We are just a little over a month away from the end of the 2021 MLB regular season, and things are starting to heat up all around the league. We had a couple of rivalries renewed with playoff implications, some Top 10 teams squaring off against each other, and a new team entering the Top 10 after a full slate of games to cap off a big week.
1 San Francisco Giants
- Ranking Last Week: 1
- Record: 80-44
- Record Last Week: 4-2
It took everything that I had to not put the Dodgers at #1 this week, but I come out feeling very impressed by what I saw from the Giants as well. They played an incredibly entertaining series with their Bay-Area rival Oakland A’s that once again saw Manager Gabe Kapler pull the perfect strings, with LaMonte Wade Jr. hitting a pinch hit HR in the Top of the 9th inning steal a 6-5 win. That was the 13th HR hit by a pinch hitter selected by Gabe Kapler in 2021.
No other Manager has more than 8.
The Giants may not have had a better week than the Dodgers in terms of win/loss, but I learned a lot more about the Giants than I did about the Dodgers. This team is resilient, and is the perfect blend of young talent and veterans that have been here before. They started off the week taking 2 out of 3 at home vs a desperate New York Mets team, before taking 2 out of 3 with their crosstown rivals to close it out. 4-2 is nothing to scoff at, and it is enough to keep them in the top spot for the time being.
The Giants will once again take on the New York Mets this week for 3 games at Citi Field before taking on another NL East team in the Atlanta Braves. Any time a team takes a trip across the country it is going to be a tough series, and it will be interesting to see how the Giants do against two team that have struggled but are still in a playoff race.
2 Los Angeles Dodgers
- Ranking Last Week: 2
- Record: 78-47
- Record This Week: 6-1
The Dodgers team we have all been waiting for has finally arrived.
A 9 game winning streak came to an end on Sunday afternoon, but Los Angeles is not going away anytime soon. If the Giants were to have slipped up in one of their series, the top spot probably would belong to the Dodgers. Trea Turner and Max Scherzer have filled in perfectly since they were acquired from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline, and even Albert Pujols has been giving the team some offense. They are slowly starting to get healthy, and have put together one of the deepest lineups in the game.
Fernando Tatis Jr. and Bryce Harper are getting all of the noise in the NL MVP conversation, but Max Muncy has as good of a case as anyone.
Max Muncy – Los Angeles Dodgers (28) pic.twitter.com/cHPZCCx4Gr— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) August 19, 2021
An infield of Max Muncy, Trea Turner, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner is a nightmare for opposing pitchers. That’s not even mentioning the two former MVP’s in their outfield in Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger. They swept a 4-game series with the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates in Los Angeles to start the week. Good teams win the games they’re supposed to win (looking at you, Phillies). They followed that up with taking 2 out of 3 vs the Mets to put up a very impressive 6-1 week. If they continue to play like this, the top spot will be theirs sooner rather than later.
The Dodgers will travel to San Diego to begin their week, and play a Padres team that has found themselves on the outside looking in for the postseason as they have really been struggling with injuries in their rotation and poor offense. After 3 in San Diego to start the week on Tuesday, the Dodgers will come back home to take on their NL West rival Colorado Rockies for 3 games.
3 Tampa Bay Rays
- Ranking Last Week: 4
- Record: 77-48
- Record This Week: 6-1
The Tampa Bay Rays are once again playing like the best team in the American League.
Even with the New York Yankees playing the way they have been lately, the Rays haven’t skipped a beat. Chris Archer was injured on Sunday and Nelson Cruz was put on the COVID IL, but other than that, it was a very successful week in Tampa Bay. For a team that has been known in the past to rely on pitching and defense, they trail only the Houston Astros in the American League in runs scored. While no one on their team has a batting average over .276 or an OPS over .863, they are able to have everyone do their part and work as a team to produce runs.
As I mentioned with the Dodgers (and not the Phillies), the elite teams in this league win the games they play against the worst of the worst. Even though the Orioles came in on a massive losing streak, Tampa Bay winning all 4 of the games is still taking care of business. Those trap games can be dangerous. They had a big series with the Chicago White Sox afterwards, and lost the first game before taking the final two. I said last week this was going to be a “measuring stick” type of series for both teams, and the Rays defended their home turf to win a series against a fellow divisional leader.
