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Power Rankings: Who’s on top in the American League?

The name of the game at this point of this season isn’t whether the Dodgers are No. 1; they’re the unanimous choice of our voters, again. No, the real drama now might be over who has the claim to be the best team in the American League, with the fading Astros trying to fight off the resurgent Indians and the reliably strong Red Sox down the stretch. That might have seemed inconceivable back when the Astros were 31 games over .500 at the All-Star break.

That undecided contest aside and despite no new entries in the top 10, this week’s rankings saw some major moves up and down, reflecting the changing fortunes of the crowded picture for the AL’s second wild-card and a National League playoff race that has the NL Central and possibly even both wild cards up for grabs. The Brewers were this week’s biggest risers in the rankings, making a six-slot leap smack-dab back into a still-tight Central division race. Also, the Royals and Rangers both made four-rung moves up while keeping their wild-card hopes alive by keeping up with the even more surprising Angels.

The biggest declines came from the teams that have similarly plummeted towards the back of the pack in the race for October, with the Rays’ eight-place slide reflecting their fading fortunes. The Pirates’ six-slot stumble echoes their failure to make the NL Central a four-horse race.

This week’s voters are Bradford Doolittle, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, David Schoenfield and Mark Simon.

Week 19 rankings | Week 18 | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason

Record: 87-35

Week 19 ranking: No. 1

Losing to Justin Verlander on Sunday might have turned a few heads, but even after that, the Dodgers are on pace for “only” 116 wins. Going 30-10 in their past 40 games to set the new single-season record? Ask anyone from among the roster’s rotating cast of thousands, and they’ll probably claim they don’t care, but here’s hoping they enjoy giving it a shot as much as we’ll enjoy watching it. — Christina Kahrl,

Record: 74-48
Week 19 ranking: No. 2

Edwin Jackson might be overachieving, but he has given the Nationals everything they could have hoped for in six fill-in starts. Jackson’s 2.92 ERA is the product of some good fortune, given that he has allowed seven home runs in 37 innings pitched. Nonetheless, he is pitching like someone who wants to be on the postseason roster in hopes of redeeming himself for the struggles he had in the 2012 NL Division Series for the Nationals against the Cardinals (six innings, five runs allowed in two appearances). — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 76-48
Week 19 ranking: No. 3

With the injury-riddled Astros struggling to do more than coast to a division title and not even breaking even in games played since the break, let’s give a shout-out to their moving pieces: Marwin Gonzalez and Brad Peacock. Gonzalez has started at five different positions while ripping a career-high 21 homers, and Peacock has been the perfect swingman, notching 10 wins while posting a 3.59 ERA as a starter and 1.77 from the pen while splitting time between the roles. Without those two covering a number of big holes as needed, that AL West lead wouldn’t be quite so comfortable. — Christina Kahrl,

Record: 68-54
Week 19 ranking: No. 5

You already know Corey Kluber is cruising, and Danny Salazar seems back on track (mostly). But have you also noticed that Trevor Bauer has started to dominate on the mound? He has thrown five straight quality starts, and mixing in more cutters and changeups has boosted his whiff rate to give the Tribe four starters with 10 or more K/9 since the break. — Christina Kahrl,

Record: 71-52
Week 19 ranking: No. 4

The Red Sox keep on rolling, but Boston was dealt a blow when Drew Pomeranz left his start Friday after just 3⅓ innings because of back spasms. He says he’s fine and will make his next start, but if he misses any significant time, it will be a major blow to the Red Sox. He’s 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA over his past six starts, so the sooner he’s back the better. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 66-57
Week 19 ranking: No. 7

Aaron Judge’s strikeout streak has reached historic proportions. Judge has struck out in 37 consecutive games, the longest single-season streak in MLB history and tying pitcher Bill Stoneman’s 37-game streak (set across multiple seasons). Judge has 167 strikeouts. Ted Williams’ highest single-season strikeout total, albeit in a shorter season, was 64 in 1939. Judge’s 64th strikeout this season came on June 4 — in the Yankees’ 54th game. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 66-57
Week 19 ranking: No. 9

Although the Cubs can understandably worry about how Jon Lester and Willson Contreras heal up in time for the season’s last kick, injuries also create opportunities. Since Javier Baez took over as the everyday shortstop for an injured Addison Russell on Aug. 3, he has gone nuts at the plate, leading the team with six homers and ranking second to Kris Bryant in OPS. It looks like he’s brought his days as a part-time player to an end. — Christina Kahrl,

