Power Rankings: Red Sox, Cardinals soar toward the top

Indians move up in Week 19 Power Rankings (1:44)

Mark Teixeira and Tim Kurkjian explain how the Indians have taken advantage of the Astros' struggles and moved up into the top five. (1:44)

The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to reign supreme, getting every first-place vote in Week 19. But as the stretch races have started heating up, so have the MLB Power Rankings. The St. Louis Cardinals reappeared in the top 10 on the strength of their recent eight-game winning streak, moving up four spots. The Boston Red Sox continued their recent climb as well, reaching No. 4. If they continue to control the American League East race, will they clamber higher still? And even as the Washington Nationals held their collective breath over Bryce Harper's health, they pushed past the Houston Astros to take the No. 2 spot overall.

These weren't the only big moves within the rankings. The only team to match the Cardinals for their four-spot leap was a Minnesota Twins team that has re-entered the American League wild-card race, while the Pittsburgh Pirates moved up two spots in their push to keep up with the Cardinals in a re-energized National League Central featuring four contenders. But the biggest drops were even more steep -- the fading Milwaukee Brewers tumbled seven slots as they mired themselves down among their challengers in the division, while the Kansas City Royals' six-rung stumble reflects a wide-open race for the second AL wild-card slot.

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

Week 18 rankings | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 83-34

Week 18 ranking: No. 1

One thing keeping the Dodgers atop the league as they reach for a record-setting season in the win column, even with Clayton Kershaw on the shelf? Starting pitching, because their 2.39 ERA from the rotation since Kershaw went on the disabled list (with the Dodgers going 15-3) and 3.48 ERA from non-Kershaw starters all season are far and away MLB's best marks. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

2. Washington Nationals

Record: 70-46
Week 18 ranking: No. 3

The impact of the Bryce Harper injury may be contingent on just how well returning outfielder Michael Taylor plays. Taylor was hitting .278 with a .510 slugging percentage in a breakthrough season before suffering an oblique injury. Taylor's injury rehab took awhile and included a 2-for-30 struggle at high-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. But the Nationals may have been convinced that Taylor is all right by his 2-for-4 game with Harrisburg on Saturday night before activating him Sunday to take Harper's place. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

3. Houston Astros

Record: 72-45
Week 18 ranking: No. 2

While we wait and see what the Astros do about their problems on the mound and in the clubhouse, there are positives. Jose Altuve is cruising toward his fourth batting title (and a fourth straight 200-hit season) and leading the AL in WAR (6.5), while Alex Bregman is coming into his own at the plate in the second half, as his 1.036 OPS since the break ranks fifth in the AL. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

4. Boston Red Sox

Record: 67-50
Week 18 ranking: No. 5

The Red Sox are on fire. Eduardo Nunez has been amazing and Andrew Benintendi has been one of the best hitters in baseball after an extended slump. They keep winning despite the rotation struggling a bit lately as Rick Porcello's disappointing season continues, but Eduardo Rodríguez has shown signs that he can pick up the slack come playoff time. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

5. Cleveland Indians

Record: 63-52
Week 18 ranking: No. 4

With ongoing worries over Jason Kipnis' health added to Michael Brantley going to the DL, the Indians were wise to grab Jay Bruce from the Mets to reinforce a lineup that has yet to really hit on all cylinders. Until that happens, starting pitching has sustained the Indians' hold on first place in the AL Central, reflected in their AL-best 3.21 ERA since the break. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

6. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 65-52
Week 18 ranking: No. 6

Even with their cushion in the NL wild-card race, the Snakes should be relieved that Robbie Ray should soon rejoin the rotation. Paul Goldschmidt might not have a shot at a 30-30 season or a Triple Crown, but he's the NL WAR leader and should get significant support from voters come awards time. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

7. New York Yankees

Record: 61-55
Week 18 ranking: No. 7

In the first half, Aaron Judge hit .420 in at-bats ending on an upper-half fastball, while slugging .960 on those pitches. In the second half, he has hit .100 in at-bats ending on upper-half fastballs, with a .175 SLG. Sliders have been a problem too -- Judge has seen 137 sliders in the second half, has swung at 56 and missed 38. He has no hits and 20 outs against them. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

