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MLB Power Rankings: Are the Red Sox finally showing signs of vulnerability?

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Maybe it was our fault. Last week in our MLB Power Rankings we wrote that the Boston Red Sox hadn’t lost a series since the start of July. And that was true — they’d been Teflon this summer.

And then this past week happened. The Red Sox — the team with the best record in baseball, the team that recently had about a 10-game lead over the rival Yankees — looked about as beatable as they had been all season. The split a series with the Indians, which no biggie, Cleveland is good. Then they got swept by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Yeah, so about that July thing.

The Red Sox still sit atop our rankings, because it makes more than a series sweep to negate all the winning they’ve been doing this year. But the Yankees, Cubs and Astros all have a clearer view at the throne right now. The Red Sox looked vulnerable for the first time in a long time — even if it was just for a week. Either way, they should be fun to watch as we enter September.

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Elsewhere in our Power Rankings this week: The St. Louis Cardinals continue their climb, the Philadelphia Phillies take a couple steps down and the National League remains crowded.

Boston Red Sox’s Eduardo Nunez reacts as he is doused with water after reaching first on a throwing error, driving in J.D. Martinez and breaking a 7-7 tie, during the bottom of the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins at Fenway Park in Boston, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018. (AP Photo)

1. Red Sox (91-42; last week: 1)
There’s no reason to worry about Boston’s postseason hopes, but their overall spot as the No. 1 team in baseball looks shakier than it has in quite some time. Scoring only five runs in their three consecutive losses to the Rays was a troubling sign for baseball’s top offense. Perhaps Tuesday night’s walk-off win will right the ship.

2. Yankees (84-48; last week: 2)
The Yankees made up some room on the Red Sox by sweeping the Orioles, which seems like a given — but the Orioles had actually played the Yankees tough all year, so the Yankees getting the sweep is a good sign for them. They pulled off a comeback win Tuesday night against the White Sox too.

3. Astros (81-51; last week: 3)
The Astros, perhaps feeling the pressure from the A’s, rattled off six straight wins against the Mariners, Angels and A’s before dropping one to Oakland on Tuesday night. They’ve opened up a bigger lead in the AL West, but this is far from over.

4. Cubs (77-53; last week: 5)
Speaking of streaks: The Cubs also won six in a row against the Tigers, Red and Mets, before Tuesday night, when their game against the Mets was suspended in the 10th inning after a rain delay. With the Cardinals surging behind them in the NL Central, it was a well-timed winning streak for the Cubs, who can’t let their foot off the gas just yet.

5. A’s (80-53; last week: 4)
The A’s are still within striking distance in the AL West, but the path has gotten tougher in the past couple days. They lost two starting pitchers to injury — ace Sean Manaea and Brett Anderson, who has been quite good lately. These A’s have found a way to win despite pitching injuries all season. If they can pull this off, it would be their most amazing feat yet.

6. Indians (75-56; last week: 6)
The Indians aren’t running nose-to-nose with the other AL horses this season, but they may not need to. Cleveland has spent the last couple months working out its issues and morphing into the team we’d thought they’d be. They split a series with the Red Sox last week and are having their best month of the season. They’ll be dangerous come October.

7. Cardinals (74-58; last week: 11)
What a turnaround in St. Louis. In August, the Cardinals have the most wins in MLB and rejuvenated their season under Mike Shildt, who replaced Mike Matheny and was rewarded Tuesday by dropping his interim status as manager. They’ve won nine straight series and look every bit like a wild-card team.

8. Mariners (74-58; last week: 7)
As strong as they’ve been at times this season, the Mariners seem like the odd team out in the American League. If the A’s fall apart, Seattle could swoop in and break the longest playoff drought in all of sports. But right now, Fangraphs pegs their playoff chances at 17.8 percent.

9. Braves (74-57; last week: 8)
The Braves have been quite streaky the past few weeks. First, they won five straight, then lost four straight, then won four straight, then lost two straight. Tuesday night, they got back to their winning ways. They’re looking like a pretty good postseason bet, so they should try to align their winning streak accordingly.

10. D-backs (72-60; last week: 9)
The D-backs sit atop the NL West, but it’s currently the tightest division in all of baseball. They haven’t been amazing this summer, but consistent enough to keep the division lead while the Rockies and Dodgers (we’ll get to them shortly) go through their ups and downs. They’re 12-11 this month after going 13-13 last month, it’s not spectacular, but in the weird NL West, it’s getting the job done.

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson (L) high fives Brian Dozier after scoring against the Texas Rangers in the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo)

11. Brewers (73-60; last week: 10)
12. Rockies (72-60; last week: 13)
13. Dodgers (71-61; last week: 14)
14. Phillies (70-62; last week: 12)
Have we told you the NL playoff picture is madness lately? You’re right. We droned on about it last week too. These four continue to jostle for position — even the Braves and D-backs are in that group. The Dodgers, after a dive deeper into the standings, have won four in a row and are trying to get past the equally up-and-down Rockies. Both the Phillies and Brewers are trying to rebound from similarly up-and-down Augusts.

15. Rays (70-62; last week: 16)
The Rays seem to think they can make a run at the postseason. They’re 9.5 games out, so it’s not impossible, but it’s not terribly likely either. The A’s or Mariners would have to have an all-time bad September for that to happen. Either way, the Rays being close at the start of September is a testament to their oddly successful season.

16. Pirates (64-68; last week: 15)
17. Giants (67-67; last week: 18)
18. Nats (67-66; last week: 19)
19. Angels (64-69; last week: 17)
With the playoff hopes all but dashed, these four are hovering around .500, hoping to end up on the right side of that mark by the end of the month. It’ll also be interesting to see if any of them pull off a deal before the Aug. 31 deadline. The Giants and Nats (Andrew McCutchen? Gio Gonzalez?) in particular could have a trade in them.

20. Twins (61-70; last week: 20)
21. Blue Jays (60-72; last week: 21)
22. Mets (58-73; last week: 24)
23. Rangers (58-75; last week: 22)
24. Reds (56-75; last week: 23)
25. Tigers (53-78; last week: 25)
26. Marlins (53-79; last week: 27)
27. Padres (51-83; last week: 26)
28. White Sox (52-80; last week: 28)
29. Royals (41-91; last week: 29)
It’s all silver linings and sentimental victories this time of year for teams in our bottom third. So let’s give it up to the White Sox for rattling off four straight wins this week. However, the Twins, Blue Jays, Mets, Rangers, Tigers and Marlins totaled together have lost 18 straight games. Eek.

30. Orioles (39-94; last week: 30)
We’re going to continue to draw attention to the Orioles down here at the bottom until they get to 40 wins. Almost there, guys!

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Mike Oz is a writer at Yahoo Sports. Contact him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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