Though neither team went through a Dodgers-like rut, the two powerhouse favorites in the Central divisions could be seen as disappointments through the middle of May. Well, that's about the point with the Cubs, but the Indians were nearly to June.
Now, both seem to have their footing and should likely win their divisions as the cream continues to rise through the season.
The Cubs were 16-15 after losing five in a row -- including a gut-punch of a sweep at the hands of their bitter rival, the Cardinals -- to start May. They were playing better, but were still only at 25-21 after being swept in two games by the Indians. They haven't lost a series since.
Since May 6, here are the best records in the NL:
Since May 23, here they are:
Over in the AL Central, the Indians were never really in danger, as the rest of the division is terrible. Still, the Indians were a game under .500 on May 25, thanks in part to the bullpen being in tatters. They were surprisingly beaten three straight games by the Twins last weekend, but still overall have been playing much better.
Since May 25, only the Yankees and Mariners have a better record than the Indians' 10-4 mark. They've now pushed their AL Central lead to five games and feel pretty likely to cruise in the AL Central. They'll probably have the thing sewn up the first week in September. SportsLine projections have the Indians taking the Central by 14 games and that almost feels conservative.
Back on the Cubs' side, it won't be nearly as easy, as the Brewers have been excellent for the most part and the Cardinals won't go away, either.
Still, SportsLine has the Cubs winning the Central by roughly five games and that feels about right. Don't fret too much, though, Brewers fans, SportsLine has the Crew winning 91 games and hosting the Wild Card. Josh Hader, Wild Card X Factor is all kinds of fun.
The over-riding theme up here in this version of the Official Power Rankings is that, generally, the most talented teams are going to rise over the course of 162. It took the Indians and Cubs a few weeks, but it's coming. Water finds its level.
|In their 61st game of the season, the Yankees were shut out for the first time. They were, not surprisingly, the last team to be shut out.||--||18-16|
|We've gotta be in the area of "concerned" on Dallas Keuchel, right? He's got a 7.33 ERA in his last five starts now and just gave up 13 hits in 4 1/3 innings to the last-place Rangers on Sunday.||1||18-16|
|Losing a series to the White Sox is a problem, but the Red Sox had built up a lot of credit here. Plus, Mookie Betts is hurt.||1||22-13|
|Since being swept by the Cardinals the first week of May, the Cubs have gone 21-10.||--||17-17|
|In the next two weeks, the Mariners face the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees and Red Sox again. That's a 13-game stretch in which success will really start to turn the heads of people nationally.||--||18-17|
|The offense is starting to become at least slightly concerning. The Nats rank in the bottom half of the NL in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and are tied for seventh in runs.||2||13-17|
|Corey Kluber hasn't walked a batter since May 8. He's struck out 46 in 41 1/3 innings since then. Mercy!||6||18-14|
|They went through a funk, but maybe taking that series from the Phillies got them back on track? We'll see when the Cubs visit here early in the week.||1||19-16|
|Shohei Ohtani absolutely needs to be at the All-Star Game. Even if he can't pitch, he's still a major attraction.||3||15-18|
|The way Max Muncy and Ross Stripling are going while Justin Turner struggles with his wrist and the rotation is ravaged with injuries makes the duo incredibly valuable.||1||18-17|
|And here comes Goldy. In his last five games, Paul Goldschmidt has 15 hits in 22 at-bats, including six doubles, a triple and four home runs. After a terrible first two months, he's up to .254/.364/.509 right now.||3||15-19|
|The Braves just went 2-4 on a West coast trip, but they now come home to the Mets and Padres. The schedule following that homestand is pretty tasty, too, so the Braves are likely to head to July with a strong record.||6||16-17|
|Carlos Martinez looked like he was finally putting together that Cy Young season that seems attainable. Instead, that lat injury has messed with his velocity and the command has fallen apart. Seven walks in 3 2/3 innings on Sunday just can't happen.||4||21-14|
|Mark Melancon and Madison Bumgarner are back and the Giants have won eight of their last 10. Hmmm ...||3||20-14|
|Jake Arrieta has really gotten knocked around in his last two starts, between which he was vocal about the team not being good enough at shifting.||5||18-16|
|Tough week coming for the A's, hosting the Astros and Angels. Looking forward to seeing it unfold. They can play.||1||21-15|
|The Rockies have lost eight of 10 and fallen to fourth place in the uber-competitive NL West.||1||12-22|
|The Pirates haven't won a series since sweeping the White Sox (in two games) on May 15-16.||--||14-19|
|The focus will be elsewhere, but Clayton Richard is an interesting trade piece. He could pitch as a long man out of the bullpen or be an injury-replacement starter for a contender. Of course, for now, the Padres are technically in contention, only 5 1/2 games out.||4||19-16|
|Last week, thanks to needing to make up a double header in the Bronx, the Tigers had to play the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians; eight games in seven days. They actually went 3-5, which isn't terrible.||1||10-24|
|Lance Lynn is walking 5.8 hitters per every nine innings. Before this season, his career average was 3.4 and his career worst mark was 3.8. The latter was last year, though, so there's got to be concern this is a trend.||1||12-20|
|To this point, I don't think the Jays have a single player deserving of an All-Star nod. Tough to win that way.||2||17-16|
|They got to two games above .500, but have now lost nine of 10.||4||19-17|
|You know who might make a nifty trade acquisition for a contender? Seth Lugo. He can start or go in long relief and he's cheap. Of course, that means the Mets probably won't dangle him and will keep pretending this group is going to come together.||2||16-13|
|Remember when Matt Moore was a consensus top three prospect in baseball along with some guys named Mike Trout and Bryce Harper?||--||18-18|
|The MLB leader in doubles with 25, Jose Abreu is on pace for 64 this season. The single-season record is 67 (Earl Webb, 1931).||2||19-13|
|A 3-3 week including a series win over the Cardinals isn't half bad.||2||15-18|
|It's good to see Anthony DeSclafani back, now hopefully he can stay healthy and put together a good season.||1||15-16|
|In 24 2/3 innings this season, closer Kelvin Herrera hasn't walked anyone. That's right, zero walks.||3||16-17|
|The Orioles are on pace to go 48-114. The franchise record for losses in a season is 111 (1939, when they were the St. Louis Browns). They haven't even lost 100 games since that notorious 1988 season in which they started the year 0-21. This team is likely to trade its best player and maybe some other veterans, too.||--||15-19|