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Hard as it may be to believe, that headline is not a typo. There are just six weeks remaining in the 2019 MLB regular season.
With 16 teams still sporting records above .500 and both wild-card races still wide-open, there’s still a lot to be decided as we come down the homestretch. For six of those teams that have a winning record, there will be no trip to the postseason.
Meanwhile, these rankings remain fluid. 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
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The New York Yankees (6-2) took over the No. 1 spot thanks to another strong week, and they are now 15-4 with a plus-30 run differential in the month of August.
With that, their lead in the AL East standings has swelled to 9.5 games, and they hold a 3.5-game edge over the Houston Astros for the best record in the American League. With a stellar 49-20 record at home this season, the potential for home-field advantage will give them plenty to play for down the stretch.
While the Yankees moved into the top spot, the Atlanta Braves (4-2), Oakland Athletics (4-2), Tampa Bay Rays (4-2) and Minnesota Twins (5-1) all took another step toward closing the gap to the upper echelon of teams. The Washington Nationals (5-1) now join that group inside the top 10 as well.
Daniel Hudson (10 G, 1.08 ERA), Hunter Strickland (8 G, 1.29 ERA) and Fernando Rodney (19 G, 3.24 ERA) have all been huge additions to a beleaguered Nationals bullpen, and that trio will really be put to the test now that closer Sean Doolittle is sidelined with a right knee injury.
Among teams on the postseason bubble, the Boston Red Sox (5-1), San Francisco Giants (4-2) and Philadelphia Phillies (4-2) did the most to improve their standing. The Red Sox picked up a series win against the streaking Cleveland Indians, the Giants took three of four from a solid Arizona Diamondbacks team, and the Phillies swept the Chicago Cubs at the start of last week.
Further down the rankings, the Seattle Mariners (4-2) took two of three from the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays as their high-powered offense continues to be a thorn in the side of contenders.
Teams That Disappointed
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The Houston Astros (2-5) were one of just six teams to lose both of their series last week, as they dropped two of three to the Chicago White Sox and three of four to the Athletics.
While they still have a comfortable 7.5-game lead over Oakland in the AL West standings, the A’s have been playing extremely well since the All-Star break, and what was an 11-game lead Aug. 11 has eroded quickly.
Bullpen issues continue to plague the Chicago Cubs (2-4), who at least managed to rally from a four-game losing streak that included a pair of walk-off losses to salvage their weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Closer Craig Kimbrel allowed a home run while striking out two batters in two-thirds of an inning in his return from the injured list Sunday. Getting him on track might be the single biggest X-factor in the team’s playoff hopes.
The Texas Rangers‘ (1-6) slim playoff hopes were all but erased last week with a series loss to the Blue Jays and a four-game sweep at the hands of the Twins. They were 59-58 heading into last week and have now slipped to four games under .500 and 12.5 games back in the wild-card standings.
The only other teams to lose both series resided at the bottom of our rankings, with the Kansas City Royals (1-4), Miami Marlins (1-5), Detroit Tigers (2-4) and Baltimore Orioles (0-7) further separating themselves from the rest of the pack in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft.
Players of the Week
AL Hitter: Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
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Stats: 16-for-27, 7 2B, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 7 R
On Tuesday night, Rafael Devers became the first player since at least 1908 to record six hits and four doubles in the same game, and that was just part of another stellar week at the plate.
He’s now hitting .332/.380/.596 with 46 doubles and 27 home runs in what has unquestionably been a breakout season offensively. He has also racked up 101 RBI and 103 runs scored, all shy of his 23rd birthday.
Ian Browne of MLB.com wrote: “The production of Devers at such a young age has put him in rare company. The left-handed-hitting masher is the first MLB player with 100-plus runs and RBI in a season before 23 since future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera in 2005. The only other Red Sox player to accomplish the feat? A guy by the name of Ted Williams.”
Despite his age, Devers is already in his third MLB season.
