Power Rankings: Slugging Yankees closing gap on Astros

Astros continue to top Power Rankings (1:30)

Mark Teixeira and Tim Kurkjian break down Week 10 Power Rankings with the Astros maintaining their position at the top and explain why the Cubs and Indians haven't broken the top five. (1:30)

Of course the Houston Astros are still No. 1. The best record in baseball earns a team its due, including a repeat as the unanimous selection of the voters. But the big news this week in the Power Rankings is that the crowd of challengers for the No. 2 spot is heating up.

Who are the choices? Well, you have the Washington Nationals, with their star power and their big lead in the National League East. But you also have the Colorado Rockies, a team so balanced and strong in every phase of the game that it has put up the best record in the NL and finally pushed past the Los Angeles Dodgers this week to take bragging rights among the NL West's trio of top teams. But how do you count out the onslaught of an Aaron Judge-powered New York Yankees team that just blitzed the Orioles for 38 runs in a three-game sweep and has scored eight or more runs in five straight games?

Beyond that struggle within the top tier, just four teams made significant moves up or down in the rankings this week. In the positive column, the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers forced their way back into the top 10 with a three-rung jump. But the biggest gain was made by the Seattle Mariners, who moved up seven slots with their return to the pack of .500-ish teams struggling to break away and clarify the wild-card picture.

The biggest single drop shouldn't be a surprise, as the St. Louis Cardinals' seven-game losing streak dropped them six spots. The Chicago White Sox took a four-rung tumble as their brief bid to keep up with the AL Central's pack has crumbled with their pitching staff's recent struggles.

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

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1. Houston Astros

Record: 44-20
Week 9 ranking: No. 1

A 3-4 week wasn't going to take the Astros down a peg. With four starting pitchers on the DL, some midseason mediocrity might be hard to avoid if Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh stay out for much longer. But by stacking up wins early, the Astros have bought themselves the time to coast -- and to heal. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

2. Washington Nationals

Record: 38-24
Week 9 ranking: No. 2

It isn't just limiting home runs that has made Stephen Strasburg a better pitcher this season. He has also fared better with runners in scoring position, holding opponents to a .200 batting average and .300 slugging percentage. In 2015 and 2016, opponents hit .316/.474 and .303/.535 in those situations against him. Batters went just 2-for-24 with eight strikeouts with runners in scoring position over his past five starts. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

3. New York Yankees

Record: 37-23
Week 9 ranking: No. 4

The Yankees' offense appears to have returned. On Saturday, it scored 16 runs against the Orioles as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Starlin Castro and Matt Holliday all went yard. Then Judge added two more in a 14-3 rout on Sunday. Judge leads the majors with 21 home runs, and the Yankees are now 15-3 when he homers. They're just 22-20 when he doesn't. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

4. Colorado Rockies

Record: 41-24
Week 9 ranking: No. 5

This isn't just mile-high mayhem because the Rockies lead baseball in road wins, and they're sixth in MLB with 4.9 runs scored per game on the road. They aren't just beating up on bad teams, as they have one of MLB's best records against teams .500 or better. They also already have 23 wins from their four rookie starters this season; the Rockies' franchise record is 28 wins (in 2002), and the record for a playoff team in the divisional era is 40, set by the 2012 A's. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

5. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 39-25
Week 9 ranking: No. 3

The Dodgers have a playing time crunch in the lineup coming with 3B Justin Turner back and CF Joc Pederson not far behind. Adrian Gonzalez has been cold all year, Chris Taylor has cooled off, and Yasiel Puig is hitting as badly as he was before a monthlong demotion last August. Somebody's going to get squeezed, but who? The good news: Cody Bellinger's three-homer weekend snapped his recent slump. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

6. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 39-26
Week 9 ranking: No. 6

No pitcher is hotter than Robbie Ray right now. He has allowed just one run in his past five starts (37 IP) while posting a 48-9 strikeout-walk ratio. The D-backs' top two starters have been great at killing them softly at the plate; Zack Greinke leads the majors with 157 swinging strikes generated with breaking and off-speed stuff, and Ray is 11th with 110. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

7. Boston Red Sox

Record: 34-28
Week 9 ranking: No. 7

We'll spare you your daily dose of David Price drama; lots of people get crushed by the Yankees, and we'll see what he does against the Phillies and Astros this week, baseball's worst and best teams. So what has gotten into Mitch Moreland? He hasn't looked this good since the 2010 postseason. Despite a lower home run rate, he's walking more often and getting better results on his line drives while cutting down on weak popups. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

8. Chicago Cubs

Record: 31-31
Week 9 ranking: 9

The Cubs have gotten very streaky, wrapping six- and four-game losing streaks around five straight wins to wind up back at .500. Problems in the rotation have already been notable, but the Cubs' once-potent offense has been stagnant, scoring four or more runs in just six of their past 16 games. The struggles of Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell at the plate aren't news, but their back-to-back homers in Sunday's win might signal a rebound. On the other hand, Schwarber hasn't hit a single since May 17. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

9. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 33-31
Week 9 ranking: No. 12

The Brewers have an ace in Chase Anderson, who has allowed one run in 27⅔ innings over his past four starts. Anderson never showed signs of this level of success before, but he has impressed with a fastball, changeup and curve, with a cutter mixed in every so often to throw hitters off. The changeup has been particularly impressive as a putaway pitch. Opposing hitters are 3-for-25 against it in his past four starts. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

10. Cleveland Indians

Record: 31-29
Week 9 ranking: No. 8

This team must be driving the Cleveland faithful crazy. After they won four of five home games, the Indians were a season-high four games over .500 on June 1. Then the Tribe lost two of three in Kansas City and suffered a two-game sweep in Colorado, where they were outscored 19-4. Corey Kluber has been good since his return from the DL, but this rotation needs to get its act together. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

11. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 31-30
Week 9 ranking: No. 10

It has been a tough season for Orioles pitching. O's pitchers have allowed 14 or more runs four times already this season, and Baltimore starters have a 5.14 ERA, which ranks 28th in the majors and last in the AL. That would be the Orioles' worst rotation ERA since 2011 (5.39). That team went 69-93 in Buck Showalter's first full season in Baltimore; the O's haven't had a losing season since. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

12. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 34-32
Week 9 ranking: No. 12

The Rays' pitching staff has performed considerably worse on the road than at home, and that's noteworthy, given that the coming week consists of six road games. Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb get the first two starts. Odorizzi has a 3.11 ERA at home and 4.50 on the road. Cobb is at 3.27/5.01 after allowing nine runs in his most recent road start in Seattle. He has yet to find the comfort with his changeup that made him so great in 2013 and 2014; opponents are hitting .368 against the pitch. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

13. Seattle Mariners

Record: 31-33
Week 9 ranking: No. 20

The Mariners have survived their early-season rotation wipeout, making their march back into baseball's mushy middle with a 10-4 run that featured the return of James Paxton from the DL. With Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly all on the mend and due back soon (perhaps in that order), the M's might deliver on GM Jerry Dipoto's short-term gamble that there's a wild-card slot in reach this season. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

14. Minnesota Twins

Record: 32-27
Week 9 ranking: No. 15

Ervin Santana continues to lead the Twins, who remain in first in the AL Central. He has a 2.20 ERA, good for third in the American League and tied with Clayton Kershaw for third in the majors. On Friday, he threw his third shutout of the season -- the most in the majors. The most recent Twins pitcher with more shutouts in a season was Frank Viola, with four in 1984. And get this: Santana had three shutouts over his previous six seasons combined. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

15. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 31-32
Week 9 ranking: No. 13

Josh Donaldson has made his former MVP presence known since he returned from the DL on May 26. He has hit six home runs and tacked on four doubles for a .321 batting average and .736 slugging since he came back. He has a 28.3 percent hard-hit rate in that span. The Blue Jays are 8-6 in games he has played in since his return. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

16. Detroit Tigers

Record: 30-32
Week 9 ranking: No. 17

After sweeping the White Sox last week, the Tigers dropped two of three home games to the Angels and two of three at Fenway. Detroit is still very much in the AL Central race, but the Tigers might need to find a center fielder to help shore up a defense that ranks in the bottom third in defensive efficiency and get better pitching (especially from a bullpen with an MLB-worst 5.21 ERA). -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

17. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 29-33
Week 9 ranking: No. 18

Scooter Gennett, the 496th pick in the 2009 draft, became the 17th player in MLB history to hit four home runs in a game last week. The Reds will pick second overall in Monday's draft for the second consecutive year. Nick Senzel, their first-rounder last year, is tearing up the Florida State League. Will the Reds fare as well with their pick this year? -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

18. Texas Rangers

Record: 30-32
Week 9 ranking: No. 16

Adrian Beltre has raked since coming off the DL, putting up an eight-game hit streak and a .925 OPS. His return pushed Joey Gallo to first base; where will Gallo go once Mike Napoli comes back from the DL? That's a nice problem to have, and it might help patch the Rangers' injury-thinned outfield. Having fixed their closer question by turning to Matt Bush, the Rangers' list of needs might be pared down once they get Cole Hamels back. Without shoring up the rotation, it's going to be hard to get far beyond .500. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

19. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 33-33
Week 9 ranking: No. 19

Cameron Maybin was activated off the DL on Friday and promptly stole four bases in his first game back. The Angels hope the 30-year-old can help hold down the fort in center field until Mike Trout returns from his injury. Maybin leads the American League in stolen bases (17) and is on pace for a career-high 42. Since Trout's injury, the Angels have gone 7-6. Can they keep playing .500 baseball without the majors' best player? -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

20. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 29-32
Week 9 ranking: No. 14

The NL Central is wide open, and if it weren't for a horrible four weeks, the Cardinals might lead the division. But over that time, the Cardinals rank in the bottom five in runs, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and ... you get the idea. Sweeping the Phillies might be just what they needed to get out of their funk, but now they face the division-leading Brewers in a four-game set to begin this week. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

21. New York Mets

Record: 28-33
Week 9 ranking: No. 23

Pardon the pun, but Yoenis Cespedes and Steven Matz brought "wins above replace-Met" in the doubleheader sweep of the Braves on Saturday. After a couple of rusty-looking at-bats, Cespedes showed the impact he can have on a lineup with a grand slam in Game 1. Matz gave the Mets seven innings, the length they're looking for from their starting pitching. We'll see whether they can stay healthy long-term (or even four months) and whether the Mets' other ills can be cured. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

22. Miami Marlins

Record: 27-35
Week 9 ranking: No. 24

Edinson Volquez has allowed one run in 22 innings in his past three starts, including his no-hitter against the Diamondbacks, which dropped his ERA from 4.82 to 3.41. What has been the biggest key? Volquez has found his changeup again. In those three starts, he has thrown it 92 times, netting 35 outs and a 71 percent strike rate, with one hit and one walk allowed. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

23. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 28-35
Week 9 ranking: No. 22

Staff ace Gerrit Cole has a 4.83 ERA this season. He has never finished a season with an ERA above 3.88 in his career -- but that career high was just last season. Cole has allowed seven earned runs in consecutive starts and has allowed five or more earned in four of his 13 turns this season. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

24. Kansas City Royals

Record: 28-34
Week 9 ranking: No. 25

Here's the good news: Eric Hosmer is back to being great. After a dreadful April, Hosmer has been one of the best hitters in the AL (.984 OPS since). Here's the bad news: He's a free agent at the end of this season, and you can bet his agent, Scott Boras, will make sure he gets paid. What will Dayton Moore do? Time will tell, but the Royals have been playing .500 ball for a month, and that isn't enough to erase their slow start. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

25. Chicago White Sox

Record: 26-35
Week 9 ranking: No. 21

The White Sox will be thrilled to return home after a 2-7 road trip. The starting rotation hasn't thrown a quality start since May 28, which has contributed to the sudden decline of a bullpen that had been among the best in the first two months but has gotten overworked and overexposed. Sox relievers have posted a 6.12 ERA in June. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN.com

26. Atlanta Braves

Record: 27-35
Week 9 ranking: No. 28

We mentioned a few weeks ago that Dansby Swanson was coming around. After that, he went through a 2-for-32 skid to end May. But Swanson got hot again, hitting .371 in his first 10 games in June. That includes a walk-off hit against the Mets on Friday, in a game in which he made a couple of terrific defensive plays. Braves fans might have to tolerate a roller-coaster season from Swanson, but the long-term payoff should be worth it. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

27. San Francisco Giants

Record: 26-39
Week 9 ranking: No. 27

Brandon Belt is having a difficult-to-characterize season. He hit his 11th home run Saturday, which leaves him just seven shy of tying his career high, despite the fact that it's only June. He's in the top 15 in the majors in walk rate. But he's hitting just .237, which would be by far his lowest average in any full season of his career. He hit his seventh career "splash" homer into McCovey Cove on Saturday, and that tied him with Pablo Sandoval for the second-most splash hits. Only Barry Bonds (35) had more. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

28. Oakland Athletics

Record: 27-36
Week 9 ranking: No. 26

Want a few definitions of a tough team to watch? The A's have cost themselves an MLB-worst minus-39 defensive runs saved (as tracked by Baseball Info Solutions). Although they are challenging for the highest percentage of runs scored on home runs in a season (more than 52 percent, trailing just the 2017 and 2010 Blue Jays) and are tied for fifth in MLB homers, that reflects how badly they hit when they aren't homering. They're 24th in runs per game, with the fourth-highest strikeout rate. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

29. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 21-40
Week 9 ranking: No. 30

The Phillies own the worst record in baseball, largely due to a rotation ERA (5.19) that ranks next to last in the majors and an offense that has taken a step back (and will be further hampered by losing Cesar Hernandez to the DL). The good news? Odubel Herrera has caught fire of late, with a 10-game hit streak entering Monday. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

30. San Diego Padres

Record: 24-40
Week 9 ranking: No. 29

If it weren't for the Phillies, the Padres would have the worst record in the majors. Wil Myers is the team's best qualified hitter, but his season OPS has dipped under .800 in the past week. As a team, San Diego ranks in the bottom of the majors in average and OBP and bottom five in batting with men on. That's a really bad combination. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information