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Red-hot Bucs catapult to top of Rankings

Red-hot Bucs catapult to top of Rankings

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Red-hot Bucs catapult to top of Rankings

There's something special happening in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates not only boast the best record in baseball, they just might also be the best story in the game.

That's right, the National League Central-leading Pirates are riding a nine-game winning streak and have already won a whopping 51 games. Fans are filling up PNC Park and having a ball, clamoring for the Pirates' first winning record and postseason appearance since 1992.

Yes, we are only 81 games into the season, but it's been fun ride for the black-and-yellow faithful.

But will the Pirates hang on or will the Cardinals or Reds overtake them in the division?

Moreover, are the Braves, not the Pirates, the best team in the NL?

What about the Red Sox, Rangers, Orioles and Tigers? How do the American League's best match up against the top teams in the NL?

It's time to discuss the most powerful teams in the game, and it's time to hear your voice.

For the third season, MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. Three former Major League players -- Larry Dierker, Mitch Williams and Frank Thomas -- are part of the process, as are columnist Peter Gammons and Carlton Thompson, vice president and executive editor of MLB.com. Former general manager and current MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, along with MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach and Jesse Sanchez are also part of the group.

Agree? Disagree? The power to rank the teams is yours.

1. Pirates
It's been an improbable and glorious season in Pittsburgh. The first-place Bucs have won nine in a row and have the best record in the big leagues. They now lead the second-place Cardinals by two games.
Last week: 5

2. Red Sox
The Red Sox have grinded through the first three months of the season, but they've also had a flair for the dramatic. The AL East leaders have an league-leading 50 wins, seven of which have been of the walk-off variety.
Last week: 2

3. Cardinals
Strong starting pitching and timely hitting have been the calling cards for the Cardinals during the first 81 games of the season, but a recent tailspin has taken a toll. The Cardinals have won just twice over their past eight games, losing 5 1/2 games of ground to the surging Pirates during that stretch.
Last week: 1

4. Rangers
The Rangers were 4-11 at one point in June but turned it around and won 10 of their final 13 games to finish 15-15 for the month. Yu Darvish is back in the win column for the first time in six weeks, as the Rangers maintain their narrow half-game led ahead of the A's in the AL West.
Last week: 3

5. Braves
The Braves are coming off a three-game sweep of the D-backs and have won six of their last 10 games. Jason Heyward continues to surge and remind fans that he is a difference-maker. The outfielder notched his 14th multihit game of June on Sunday.
Last week: 7

6. A's
The starting pitching and the offense have been consistent all year, and Oakland manager Bob Melvin credits contributions from his players up and down the lineup for the success so far this season. Oakland's starting pitchers are 21-6 with a 3.01 ERA since May 17.
Last week: 8

7. Orioles
The O's have won four in a row and are coming off a three-game sweep of the Yankees. Manny Machado has emerged as a superstar and Chris Davis is having a season to remember, having already slugged 31 home runs this season.
Last week: 10

8. Reds
The Reds are coming off a 2-6 road trip through Arizona, Oakland and Texas, and now have losses in seven of their last nine games. A 12-15 record for June gave Cincinnati its first sub-.500 month since September 2011, but the club is optimistic July will be much better.
Last week: 6

9. Indians
The Indians are on a roll, riding a four-game winning streak and winning seven of their last 10 games. The streak has propelled them to a tie with the Tigers on top of the standings in the AL Central. Jason Kipnis is a big reason why. The second baseman ranked first in OPS (1.216), OBP (.517) and hits (39) in June. He also ranked second in average (.419), slugging percentage (.699) and extra-base hits (17).
Last week: 13

10. Tigers
The Tigers have lost two straight and five of their last six to drop into a virtual tie with the Indians for first in the AL Central. The potent offense is struggling and has been stymied lately. The Tigers have been outscored, 31-17, in those five losses.
Last week: 4

11. Rays
Starter Jeremy Hellickson tied a franchise record with five wins in June while Matt Moore struggled, going 2-3 with an ERA of 8.39 in the month. The Rays still trail the first-place Red Sox by six games in the division standings but have a narrow lead over the Yankees and Blue Jays.
Last week: 14

12. D-backs
The NL West leaders are scuffling. The club was swept in three games by the Braves and is 1-5 on its current road trip, which still has four games remaining. Paul Goldschmidt continues to pace the offense and Patrick Corbin is making a strong case for an All-Star selection.
Last week: 9

13. Yankees
The Yankees have seen better days. The club has lost five in a row and is coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Orioles. They remain within striking distance but are in obvious need of reinforcements and timely hits.
Last week: 11

14. Nationals
The Nats' record has hovered around the .500 mark for most of the season, but the club will get a much-needed boost when Bryce Harper, who missed the entire month of June because of a left knee injury, comes off the disabled list on Monday.
Last week: NR

15. Angels
Don't count out the streaking Angels yet. The Halos are on a roll and coming off a perfect six-game road trip. Things are looking up in Anaheim, and nobody is giving up on the season.
Last week: NR

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