Even though they have shut down their best pitcher for the rest of the season, the Washington Nationals cling to top spot in the TSN.ca MLB Power Rankings, a spot they have held since early August.
It has been three weeks since the previous rankings update with a late summer vacation, followed by a frenzied week of NFL football coverage intervening, and while there were some changes, the team at the top has remained the same.
However, even with the league's best record, the Nationals are quite vulnerable in their position now that they don't have Strasburg. The Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A's and Tampa Bay Rays are all closing the gap, with each team getting lineup boosts in recent weeks.
For the Reds, they get first baseman Joey Votto back for the first time since mid-July. The Reds played at a high level without Votto, but his elite offensive production raises the bar for what they might achieve.
Oakland has lost a couple of starting pitchers recently, with Bartolo Colon getting suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs and Brandon McCarthy hospitalized with a fractured skull after he was struck by a line drive, yet the A's have been relentless; thanks, in part, to the contributions of returning ace Brett Anderson and rookie A.J. Griffin.
Tampa Bay's pitching has been their strength throughout the season and they are obviously stronger when staff ace David Price is available, but young righthander Chris Archer was an effective alternative when Price had to skip his last start.
Among the big climbers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have won 15 of 18 and jumped from 14 to five; the San Diego Padres have won 14 of 19 and moved from 24 to 17; and the Milwaukee Brewers have won 15 of their last 20 to go from 22 to 18.
Heading in the wrong direction, the Atlanta Braves have slipped from two to eight. While they have won five in a row, that only moves them to 15-13 in their last 28.
The Los Angeles Dodgers thought they were loading up for the postseason, but have struggled and drop from four to 13; the Chicago White Sox have four wins in their last 13 games, yet still lead the AL Central, but they dropped from nine to 14.
Losers of 11 of their last 12, the Boston Red Sox have slipped down to 25, a terrible ranking for a terrible season.