Maybe there is no such thing as a "statement" series, but there is no understating the importance of what the Blue Jays did over the weekend against the first-place Yankees. That sweep, coupled with a four-game sweep of the Twins, pushed the Jays' winning streak to eight games and moved them to within 1 1/2 games of first place.
The underwhelming AL East has, over time, sprung to life. Four teams are either at the .500 mark or better, with the Red Sox the only non-contender. For years the Blue Jays have fallen far below expectations. Could 2015 finally be their year?
Biggest jump: The Blue Jays moved up seven spots, from 12th last week to fifth. There was never a question whether they could hit, but it's their pitching that carried them through their Yankees sweep. In three games, New York scored once.
Biggest drop: The Twins, 13th last week, dropped to 18. They've lost eight of 10 and have faded in an AL Central race that really isn't a race, given the 11 1/2-game discrepancy between the first-place Royals and second-place Twins. The Wild Card is still within reach for Minnesota, however. The second Wild Card spot has kept a few teams below the .500 mark relevant, and the Twins fall into that category.
The MLB.com voting panel's top five:
1. Cardinals: To state the obvious, Cardinals pitchers had a very good week. They threw three consecutive shutouts and ran their scoreless streak to 38 innings before the Brewers scored three runs in the third inning on Sunday. Still, the end of the streak, and the Cardinals' loss on Sunday, does not diminish the fact that this club has had nary a hiccup the entire season. And they're currently on pace for 104 wins.
2. Royals: Kansas City rebounded from a tough series in Detroit to sweep the White Sox over the weekend, and now they head home to the K, where they have been dominant, as evidenced by their 37-18 record.
3. Pirates: Only in the NL Central can you be a whopping 20 games over .500 and in just second place in your division. The Pirates' stretch run will probably end with a Wild Card berth, but as long as they're within striking distance of the Cardinals, they can still eye the division title as an attainable goal. Several Pirates players are having career years, including closer Mark Melancon, who has 35 saves in 36 chances and a minuscule 1.56 ERA.
4. Dodgers: The Dodgers have been boosted by two elements: the non-waiver Trade Deadline additions to their pitching staff, and the Giants' recent slide, which includes a four-game sweep in Chicago over the weekend. Los Angeles has also been dominant at Dodger Stadium all season -- its 37-18 mark at home is one of the best in baseball.
5. Blue Jays: Yes, we've used a lot of this space gushing about the Blue Jays, but hey, they haven't been to the postseason since 1993, and after years of tinkering and remaking the roster, it looks as though they've finally found the right combination to make a push.
The rest: 6. Mets (9); 7. Yankees (6); 8. Astros (4); 9. Cubs (11); 10. Giants (7); 11. Angels (10); 12. Nationals (8); 13. Rangers (19); 14. Orioles (14); 15. Rays (18); 16. Tigers (20); 17. D-backs (NR); 18. Twins (13); 19. White Sox (15); 20. Indians (NR).