Alyson Footer

Cards, Tigers on the rise in Power Rankings

Cards, Tigers on the rise in Power Rankings

It's probably a little early to really glean much from the division standings, considering most teams still have about 100 games remaining on the schedule. That's plenty of time for things to even out, change, fix themselves, or whatever else teams are looking to do over the next 3 1/2 months.

But for the sake of conversation, let's take a peek at the Wild Card standings, that glorious spot where even the most pedestrian of the sub-.500 teams can grab on to a sliver of hope. In the American League, there are only three teams further than five games out of the second Wild Card spot -- the Angels (seven games), A's (7 1/2) and Twins (14 1/2). In the National League, the pool is smaller, with five teams within striking distance of a Wild Card spot -- the Dodgers, Marlins, Pirates, Rockies and Brewers.

Elsewhere, the Indians continue to create some space in the AL Central. They followed their four-game sweep over the Royals to begin the month with a four-game split with the Mariners and a series win over the Angels, giving them nine wins in their past 12 games.

Biggest jump: The Cardinals (15 to 11) and Tigers (18 to 14) each jumped four spots. This seems fitting, given the similarities: both started the season with semi-high expectations, and, until recently, neither had lived up to them. Both are on nice June runs with key wins over tough opponents. The Cardinals won series over the Giants and Reds before sweeping the Pirates over the weekend. The Tigers swept the White Sox before winning series over the Blue Jays and Yankees.

Biggest drop: The Royals fell from 11 to 15, unsurprising given their recent eight-game losing skid, sullying a three-city road trip that ended with a 2-8 mark. They salvaged the trip with two wins over the reeling White Sox, but that did little to help the ugliness of the final numbers -- over the 10 games, the Royals were outscored 51-20. The rotation has its issues -- the only teams with a higher cumulative ERA by their starters are the A's and Twins -- but the offense has to have the Royals worried as well. In June, they rank 14th of 15 AL teams in on-base percentage (.296), slugging (.362) and OPS (.659).

The Astros, in the midst of a losing road trip, also dropped four spots, from 16 to 20.

Our top 5:

1. Cubs: At 43-18, the Cubs are on pace for 114 wins, just two off Seattle's record-setting pace of 116 from 2001. It's futile to try to pick out one thing that is working for the Cubs more than the others, but this week, let's focus on the rotation, which has held opponents to three runs or fewer in 16 consecutive games. This season, Cubs starters have compiled a 2.30 ERA, the lowest in baseball by nearly a full run. The second-lowest rotation ERA belongs to the Mets, at 3.22.

Cubs plate six runs in the 8th

2. Nationals: The Nats followed a head-scratching series loss to the struggling Reds earlier in June to put together a nice 5-1 run against the White Sox (2-1) and the Phillies, whom they swept. The offense has sprung to life -- they've scored 44 runs over their past six games, exactly double the number of runs they allowed. Now comes the fun part -- they host the Cubs in a three-game set, beginning Monday. Pitching matchups: Kyle Hendricks vs. Max Scherzer; John Lackey vs. Gio Gonzalez; Jason Hammel vs. Stephen Strasburg. Get yer popcorn ready.

Werth's two-run walk-off single

3. Rangers: In a division that could come down to three teams (assuming the Astros get going at some point soon), the Rangers have spent the month of June establishing themselves as the team to beat in the AL West. Since June 3, they have won five of six over the Mariners and three of four over the Astros, and they have a five-game lead in the division race. There are concerns about Yu Darvish, who was scratched from his Monday start and could be headed back to the DL, but the rest of the rotation has been strong.

Hamels' excellent start

4. Giants: This hasn't been a great stretch for the Giants, by their standards, but a .500-ish mark against three contending teams isn't enough to knock them from the top five. The Giants have issues, no doubt -- Jeff Samardzija has struggled in his last three starts, the offense will be without Hunter Pence until August at the earliest, and closer Santiago Casilla has struggled mightily in June. But the rest of the month looks favorable for the Giants, who will play only one team with a winning record, when they visit the Pirates next week. Other than that, they play the Brewers, Rays, Phillies and A's.

Posey's walk-off single

5. Orioles: The O's and Red Sox are neck-and-neck in the AL East standings, and in our Power Rankings. Last week, it was Boston at No. 5 and Baltimore No. 6. They've been flip-flopped this week, but realistically, little has changed in the last 10 days. Perhaps things will become a little clearer this week, when the two teams meet for a three-game set starting Tuesday in Boston.

Jones' two-homer day

The rest
6. Red Sox (5)
7. Indians (8)
8. Mariners (9)
9. Mets (7)
10. Blue Jays (12)
11. Cardinals (15)
12. Pirates (10)
13. Dodgers (13)
14. Tigers (18)
15. Royals (11)
16. Marlins (14)
17. White Sox (17)
18. Yankees (19)
19. Rays (19)
20. Astros (16)

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.