Technically, Week 5 in August could also be construed as Week 1 in September. Not that it matters when it comes to the National League Pennant and the American League Pennant races. In the American League, the big news is that the Houston Astros suddenly appear more than beatable.
Houston only has a 5 game lead over Cleveland for the top seed in the AL Playoffs. Boston is behind the Stros by only 5.5 games. Houston just hasn’t been the same since the All-Star Break. The city itself is underwater due to Hurricane Harvey. Although sports are meaningless in the wake of something like Harvey, the hurricane could have an affect on the Astros chances to get to the World Series.
Check out my MLB Power Rankings for the final few days in August.
2017 August Week 5 Power Rankings
American League – Top 5
1. Houston Astros 79-51
Before Hurricane Harvey decimated the city, the Stros had gone 1 and 2 versus Washington at home in a 3-game series. Houston then traveled to Los Angeles to battle the Angels. The Stros beat the Angels, a team fighting for the 5th seed in the AL Playoffs, in 2 out of 3 games.
The key for Houston is to remain composed. They’ve got a 3-game home set versus Texas starting on Tuesday, August 29. Since there’s no way for Houston to play its games on its own field, the Stros battle Texas at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.
At this point, just showing up and playing hard would make the series a success. If Houston does one better and either beats Texas in 2 out of 3, or sweeps the Rangers, the Astros could take that momentum forward and into the playoffs.
The series versus Texas in St. Petersburg is an important one for the top seeded Houston Astros.
2. Cleveland Indians 74-56
Going 1 and 2 against the Boston Red Sox earlier last week is the bad news. Thumping Kansas City 3 games to 0 to end the week is the good news. On Monday, August 28, the Tribe beat the Yankees 6 to 2. It was a terrific performance.
Now that Cleveland has leapfrogged Boston in the American League pecking order, MLB fans should expect the Tribe to keep fighting. Cleveland appears poised for another trip to the World Series.
3. Boston Red Sox 74-57
Boston’s lead over the Yankees in the AL East is a tenuous 3.5 games. The Red Sox beat the teams that they should beat. They lose to the teams that they shouldn’t lose to. The Red Sox beat Cleveland in 2 out of 3.
What happened after that? The Baltimore Orioles beat them in 3 straight games. There was only 1 game during the series where the score was close. Game 1 finished 16 to 3. Game 2 finished 7 to 0. Boston kept the third game in the series close when losing 1 to 2.
Overall, it was a horrible performance by the Red Sox. At 66 and 65, Baltimore is only 1 game above .500. Boston should handle teams like the Orioles with ease. But the Red Sox aren’t.
4. New York Yankees 70-60
Sonny Gray hasn’t allowed more than 2 earned runs in a single start in pinstripes. But, New York is 2 and 3 straight up in the 5 games Sonny has started. On Monday, the Yankees lost 2 to 6 to Cleveland with their other ace, Luis Severino, on the mound.
Severino allowed 3 earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched. The Yankee bats must come to life every time Gray or Severino steps to the mound. That’s the best chance for NYY to turn a wildcard berth into a possible World Series run.
5. Minnesota Twins 67-63
Minnesota hasn’t run away with the 5th seed in the American League Playoffs. Kansas City is at 64 and 66. The L.A. Angels are at 67 and 65. What Minnesota has done is keep their lead in the rush to the playoffs.
That, by itself, is impressive. I projected the Twins to fall apart after the All-Star Break. My thinking was that ace Ervin Santana couldn’t keep up his torrid pace.
Santana has been more than effective in his last 5 starts. He allowed 3 earned runs to the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 18. He didn’t allow more than 2 earned runs while pitching at least 6 innings in 3 of the 4 games. Santana’s consistency is why Minnesota is close to locking up a playoff berth.
National League – Top 5
1. Los Angeles Dodgers 91-38
Baseball is a streaky game. Within a week a team can go from winning 6 straight to losing 6 straight. The Dodgers had won 22 consecutive series before dropping 2 out of 3 to the Milwaukee Brewers from Friday, August 25 to Sunday, August 27.
The reason I bring it up is because on Tuesday, August 29, the Dodgers battle NL West Division foe Arizona in a 3-game series. Should the Dodgers fail to live up to their now ridiculous expectations, who knows? Perhaps, the mighty team from La-La Land has hit a bad streak at the wrong time?
That’s baseball. You don’t know the bad streak has arrived until it’s arrived.
2. Washington Nationals 79-51
Ace Max Scherzer recorded his 230th strikeout of the season this past Monday on August 29. The reason that’s important is because Scherzer is one of only 8 pitchers in the history of MLB to have struck out 230 batters before his 25th start of a season.
The list includes Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, and Chris Sale. Sale completed the feat this season. Ryan, Pedro, and the Big Unit completed the feat 3 times.
Scherzer isn’t the only ace in Washington’s starting rotation. Gio Gonzalez has been consistently great. Stephen Strasburg has allowed 2 earned runs while striking out 15 in his 12 innings pitched since coming off the DL.
3. Chicago Cubs 70-60
Chicago is 10 games above .500 as of Tuesday, August 29. They haven’t totally separated from the Milwaukee Brewers or St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central Standings. Milwaukee is only 2.5 games behind the Cubbies while St. Louis is only 5 games behind the defending World Series champs.
What’s wrong with Chicago? Like Boston in the AL, the Cubs have trouble beating teams they’re supposed to beat. Philadelphia dropped two L’s on the Cubbies in 3 games last week. Chicago lost 1 to 7 and 3 to 6.
The Cubs had better get it together soon. The final game of the MLB Regular Season is October 1.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks 73-58
Arizona has won 6 out of their last 7 games. That’s why the D’Backs are ahead of Colorado in the NL Playoff seedings. Can Arizona keep it going? Big question. If the D’Backs do end up beating the Dodgers in 2 out of 3 this week, fans in L.A. might have to worry.
Arizona has the requisite two aces, Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, to go along with a decent bullpen. Not only that, but Arizona’s batting line-up averages 4.84 runs per game. Zona appears to be surging at the right time of the season.
That could be bad news for the rest of the squads in the National League. Like I wrote above, it doesn’t take much for winners to become losers in Major League Baseball. Plus, AZ got their losing attitude out of the way. It happened right after the 2017 MLB All-Star Game.
5. Colorado Rockies 71-60
The Rockies are 3 and 2 straight up in their last 5. That’s not bad. Unfortunately, before that the Rockies had gone 1 and 5 in their previous 6 games. Colorado is still ahead of their closest competition for the 5th seed in the NL Playoffs by a healthy margin.
What the Rockies must do is either find a third pitcher after Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland. Third starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela hasn’t thrown well in his last 4 starts. Senzatela pitched 3.2 innings on August 28. He allowed 4 earned runs off 6 hits in only 3.2 innings pitched. He walked 3 and struck out 2. His ERA was 4.68. The Rockies lost to Detroit 3 to 4.
On August 23, Senzatela allowed 2 earned runs off 9 hits in 5 innings. Kansas City beat Colorado 6 to 4. He only pitched 2 innings against Atlanta on August 17. He struck out 2. But, his relief efforts didn’t matter much because the Braves beat the Rockies 10 to 4.
Colorado’s scrambling for that third starter before the NL Playoffs. They had better quickly find the guy.