Record: 67-57
Week 19 ranking: No. 6

The Snakes’ slowdown has helped bring the NL Central’s pack back into the wild-card race. They can blame injuries (who can’t?), but Robbie Ray’s return later this month should fix the rotation and shortstop Nick Ahmed‘s the defense. What the D-backs really need is for their offense to snap back — they’re just ninth in the NL (and 20th in MLB) in scoring since the All-Star break. — Christina Kahrl,

Record: 68-56
Week 19 ranking: No. 8

Will there be any player more inspiring than Chad Bettis this season? After throwing two strong, seven-inning starts in his first two turns coming back from cancer, he might do more than give the Rockies a veteran capable of anchoring their young rotation, though “just” pitching this well down the stretch will make a huge difference for a rotation with a 5.40 ERA since the break. — Christina Kahrl,

Record: 63-61
Week 19 ranking: No. 10

Given the impressiveness of the Cardinals’ offense of late and the struggles of the bullpen (especially with Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist on the DL), expect a lot of their games down the stretch to resemble their 11-10 win over the Pirates on Friday. Will the Cardinals add a reliever or two before Aug. 31? They need one — they’ve lost 10 games in which they led by multiple runs in the seventh inning or later, most in the majors. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 65-60
Week 19 ranking: No. 17

The Brewers got their ace back with the return of Chase Anderson. His presence should reinforce Jimmy Nelson and Zach Davies atop the rotation. The latter has a 2.20 ERA over 41 innings in his past six starts. He has allowed one run or fewer four times in that span and yielded only one home run. The key: Davies allowed a .329 batting average against his changeup in his first 19 starts, but opponents are 4-for-25 (.160) against it in his past six. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 64-60
Week 19 ranking: No. 13

The Angels begin a 10-game homestand against the Rangers, Astros and Athletics — good news considering they’ve won eight of their past 11 games at home. Sometime over that stretch, fans will likely see Albert Pujols hit his 610th career homer, which will set the record for most home runs by a player born outside the U.S. (Sammy Sosa also has 609). — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 63-62
Week 19 ranking: No. 11

Seattle is in the midst of a critical 12-game road trip, the final six games of which will be played against the Yankees and Orioles. Nelson Cruz has carried the lineup lately, hitting safely in 19 of his past 20 games (with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs over that span). His 1.414 OPS is tops among all non-Giancarlo hitters in MLB in August. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 62-61
Week 19 ranking: No. 18

Kansas City continues to struggle to make headway in the AL playoff race in August, thanks to some really bad pitching. The White Sox and A’s are the only two teams with worse ERAs this month. But the Royals are still in the thick of a crowded AL wild-card race. With the pitching faltering and Salvador Perez on the shelf, they’ll need Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer to carry them. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 61-62
Week 19 ranking: No. 19

For a team that was supposed to fade away after dealing Yu Darvish, the Rangers are doing anything but disappear. They owe some of that to how well Andrew Cashner and Cole Hamels have pitched since the break (combining for nine quality starts in 13 turns), while Alex Claudio and Matt Bush have stabilized the Rangers’ late-game woes. With the entire staff allowing 5.2 runs per game since the break, adding some pitching help by the end of the month could help put the Rangers back in the postseason, despite dealing Darvish. — Christina Kahrl,

Record: 63-59
Week 19 ranking: No. 16

Jose Berrios seems to have turned a corner after slowing down somewhat. He threw seven scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks on Saturday for his second scoreless start of the season. He entered that game with a 7.45 ERA in his past four starts. With the Twins looking forward to a schedule packed with under-.500 teams the next four weeks, he and they could both get hot down the stretch. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 60-64
Week 19 ranking: No. 14

The Tim Beckham influence continues. The Orioles’ offense has taken off in the past few weeks, since they acquired Beckham at the deadline. The Orioles have scored 5.5 runs per game in the 19 games he has played in this season, compared to 4.6 runs per game in the 105 games he hasn’t. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 60-62
Week 19 ranking: No. 20

Giancarlo Stanton is playing like a man possessed since the break, leading the majors with 18 homers in the second half. He cleared waivers, so he could be traded in the next two weeks, and however unlikely that might be, he could net a king’s ransom from the right contender. If Stanton can keep his success going into next year and the Fish can add some pitching in the offseason, they could surprise people next year. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 59-65
Week 19 ranking: No. 21