After hitting just .240/.298/.433 with 21 home runs in 121 games last season, he’s come a long way in a very short period of time, giving the Red Sox another homegrown star in the process.
AL Pitcher: Ivan Nova, Chicago White Sox
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Stats: 1 GS, W, 9.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
With 147.2 innings of work over 25 starts, Ivan Nova is well on his way to a fourth consecutive season of at least 160 innings pitched, and he has posted a 4.24 ERA and 101 ERA+ during that span.
While that won’t win him a Cy Young Award anytime soon, there’s plenty of value in a guy who can chew through innings at a league-average rate. He did just that last week with his second complete game since the All-Star break, needing just 104 pitches to finish an impressive performance against the Houston Astros.
Over his last five starts, Nova has a 0.49 ERA and 0.70 WHIP with four quality starts. The White Sox have won all five of those games.
“It feels good, it feels good,” Nova told reporters. “That’s what I was hoping from the beginning. Thankfully we turned things around and are pitching better.”
With free agency looming this offseason, Nova can boost his stock with more of the same in the final month.
NL Hitter: J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
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Stats: 10-for-24, 4 2B, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R
When J.T. Realmuto was acquired from the Miami Marlins during the offseason, many believed the Philadelphia Phillies were getting the best catcher in baseball.
The 28-year-old has done nothing to alter that thinking during a stellar first season with his new team, hitting .280/.330/.485 with 29 doubles, 19 home runs and 66 RBI.
He has also thrown out an NL-best 46 percent of base-stealers while improving as a pitch-framer.
His stellar showing at the plate last week coincided with the team bringing Charlie Manuel aboard as the new hitting coach.
“Of course, Charlie’s had an impact,” Realmuto told reporters. “Just having him in the dugout, being able to walk by him and have him say something as simple as, ‘Hey, stay short.’ He’s a guy that everybody in this clubhouse looks up to, so we’re definitely glad to have him.”
With just three more home runs the rest of the way, Realmuto will have a new career high.
NL Pitcher: Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
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Stats: 2 GS, 2 W, 12.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 12 K
After posting a stellar 3.34 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 182 strikeouts in 151 innings to finish fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting last year, Jack Flaherty was viewed as a rising ace entering the 2019 season.
However, the 23-year-old struggled to find any sort of consistency during the first half, and after getting shelled for seven hits and four earned runs in 4.2 innings on July 2, he had a 4.90 ERA through 17 starts.
Since that rocky outing, the young right-hander has flipped the switch in a big way.
Over his last eight starts, Flaherty has a 0.89 ERA and 0.77 WHIP with 61 strikeouts in 50.1 innings.
He rattled off a streak of 23.2 scoreless innings before Cincinnati Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez took him deep in the first inning Sunday, but he still turned in five solid innings to pick up his seventh victory of the season.
With that, he lowered his second-half ERA to 0.83, which is tops among all qualified starting pitchers since the All-Star break.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Friday-Sunday)
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Could this three-game series be a preview of the 2019 Fall Classic?
Regardless, anytime the top two teams in both our power rankings and in terms of win-loss record go head-to-head, it’s a safe bet to be the must-see matchup of the week.
The last time the Yankees and Dodgers met was in September 2016, when the Dodgers took two of three at Yankee Stadium. They’ve squared off just 10 times total in the past decade with an even 5-5 split in those games.
The Yankees are off to an MLB-best 15-4 start to the month of August, while the Dodgers are not far behind at 11-5, so both teams bring plenty of momentum into this interleague clash of the titans.
Assuming the starting rotations for both teams play out as expected, the Dodgers will have Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, while the Yankees will counter with James Paxton, CC Sabathia and Domingo German.
The Yankees are fourth in the majors with an .838 OPS against left-handed pitching, while Ryu (1.64 ERA, 1st in MLB) and Kershaw (2.63 ERA, 5th in MLB) have the two best ERAs among qualified left-handed starters, so that could be the matchup that determines the series.
Whoever comes out on top in this one will likely lay claim to the No. 1 spot in these rankings next week.