No joke: Rays climbing the ladder

Updated: July 29, 2013, 11:13 AM ET
Week:

ESPN.com

The Tampa Bay Rays -- 7-2 to begin the second half -- haven't reached the top of our Power Rankings yet (they come in at No. 2 this week), but in a short time maybe they will.

Despite being swept by the Atlanta Braves this past weekend, the St. Louis Cardinals remain in the top spot for the third straight week in Week 18 of our rankings.

The Pittsburgh Pirates move up a spot to No. 3, while the Boston Red Sox drop two to No 4. The Oakland A's (No. 5) round out the top five.

This week's voters were Jim Bowden of ESPN Insider, Tim Kurkjian of ESPN The Magazine and Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Most of the team comments come courtesy of the fan bloggers on the SweetSpot Blog Network. Which teams do you think should be among baseball's top five? Go ahead and rank the teams yourself.

Tell us what you think about the Power Rankings. Use the hashtag #ESPNMLBPOWER.

2013 Power Rankings: July 29
RANKTEAM / RECORD TRENDINGCOMMENTS
1
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Last Week: 1
The Cardinals lost three straight to the Braves, but welcomed Matt Holliday back from the DL. The pitching staff still boasts an MLB-best 3.23 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). -- Matt Philip, Fungoes
2
Rays
62-43
1
Last Week: 3
Continuing their tour of the AL East, the Rays went 4-2 against the Red Sox and Yankees. They briefly grabbed first place over the weekend, but now stand a half game behind the Red Sox. They head to Boston to play a makeup game on Monday with David Price on the mound and a chance to end the 10-game road trip on top of the division. -- Tommy Rancel, The Process Report
3
Pirates
61-42
1
Last Week: 4
Is it hyperbole to say that the upcoming 11-game homestand is the biggest in the last 20 years for Pittsburgh? Five against the front-running Cardinals, then three each versus the beatable Rockies and Marlins. Still no sign of any help at first or in right field via trade. -- Diane Firstman, Value Over Replacement Grit
4
Red Sox
63-43
2
Last Week: 2
Since going on a tear earlier in the season, Jose Iglesias has come crashing to earth this month, posting a putrid .211/.256/.224 mark. His .013 ISO (Isolated Power) is ambitiously bad. While there isn't much in the way of an upgrade available on the trade market, the Red Sox may call up Xander Bogaerts sooner than thought, as he's posted a solid .266/.374/.475 mark in 163 PAs at Triple-A Pawtucket. -- Hunter Golden, Fire Brand of the AL
5
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Last Week: 5
The A's pitching staff is extremely fly-ball oriented, which is typically a no-no, but their friendly ballpark and very good outfield defenders have helped them post the best ERA in the American League. -- Jason Wojciechowski, Beaneball
6
Braves
60-45
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Last Week: 6
Since undergoing Tommy John surgery more than 13 months ago, Brandon Beachy will make his first start for the Braves on Monday against the Rockies. The Braves hope Beachy will step in and assume the rotation spot previously occupied by the injured Tim Hudson. -- ESPN.com
7
Tigers
59-45
2
Last Week: 9
The Tigers have won seven of their last eight and their fifth starter, Rick Porcello, has a 1.35 ERA over 20 innings in July, where he's won his last four starts. GM Dave Dombrowski got experienced relief help this morning in the form of Jose Veras from the Astros. -- Ryan Callery, Walkoff Woodward
8
Reds
59-47
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Last Week: 8
Aroldis Chapman has pitched exactly one inning in Cincinnati's last nine games. Five times this season, the Reds have lost in extra innings with Chapman never throwing a pitch. Dusty Baker's continued failure to use his greatest asset in high-leverage situations is baffling. -- Chad Dotson, Redleg Nation
9
Dodgers
56-48
2
Last Week: 11
Yasiel Puig is heating up again, hitting .435 over his past six games, including Sunday's 11th-inning walk-off home run. The home run came off a changeup, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, it was his sixth homer off an off-speed pitch on the outer half of the plate since his recall from the minors, tied for the most in the majors. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
10
Orioles
58-48
3
Last Week: 7
The Orioles' major steps into the trade market (i.e., Scott Feldman and Francisco Rodriguez) have seemed more important than they have wound up being so far. They're only five games back in the AL East, but they need someone to step up. -- Jon Shepherd, Camden Depot
11
Rangers
56-49
1
Last Week: 10
The Rangers have lost 12 of 15 and are now six games out of first place -- the furthest out of first they've been since the end of the 2009 season. The good news: Matt Garza pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings (against the Yankees) in his Rangers debut. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
12
Indians
56-48
--