Josh Donaldson has been on fire the past three weeks. Since July 27, his 1.269 OPS is third-best in the American League behind that of Nelson Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton. In that span, Donaldson has gone 7.0 at-bats per home run, the second-best rate in MLB behind homer-happy Giancarlo Stanton. Whether or not the Jays decide to keep him for his last season before free agency, his rebound repairs his potential value in a trade. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 61-65
Week 19 ranking: No. 12

On Aug. 3, the Rays were 57-53, but 12 losses in 16 games have pulverized their playoff chances. The offense has totaled 33 runs in those 16 games and fallen further than could have been imagined. Wilson Ramos and Logan Morrison are the only two hitters not teetering around the Mendoza Line, but Morrison’s power has suddenly disappeared as well. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 60-64
Week 19 ranking: No. 15

The Pirates’ schedule did them in last week, with a six-game losing streak that just about crushed any hope of somehow finding a way to the top of the NL Central. On the bright side, Starling Marte hit his first home run since April. The rest of the season should focus on rebuilding Marte’s confidence; he has been a shell of the hitter he was before his PED suspension, and he has not been the player who averaged 5 WAR over the past four seasons. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 54-68
Week 19 ranking: No. 22

GM Sandy Alderson basically acknowledged that the Mets went $10 million over their initial budget this offseason and that his trade-deadline moves were made to recoup some of that money so that he could make a case for $10 million extra this winter. But the Mets need certainties in a free-agent market that won’t offer many. Seeing Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey come back strong before season’s end might make them feel better about some of those risks. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 54-69
Week 19 ranking: No. 23

Even as the Tigers fade in the standings and big-name players such as Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann continue to struggle, there’s some good news. Justin Upton is still hot at the plate and seems like he’ll finish with his second straight 30-homer season in Detroit, and Mikie Mahtook is hitting well enough to look like he’ll be part of their outfield plans in the future. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 55-67
Week 19 ranking: No. 24

Dansby Swanson was hitting .213 with a .599 OPS in 95 games when he was sent down in late July. He wasn’t much better at Triple-A Gwinnett; in 11 games there, Swanson hit .237 with a .698 OPS and one homer before being called back up. But in 11 games since Aug. 9, he’s hitting .297 with a .882 OPS, much more in line with expectations for the Braves’ shortstop of the future as well as the present. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 54-70
Week 19 ranking: No. 25

The Athletics’ young starters aren’t doing well since the All-Star break. Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton and Kendall Graveman all have ERAs over 6.00 since. There’s better news among the position players, with Matt Chapman leading all MLB players in defensive runs saved in the second half and tied with Khris Davis for the team lead in HRs since (nine apiece). — Christina Kahrl,

Record: 53-72
Week 19 ranking: No. 26

Joey Votto reached base multiple times in 20 consecutive games (a streak snapped Wednesday), one game shy of the modern record set by Ted Williams in 1948. Votto owns a .509 OBP after the All-Star break the past three seasons, more than 70 points better than that of any other player. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 55-69
Week 19 ranking: No. 27

Cory Spangenberg has been red-hot for the Padres. He hit .357 with four homers in the past eight games. That’s a good sign for the Padres because Spangenberg is just 26, and he could contribute for them down the road from a number of positions. But San Diego’s big league roster still needs a lot of work, and it would be nice if Wil Myers finally started hitting. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 50-76
Week 19 ranking: No. 28

Denard Span did something Saturday that the Giants hadn’t seen in a long time: He hit a leadoff inside-the-park home run. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, it was the Giants’ first inside-the-park leadoff home run since Johnny Rucker hit one in 1945 at the Polo Grounds. It was also the first in the majors since Byron Buxton had one — on the first pitch, like Span’s — off Chris Sale in October. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

Record: 47-74
Week 19 ranking: No. 29

These days, the White Sox are all about evaluating what they have ready or on the way up, and they’re getting good news. Nicky Delmonico, 25, has never been touted as a prospect, but he has hit safely in 15 of his first 17 games since his debut on Aug. 1. Down on the farm, Lucas Giolito has made four consecutive quality starts and should join the big club sometime down the stretch. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

Week 19 ranking: No. 30

The Phillies suffered a six-game skid last week, but that hasn’t dimmed excitement over the promotion of power prospect Rhys Hoskins. The 24-year-old Hoskins raked in Triple-A this season (producing a .966 OPS) and has already provided proof of his promise with his first two-homer game and a four-homer week. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

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