week's rankings.