8. Colorado Rockies

Record: 65-52
Week 18 ranking: No. 9

Although Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado have been perhaps the only consistent bats in the Rockies' lineup, lately they've gotten significant boosts from Gerardo Parra (.965 OPS since the break) and Jonathan Lucroy (.938 as a Rockie since he was traded from Texas). Those two won't be their only surprise contributors down the stretch, though -- Chad Bettis takes his next step coming back from testicular cancer with his season debut on the mound Monday night. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

9. Chicago Cubs

Record: 61-55
Week 18 ranking: 8

Multiple problems seem to combine to keep bringing the Cubs back to the pack. Losing Willson Contreras cost them their hottest bat as he appeared on the cusp of turning Bryzzo into a trinity of greatness, but with Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber both hitting, the Cubs' offense still rates as top-tier. The greater worry is the pen, which is posting an MLB-worst walk rate since the break as well as 4.24 ERA that puts them in MLB's bottom 10 during that time. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

10. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 61-57
Week 18 ranking: No. 14

The Cardinals have shown that in a season of great parity, one long winning streak can turn a team from pretender to contender. It will be fascinating to watch if an offense that scored eight runs in six straight games can sustain excellence for an extended period of time. By the way, the last time the Cardinals scored eight or more in six straight was in 2011, when they won the World Series. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

11. Seattle Mariners

Record: 59-60
Week 18 ranking: No. 13

The Mariners dropped their first four games of a critical 10-game stretch against teams also jockeying for the second AL wild-card spot. Making matters worse, they suffered a major blow when James Paxton hit the DL with a pec strain; he owns the lowest ERA among AL starters since July 1 (1.92). Will their trades for rotation depth while Paxton, Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma recover keep them afloat? -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

12. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 59-60
Week 18 ranking: No. 11

Closer Alex Colome doesn't have the greatest numbers, but he has been vital to the Rays since early July. Colome has converted 12 of his past 13 save chances and has not allowed a hit in four August appearances. Effective work in closing out tight games will be essential in this playoff push. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

13. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 61-58
Week 18 ranking: No. 15

The Halos are 10-3 since the calendar flipped to August (with Mike Trout leading the way with his 1.270 OPS), vaulting themselves back into the thick of an increasingly wild American League wild-card picture. A resilient group, they've managed to win 36 games this season in come-from-behind fashion, including seven in August. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

14. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 58-60
Week 18 ranking: No. 16

If only Manny Machado could go back and play the first half the way he has in the second half. He's hitting .336 since the break with a .906 OPS. In the first half, he hit .230 with a .741 OPS. The Orioles have gotten themselves back into the race, too. They're 2½ games behind the Angels in the race for the second wild card. They have a lot of teams ahead of them, but they have their preseason projected MVP candidate playing like what was expected of him. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

15. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 58-60
Week 18 ranking: No. 17

Here's where the season makes or breaks for the Pirates. Their week consists of two games with the Brewers and four games at home with the Cardinals, followed by four more at home with the Dodgers. Can Andrew McCutchen carry the Pirates through? His slugging consistency has been impressive. He has had a season slugging percentage at .500 or above since July 4. But the Cardinals have held him in check; he's slugging only .303 against them. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

16. Minnesota Twins

Record: 59-57
Week 18 ranking: No. 20

Eddie Rosario has discovered his power stroke. He has 16 home runs this season, two more than he had in any of his two prior seasons of his career before 2017. His .503 slugging percentage would be a career high if it stays that high. He has a 18 percent hard-hit rate this season, which also would be a career best. And it isn't just luck -- his .332 BABIP would actually be a career low. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

17. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 61-59
Week 18 ranking: No. 10

The Brewers needed a walk-off wild pitch on Saturday to end a six-game losing streak, and they're just 11-18 since the break. The starting rotation was seventh in the majors in ERA in the first half, but is in the bottom half so far since the All-Star Game. And now their schedule is getting tough, with 12 of their next 17 games against teams over .500, so they're not about to catch many breaks. -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information

18. Kansas City Royals

Record: 59-58
Week 18 ranking: No. 12

The Royals have really struggled in August despite Melky Cabrera, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas all hitting well. The problem is that no one else on the team has been good. Setting aside their declining shot at catching the Indians in the AL Central, the Royals are still alive in the wild-card race, but they need to pick it up within the pack. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

19. Texas Rangers

Record: 56-60
Week 18 ranking: No. 18

Joey Gallo isn't just bidding to enter the history books as one of the most fearsome Three True Outcomes hitters of all time by homering, walking or whiffing in almost 59 percent of his plate appearances, he boasts an incredible ratio of homers to singles with 32 to 20 on the season. Put that man on a poster, because his power hitting captures the spirit of the season. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