The Rays will head to Philadelphia for a rematch of the 2008 World Series as these teams will play a 2-game set. They will only play 5 games this week, and they will get those very same Baltimore Orioles for 3 games to end the weekend. The Rays could very well find themselves holding off Houston for this #3 spot once again next week.
4 Houston Astros
- Ranking Last Week: 3
- Record: 73-51
- Record This Week: 3-4
I should have said “spoiler alert” for that last one, my apologies. The Astros scared me a little bit with their performance this week, but not enough for me to drop them lower than one spot. Houston will soon get Alex Bregman back from injury, making their top ranked offense even more lethal. The Dodgers have the deepest lineup in the league, but the Astros may have the most firepower.
Houston had a rough showing in Kansas City, dropping 3 out of 4 games to start the week. I have seen a lot of Astros fans complain that their team plays down to competition and doesn’t show up unless the stakes are higher. That theory seemed to check out later in the week as they destroyed the Seattle Mariners for the first two games of their 3-game series before dropping the final game.
The Astros will get another crack at Kansas City for 3 games in Houston to start off the week, before traveling across Texas to take on the Rangers. If the Astros again play down to their competition, this could become a very interesting AL West race with them and the Oakland A’s. For the time being, the Astros talent keeps them this high.
5 Chicago White Sox
- Ranking Last Week: 5
- Record: 72-53
- Record This Week: 4-3
I had said in my last article that this could be a “measuring stick” type of week for Chicago, and I think it pretty much confirmed what I had been thinking going into it. The White Sox may beat up on a division that has really struggled this year, but they can handle their own in matchups with other AL playoff contenders.
The White Sox might not be on Tampa Bay’s level yet, but they are right on the cusp.
The White Sox started the week with a very impressive showing vs a playoff contending Oakland A’s team. They took the first 3 games of the series before dropping the final one. They won the first game of their series in Tampa Bay against the Rays, but were unable to capitalize on that momentum as they dropped the final two.
Chicago has a 4-game series coming up with the Toronto Blue Jays, who have lost 7 of their last 10 games. The series will be in Toronto, but this is a series the White Sox have to win if they want to move up in these rankings. They’ll end the week with their crosstown rival Cubs, who they swept a few weeks back.
6 Milwaukee Brewers
- Ranking Last Week: 6
- Record: 76-49
- Record This Week: 4-2
Even though the Cincinnati Reds have been heating up lately, the Brewers still hold a 7.5 game lead in the NL Central. Eduardo Escobar was injured over the weekend, but the Brewers have the depth to be able to overcome the loss for the time being. Kolton Wong had a big week, and even stole a bag of former teammate Yadier Molina.
The Brewers started off their week taking 2 out of 3 against their division rival St. Louis Cardinals, before taking 2 out of 3 against the Washington Nationals to end the week. Christian Yelich has showed some signs of life lately, and if he is able to come even close to his MVP form in 2018, this team can be even more dangerous than they already are.
The Dodgers and the Giants get all of the hype in the National League, but the Brewers are a team that is built to perform in October.
The Brewers host the Reds to start the week off, who now sit in the final Wild Card spot in the National League. After 3 against the Reds, they will travel to Minnesota to take on the Twins. If the Brewers are able to dominate a scorching hot Reds team and take care of business against the Twins, they could very well crack the Top 5 next week.
7 New York Yankees
- Ranking Last Week: 9
- Record: 72-52
- Record Last Week: 6-0
That was about as picture perfect of a week that you could ask for in the Bronx. The team is finally coming together getting contributions from everywhere including Luke Voit and Andrew Velazquez. This team believed in the pieces they had at the trade deadline, and it’s starting to look like a smart move as Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo have brought their bats with them.
After having to endure the trash talk of Boston Red Sox fans all season long, the Yankees flipped the script earlier in the week with a 3-game sweep to erase 10.5 game lead that Boston had built up in under 2 months. New York won their 7th, 8th, and 9th games in a row against the Minnesota Twins to wrap up the week. Their Sunday game was postponed due to Hurricane Henri, so their quest for 10 in a row will have to wait.
