It feels like just yesterday that the thought of any teams from the American League East entering these hallowed rankings would be kind of a joke. But after two returned last week, more are back this week. Has the Orioles’ hot stretch been enough to make them one of the lucky 10? As always, these rankings are completely subjective, and yet objectively correct.
1. St. Louis Cardinals (45-24; Last Week: 1)
The Cardinals’ mediocre week on the field, combined with the potential scandal involving their employees illegally entering the Astros’ scouting database, wasn’t enough to knock the Cardinals from this perch, yet. Any further slippage might make it hard to hold off the two central contenders nipping at their heels.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (39-30; LW: 5)
The Pirates were on the losing end of a no-hitter Saturday and a blowout Sunday against the Washington Nationals, but had quite a stretch before that, as they swept the White Sox and catapulted up the standings. Left-hander Francisco Liriano could flirt with 200 strikeouts again for the first time since he hit that mark in 2010.
3. Kansas City Royals (40-27; LW: 4)
The American League All-Stars can’t ask for more than five wins in eight games last week against the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox, though they’ll be disappointed to have seen first baseman Eric Hosmer (one of the few deserving players who led the fan vote) fall behind Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera at first base.
4. Houston Astros (41-31; LW: 6)
Power comes at a price. Houston has five players with double-digit home runs this year, helping the team to a league-high 103 homers. George Springer leads the bunch with a .284 batting average and gets on base a decent amount, but players like Luis Valbuena, Chris Carter, and Evan Gattis don’t add much else outside the power.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (39-32; LW: 2)
A miniature rough spell for the Dodgers was made worse Monday by Cubs star Kris Bryant, who homered twice off ace Clayton Kershaw. Luckily, they have their own star in Joc Pederson to match him the rest of their series.
6. Chicago Cubs (38-30; LW: 3)
As long as the Cubs are in the top 10 — and they’ll likely be for the considerable future — this is an easy opportunity to point out that Jake Arrieta is pitching very well. He threw his second career complete game shutout — and first of this season — against the Minnesota Twins Sunday, improving to 7-5 with a 3.07 ERA. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning (9.5 K/9).
7. Tampa Bay Rays (40-32; LW: 7)
How do you maintain the lead in a tight American League East? Before Monday, they’d have given up eight runs in a five-game span, a stretch they’d gone 4-1 in. The pending returns of Jake Odorizzi and Matt Moore could make this pitching staff even more formidable.
8. New York Yankees (38-32; LW: NR)
Some may disagree, but there’s really no more interesting story in baseball than what Alex Rodriguez is doing. If he’s honestly and truly clean and playing like this at age 39, then bravo to one of the best pure hitters in baseball history. If he’s not, then bravo to him anyway for getting back into the game after seemingly using all of his strikes, and to the Yankees for coaxing this much production out of him yet again.
9. San Francisco Giants (38-33; LW: NR)
Right-hander Chris Heston hasn’t come close to replicating his June 9 no-hitter against the New York Mets in his two starts since, but his consistent efforts in a rotation that’s been missing Jake Peavy all season and has gotten limited returns from Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong is a big reason the Giants are right on the Dodgers’ heels.
10. Baltimore Orioles (36-33; LW: NR)
For the first time since the season’s infancy, the Orioles are back in the top 10, thanks to a 13-4 stretch in their past 17 games. The additions of catcher Matt Wieters and shortstop J.J. Hardy as productive hitters has helped, but the success has started at the top with third baseman Manny Machado, who is batting .378 with six home runs in June.