Last Week: 12
After a rough road trip, which saw the Indians make nine errors in six games, they swept the Rangers and shut them out in two of three games. Michael Bourn has been on fire since the All-Star break -- he's hitting .296 with a .962 OPS, two home runs and 10 RBIs. -- Stephanie Liscio, It's Pronounced Lajaway
13
1
Last Week: 14
The Diamondbacks failed to take advantage of a soft spot in the schedule, going 7-7 against the Brewers, Giants, Cubs and Padres. Now 20 of their next 23 games are against the Rays, Red Sox, Orioles, Pirates and Reds. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
14
Yankees
55-50
1
Last Week: 13
Why Alex Rodriguez could actually help: Yankees third basemen have combined to hit .217/.276/.288 with four home runs and 30 RBIs. Seven different players have started a game there this season. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
15
Royals
51-51
3
Last Week: 18
Ride the K.C. roller coaster! The Royals' victory Sunday gives them their second six-game winning streak to go along with an eight-game losing streak, all in the last 60 games. They're still five back in the AL wild-card race, but continue their soft road trip this week against the Twins and Mets. -- Diane Firstman, Value Over Replacement Grit
16
Rockies
51-55
3
Last Week: 19
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Rockies had a chance to gain ground in the NL West with a 10-game homestand against the lowly Cubs, Marlins and Brewers. They went 5-5, losing ground to the Dodgers. The culprit has been an inept offense that has the NL's third lowest run total in the month of July. -- Logan Burdine, Blake Street Bulletin
17
2
Last Week: 15
Jordan Zimmermann's rough July got worse on Friday when he allowed five runs to raise his monthly ERA to 7.18. But in the next three games, Ross Ohlendorf, Dan Haren, Taylor Jordan and the Nats bullpen allowed only three runs. Will a strong finish by the back end of the rotation keep the Nats' hopes alive? -- Harper Gordek, Nats Baseball
18
2
Last Week: 16
After rolling up the Mets in the first game back from the break, the Phillies have lost eight in a row by a combined score of 52-14. It's time for Ruben Amaro to cut his losses and make a serious attempt at rebuilding, but will he, and what will those losses be? -- Michael Baumann, Crashburn Alley
19
3
Last Week: 22
Since Brad Miller was recalled on June 28, Mariners infielders are tied for second in home runs in the majors (19, one behind Detroit), are fourth in RBIs and second in OPS (.826, behind Detroit's .829). Kyle Seager's .384 average in July is second in the majors to Victor Martinez's .385 mark. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
20
Angels
48-55
3
Last Week: 17
After losing three of four to Oakland, the Angels are now seven games below .500 and 12 games back in the AL West. Looks like it's time for Jerry Dipoto & Co. to sell off tradable assets and build toward 2014 and beyond. -- Hudson Belinsky, Halos Daily
21
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Last Week: 21
Off the heels of another sub .500 week (3-4), the Jays now hit the road for six tough games versus AL West opponents, the A's and Angels. -- Matthias Koster, Mop-up Duty
22
Mets
46-56
2
Last Week: 24
Since June 5, David Wright is hitting .340 (64-for-188) with 28 runs scored, 14 doubles, 8 home runs and 21 RBIs, and he leads baseball with 58 hits since June 12. His next home run will be No. 220 for his career and tie him with Mike Piazza for second place on the Mets' all-time list (Darryl Strawberry is first with 252). -- Joe Janish, Mets Today
23
Cubs
48-55
--

Last Week: 23
The Cubs have posted a .545 winning percentage since May 26, which trails only the Dodgers, Cardinals and Pirates in the NL. -- Joe Aiello, The View From The Bleachers
24
Giants
46-58
4
Last Week: 20
The Giants allowed six runs in three games to the Cubs -- and got swept at home. It's time to sell, but outside of Hunter Pence -- whom the Giants may want to re-sign -- there isn't much to sell. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
25
Padres
48-58
--

Last Week: 25
Since returning from the DL on July 12, rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko is hitting .093 (4-for-43) with no extra-base hits, no walks and one RBI. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
26
Twins
45-57
--

Last Week: 26
More likely than not, longtime fixture and impending free agent Justin Morneau will be traded this week, but a .180 average in the month of July isn't going to help the Twins get anything useful in return. -- Nick Nelson, Twins Daily
27
Brewers
43-61
--

Last Week: 27
Jonathan Lucroy has put up big numbers in July -- a .347 batting average with seven home runs and a 1.102 OPS in 75 at-bats. -- ESPN.com
28
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Last Week: 28
Chris Sale is 6-10 despite his 2.69 ERA. He's second among AL pitchers in WAR (5.2). In his six wins, he's allowed a total of seven runs. After losing 1-0 on Saturday, he now has two losses and a no-decision when allowing one run. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot
29
Marlins
40-63
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Last Week: 29
The Marlins scored only 22 runs in their seven-game work week, but it was good enough to go 5-2 with all five games won by two runs or less. Jose Fernandez continues to impress, with a 2-0 week featuring 23 strikeouts and only 10 hits allowed in 15 innings pitched. -- Diane Firstman, Value Over Replacement Grit
30
Astros
35-69
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Last Week: 30
The Astros haven't won two games in a row since June 15 and 16 and are 6-22 in their past 28 games. They now have a winning percentage worse than 2011 or 2012 and appear likely to become the first team since the 2004-06 Royals to lose 100 games three years in a row. -- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot

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