They play another team that is also on fire in the Atlanta Braves for 2 games in Atlanta to start the week. The old phrase “when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object” describes my thoughts on this matchup. It really is a shame it’s only 2 games, I would have loved to see more. The Yankees will continue their road trip by flying across the country to take on the Oakland A’s, who could very well find themselves in a Wild Card game with the Yankees.
8 Atlanta Braves
- Ranking Last Week: 10
- Record: 68-56
- Record Last Week: 6-0
Speaking of those Atlanta Braves, they have gone on quite a nice little run of their own. Simply put, they may never lose again.
Austin Riley and Freddie Freeman both have entered the MVP conversation with their recent hot streaks, and the Braves are playing their best baseball of the season. They have came out of nowhere to expand their division lead to 5 games over the Phillies and Mets, with no signs of slowing down.
Their quality of opponents was not very high this week, but they still ran the table nonetheless. They handled the Marlins rather easily in Miami before winning 3 close games in Baltimore against the Orioles. For a team that has been dealt crushing blow after crushing blow with injuries, their pitching staff has really stepped up in the meantime.
As mentioned above, the Braves will take on the Yankees to kick off the week. I don’t really have anything more to say besides what I said up there, but from a Braves perspective, this is a good test to see how they compare against some better talent.
9 Oakland A’s
- Ranking Last Week: 7
- Record: 70-55
- Record This Week: 2-5
I said going into last week, one way or another, I felt like the Oakland A’s would not be at the #7 spot after this week. They had to take on two teams that were in my Top 5 in the rankings, and how they responded to that would dictate their future. They had a very scary situation against the White Sox after star pitcher Chris Bassitt was hit in the face by a line drive, but it appears that he is going to be ok. They recently recalled Stephen Piscotty from the IL to help bolster their lineup as well.
The A’s had the chance to make a statement this weekend after losing 3 out of 4 against the White Sox, but they lost a heartbreaking game against the Giants (thanks to LaMonte Wade Jr.) and fell two spots in the rankings after losing both of their series.
They now find themselves right in the thick of a Wild Card race with the Red Sox and Yankees, and they need to perform against the top teams to stay afloat. They are not out of the AL West race by any means, but the Astros aren’t going to let that up easily.
Their schedule doesn’t get any easier as they start off with 2 games against the Seattle Mariners, who only trail them by 3 games in the Wild Card race. 4 games against the New York Yankees follows that up, and we could have a much different looking Wild Card race at this time next week depending on how that goes.
10 Cincinnati Reds
- Ranking Last Week: N/A
- Record: 69-57
- Record Last Week: 5-2
The Boston Red Sox have been playing horrible baseball, and their season is slowly starting to slip away.
The Reds on the other hand are trending in the opposite direction. Joey Votto has sneakily entered in the MVP race, and Cincinnati currently occupies the final Wild Card spot in the National League. They are going to have to throughly dominate the Milwaukee Brewers in their head to head matchups in order to catch up to them in the NL Central race. With the Padres really struggling, that playoff spot may be the Reds to lose.
The Reds did not have the series they wanted against the Chicago Cubs to begin the week, but they rebounded nicely taking all 4 games from the Miami Marlins. It isn’t a secret that Cincinnati is an offense first team, but their rotation has been better than expected to help them become a more complete team. Wade Miley has a no-hitter under his belt this season and a 2.88 ERA to go with it. Every starter has an ERA under 4.36, which doesn’t sound remarkable on the surface. When you consider how powerful the Reds offense is, they really just need their pitching to be consistently average on a nightly basis to put them in a position to win.
They will get things started with a highly anticipated matchup against the Brewers. If the Reds want to have any chance at sneaking back into the NL Central race, it starts on Tuesday in Milwaukee. They will continue their road trip by facing the Marlins once again, this time in Miami. The Reds will likely not catch the Dodgers for the #1 Wild Card as they are 9.5 games back, but only the Padres are within 1 game of them for the final Wild Card spot. I trust them over the Padres given what I’ve seen from them lately.