Power Rankings: Indians might find it's lonely at the top

From ESPN - September 11, 2017

Just as the Astros ruled the No. 1 slot and seemed set to own it forever, and just as they were eclipsed once the Dodgers seemed impossible to top when they were inspiring consideration for whether they'd set the all-time single-season record for wins, we have a new No. 1. Riding the kind of hot streak they make movies about, the Indians did not just win this week's voting 23 weeks into the season, they earned unanimous acclaim as MLB's best ballclub, earning every first-place vote a week after narrowly losing to the Dodgers in our poll. And the Dodgers did not just slip gracefully into the No. 2 slot -- they tumbled to No. 4 and look like they have the potential to go lower still, even as they might cling to the MLB lead in wins thanks to their epic run immediately after the All-Star break.

The Dodgers' three-rung tumble was not the only major shakeup within the top 10. The Diamondbacks climbed two spots to crack to the top five, and the Cubs dropped three spots -- just as they also gave up ground to the Brewers and Cardinals to reignite the NL Central race. And the Cardinals had their own part to play, breaking back into the top 10, displacing the Brewers to ascend back inside the top 10 in the single largest move within the standings this week.

Other teams made jumps within the rankings. This week's biggest gainers besides the Cardinals were the surprising Padres with a three-spot jump up. And with the Phillies' recent return to competitiveness, they escaped the cellar, leaving the White Sox to fall to the lowest spot.

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

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1. Cleveland Indians

Record: 87-56
Week 22 ranking: No. 2

If someone had told you in April that Jason Kipnis put up arguably his worst year while getting hurt repeatedly, that Michael Brantley would get hurt and so would Andrew Miller, that they'd have to send Danny Salazar to the bullpen at two different points of the season, and that the Indians would go on their best tear of the season after all of that had happened to catch up to the Astros for the league's best record, you'd be forgiven for a lack of imagination for how all that might be so. Now we are asking whether the Indians will do a better job of sustaining their hot streak into the postseason. -- Christina Kahrl,

2. Houston Astros

Record: 86-57
Week 22 ranking: No. 3

The Astros might be No. 2 by default, because there's nothing auspicious about their getting rewarded here while getting swept by the A's in a four-game set in which Houston hurlers allowed 41 runs. Getting Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. right in time for the postseason over the next three weeks is crucial, otherwise their presumed rotation advantage after trading for Justin Verlander may only exist on paper. -- Kahrl

3. Washington Nationals

Record: 88-55
Week 22 ranking: No. 4

The next out that Gio Gonzalez gets gives him 180 innings pitched and kicks in a vesting option for $12 million for 2018. It's a good deal for the Nationals, who get some certainty, knowing that Gonzalez has posted a sub 3.80 ERA and made at least 27 starts in eight straight seasons. But right now, they are just hoping the magic touch he has had this season (2.50 ERA despite a 3.88 FIP) carries over into October. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 92-51

Week 22 ranking: No. 1

Since the Dodgers' last series win (over the Pirates, sealed on Aug. 24), they have been swept by the Diamondbacks twice and by the Rockies, going a combined 0-10 against their most dangerous division rivals during their 1-15 tailspin. They even lost back-to-back starts from co-stoppers Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish before the weekend. They have seen their offense score an MLB-worst 2.4 runs per game over that span. If they are not worried, they should be. -- Kahrl

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 83-60
Week 22 ranking: No. 7

Hitting four homers in one game was just part of the damage J.D. Martinez wrought in his seven-tater week, setting the former Tiger up to reach free agency this winter with a new career high in homers. Martinez hit a career-best 38 in 2015 for the Tigers to demonstrate his 2014 breakthrough after being released by the Astros was no fluke, but his 21 homers in just 45 games for Arizona brought him within one with the promise of a big payday in his future. -- Kahrl

6. Boston Red Sox

Record: 81-62
Week 22 ranking: No. 6

Apple watches aside, it was actually a pretty good week for the Red Sox. Despite dropping three of four in New York last weekend, Boston still has a comfortable lead in the AL East, Dustin Pedroia is back in the lineup and seems to be healthy after missing a month with a knee injury, and rookie Rafael Devers has been on fire this month. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

