The defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays started the 2021 season 19-19 but have gone on a tear over the past month, winning 19 of their last 23 games and the No. 1 spot in this week’s USA TODAY Sports MLB power rankings.
The Rays’ surge has them narrowly ahead of the Boston Red Sox atop the American League East, with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees also above .500 and almost certain to remain in the race all season.
Outfielder Austin Meadows has 22 RBI with a 1.061 OPS in his last 15 games, while 41-year-old lefty Rich Hill has a 0.74 ERA in his last six starts to lead a pitching staff that had the AL’s best ERA (2.70) in the month of May.
Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres dropped from first to third and the San Francisco Giants moved up to second place in the weekly survey.
Here’s how our seven-person panel voted this week:
RANK (movement from last week)
1. Tampa Bay Rays (+1)
- Top prospect Wander Franco posted a .934 OPS, 25 RBI through 25 games at Class AAA.
2. San Francisco Giants (+3)
- Joey Bart off to a strong start in Classs AAA: .321 average, 3 HR, 12 RBI in 15 games.
3. San Diego Padres (-2)
- Closer Mark Melancon has held lefties to a .105 average (4-for-38).
4. Chicago White Sox (+2)
- Through Saturday, catcher Yasmani Grandal led MLB in walks – but was hitting .159.
5. Boston Red Sox (-1)
- Tough week ahead at Fenway with three vs. Astros, four vs. Blue Jays.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (-3)
- Right-hander Tony Gonsolin (2.31 ERA in 2020) set to make his 2021…