20. Miami Marlins

Record: 56-60
Week 18 ranking: No. 19

Giancarlo Stanton can't be stopped. On Sunday he became the first player in 15 years to hit 21 home runs in a 33-game span -- a pace for 103 HRs if he played all 162 games. The Fish also have gotten some really good starting pitching while going 13-9 since they started a six-game road trip on July 21. With their next 13 games against the Giants, Mets, Phillies and Padres, they might be poised to make a move up in the rankings. -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information

21. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 56-61
Week 18 ranking: No. 22

Chris Rowley's major league debut could end up being a primary highlight of the Blue Jays' season. Rowley is the second player to play in the majors who played baseball at Army, and he's the first pitcher. And what did he do in his debut? He went 5⅓ innings, allowing one run and earning the win. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

22. New York Mets

Record: 53-62
Week 18 ranking: No. 23

The Mets have not gotten the value they were hoping for from Yoenis Cespedes this season, but there are signs that he is back to healthy. Cespedes went 21 games without a home run from June 24 to July 24, but he now has five in his past 17 games. A healthy Cespedes will be vital to the Mets' hopes in 2018. -- Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information

23. Detroit Tigers

Record: 53-64
Week 18 ranking: No. 21

Justin Upton has been great, as has Mikie Mahtook, but those are about the only things going right for the Tigers of late. Those two are their only regulars with an OPS over .800 in the second half. Every starting pitcher not named Justin Verlander has an ERA over 4.00 since the break. The good news is that if Verlander keeps pitching like he has (and the Astros keep losing games), Al Avila might be able to swing a deal to net Detroit some prospects. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

24. Atlanta Braves

Record: 52-63
Week 18 ranking: No. 24

Since sweeping the D-backs coming out of the break, the Braves are just 7-18 since, including going 0-6 against the Phillies. Perhaps the most important thing for the Braves the rest of the way will be the development of shortstop Dansby Swanson. He has struggled early on since being recalled from the minors this week. -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information

25. Oakland Athletics

Record: 52-66
Week 18 ranking: No. 25

Designated hitter Ryon Healy's slump at the plate may endanger his future in the A's new-look lineup. Since his OPS crested at .871 on June 17, he has put up an MLB-worst .562 OPS. Although he's just in his second season, hitting like that is not going to play at DH or first base. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

26. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 49-69
Week 18 ranking: No. 26

First baseman Joey Votto is enjoying another historic second half. He's on pace to become the third player to post a .500 OBP multiple times after the All-Star break (joining Barry Bonds and Ted Williams) after also doing so in 2015. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

27. San Diego Padres

Record: 51-66
Week 18 ranking: No. 27

Cory Spangenberg, Jose Pirela and Manuel Margot all have been great for the Padres in the second half, but that's just about all the good news San Diego has to offer fans. Wil Myers is the highest-paid player on the roster, and he ranks 10th on the team in WAR, and the big money in his $83 million contract extension hasn't even kicked in yet. -- Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information

28. San Francisco Giants

Record: 47-72
Week 18 ranking: No. 28

The Giants have hit five three-run home runs this season, the fewest in the majors. How few? The next fewest are twice the Giants' total: The Cardinals and Royals have 10 each. The first three of the Giants' three-run home runs all came on the road, and they hadn't hit one at home until Aug. 3, when pitcher Ty Blach did. Just a few days later, Buster Posey followed up with another. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

29. Chicago White Sox

Record: 45-70
Week 18 ranking: No. 29

Bring on the youth movement. Yoan Moncada enjoyed a seven-game hit streak from Aug. 4-11, raising his batting average from .100 to .215 after a slow start. Pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez had a strong White Sox debut on Friday, striking out six while allowing two runs in six innings of work. He sported an explosive fastball, ranging from 94-98 mph. -- Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information

30. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 43-72
Week 18 ranking: No. 30

This Phillies' season is all about youth, and Aaron Nola continues to shine. He has a 1.71 ERA in his past 10 starts, allowing two runs or fewer in all 10. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that's the longest streak by a Phillies starter since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893. And Odubel Herrera has been on fire since the beginning of June -- he's top 10 in the majors in batting average (.342) and top 20 in OPS (.966). -- John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information