7. New York Yankees

Record: 77-65
Week 22 ranking: No. 8

The Yankees are 15-24 in one-run games this season, just a .385 winning percentage. That's the third-worst mark in one-run games this season. Elias Sports Bureau research shows that only three teams in MLB's divisional era (since 1969) have made the playoffs with a win percentage of .400 or worse in one-run games: the 2015 Blue Jays (.349), 2007 Phillies (.378) and 1981 Yankees (.364). -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

8. Chicago Cubs

Record: 77-66
Week 22 ranking: No. 5

A weekend of reckoning with the Cardinals could dispense with the Cubs' traditional rivals' threat to their NL Central lead, or reopen the race with St. Louis and Milwaukee while throwing even a shot at a wild-card appearance in doubt. The good news is that Jake Arrieta is on the mend and the rotation ranks third-best in MLB in ERA since the All-Star break -- if they dispel any late scares, they will be the potential scary opponent come October. -- Kahrl

9. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 75-68
Week 22 ranking: No. 14

There is still plenty of life in these Cardinals, who have gotten hot at the perfect time. They still have seven games remaining with the Cubs, including three this weekend at Wrigley Field. Looking ahead, they close the season with a seven-game homestand against the Cubs and Brewers. The big question now is whether this run has taken everything out of them, or can they find a way to make what I call "the 2007 Rockies push" all the way to the finish? -- Simon

10. Colorado Rockies

Record: 78-65
Week 22 ranking: No. 9

The Rockies desperately needed the week they just put in the books to retain their grip on the second NL wild card, taking two of three from the sad-sack Giants before contributing to the Dodgers' stretch meltdown with a four-game sweep. One key factor? Beyond their three one-run wins last week, closer Greg Holland regained his touch, earning a win and nailing down three saves. -- Kahrl

11. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 75-68
Week 22 ranking: No. 10

The Brewers' playoff hopes were dealt a big blow over the weekend, when starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson was lost for the season. Nelson had a 2.40 ERA in his past five starts (and the Brewers won all five), and he was riding a 12-inning scoreless streak when he got hurt. The Brewers do not know who will replace him, and his next three starts would have come against the Pirates (twice) and Cubs. Chicago is rolling, and the Brew Crew is just 5-8 against Pittsburgh this season. -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information

12. Minnesota Twins

Record: 74-69
Week 22 ranking: No. 11

The Twins are 35-37 at home this season, and that's the worst home winning percentage of any current playoff team. Just two teams in the divisional era (MLB since 1969) have made the playoffs with a home winning percentage below .500: the 1981 Royals (.404) in a strike-shortened season, and the 2001 Braves (.494). -- Langs

13. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 73-70
Week 22 ranking: No. 12

It wo not be easy for the Angels to keep pace in the AL wild-card race. They open a nine-game homestand on Tuesday against the Astros, Rangers and Indians, teams against whom they are a combined 11-21 against this season. By opponent record, the Angels own the most-difficult schedule remaining among all teams currently above .500. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

14. Texas Rangers

Record: 71-71
Week 22 ranking: No. 15

With his 20th home run, Elvis Andrus became just the seventh shortstop in MLB history to hit 20 or more homers and 40 or more doubles while stealing 20 or more bases in the same season, and the first since Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins last did it in 2009. That was the second time for both Ramirez and Rollins; the only other shortstops to do it even once are Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Robin Yount. -- Kahrl

15. Baltimore Orioles

16. Seattle Mariners

17. Tampa Bay Rays

18. Kansas City Royals

19. Pittsburgh Pirates

20. Miami Marlins

21. Toronto Blue Jays

22. New York Mets

23. Atlanta Braves

24. San Diego Padres

25. Cincinnati Reds

26. Oakland Athletics

27. Detroit Tigers

28. Philadelphia Phillies

29. San Francisco Giants

30. Chicago White Sox


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