Strong outings by pitcher Max Scherzer and other starters are part of the reason the Tigers were 4-1 in their previous five games entering Tuesday. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
Tony Paul goes around the league, with the 12th of his weekly Major League Baseball Power Rankings.
1. A’s (last week: 2): Contrary to popular belief, Billy Beane doesn’t always make the right moves (Jim Johnson). But somehow, the A’s always compete — this year, better than most.
2. Brewers (3): Ryan Braun still is working his way back from last year’s mega-suspension. His on-base percentage (.324) and slugging percentage (.490) are career lows.
3. Giants (1): They’ve slipped a little bit the last 10 days (3-7), but they remain in good shape. Still, they need Tim Lincecum to find his form eventually.
4. Tigers (5): Talk about the offense all you want, but starting pitching makes or breaks this team. They’ve had a solid turn through the rotation, and no surprise, were 4-1.
5. Cardinals (6): They’re one of three National League Central opponents charging hard. The Brewers, Cardinals and Reds all are 7-3 in their last 10 games, with the Pirates 6-4.
6. Blue Jays (4): They got a big scare this week with Jose Bautista going down. Turns out it’s just a mild hamstring injury. Good news. They can’t afford to lose him or Jose Reyes.
7. Angels (7): Following back-to-back runner-up showings in the MVP voting, this is starting to look like the year Mike Trout finally breaks through. His .988 OPS is second to none.
8. Dodgers (10): Clayton Kershaw threw the Dodgers’ second no-hitter of the year, following Josh Beckett’s. Amazingly, it was the 19th one Vin Scully has announced.
9. Orioles (9): Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka hasn’t yet allowed more than three earned runs in any start, but the Orioles got him for three twice — beating him both times.
10. Braves (8): A big key to Atlanta’s success this year and last year? The Braves absolutely own the NL East-rival Nationals, winning 20 of the 29 meetings since the start of 2013.
11. Royals (13): They’ve had their struggles against AL West foes this year, going 6-11. They’ve lost two of seven to the Mariners, who just swept them this past weekend.
12. Mariners (17): Ace Felix Hernandez certainly is trending toward a second Cy Young Award. He’s averaging more than seven innings a start, remarkable in this era.
13. Yankees (11): Brian McCann continues to struggle after signing his huge, $85 million contract this offseason. His slash line of .218/.280/.354 is not what the Bronx had in mind.
14. Reds (18): Monday’s victory over the Cubs put the Reds over .500 for the very first time all season. That’s stunning for a team that some picked to roll in the NL Central.
15. Pirates (14): Ex-Tigers reliever Jason Grilli is out as Pirates closer, while sporting a 1.475 WHIP — his worst since 2009, the year after he was traded away from Detroit.
16. Nationals (16): Doug Fister’s WHIP went up each of the last two seasons, but now (1.040) it’s at its lowest point since 2011, when he was great after being traded to the Tigers.
17. Rangers (12): Big series against the Tigers down in Arlington, starting Tuesday night. Texas has been crushed by injuries but somehow haven’t fallen completely off the cliff.
18. Red Sox (19): David Ortiz continues to make an idiot of himself — first there was his feud with David Price, now he’s chewing out official scorers. Get a grip, Big Papi.
19. Indians (15): They started the Tigers’ downward spiral with a sweep in Cleveland a month ago. Now they’ve might’ve started their upswing, being swept in Cleveland.
20. Marlins (20): Former Tigers prospect Jacob Turner has pitched so poorly in Miami, he’s now working out of the bullpen. Looks like Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski swindled his former team again.
21. Twins (24): Ricky Nolasco is a perfect example of what can happen when an NL lifer moves to the AL. He’s looking like a massive bust, at four years and $49 million.
22. Mets (27): He missed all of 2013, and he’s 40 years old, but Bobby Abreu still can play, as he’s proving in Queens. He’s sporting a .359 OBP, though that’s down from .397 three weeks ago.
23. Rockies (22): Amid the big-time slide, there has been a bright spot — first baseman Justin Morneau, whose career appears revived, and who could be a valuable trade chip.
24. Astros (23): It’s really hard to believe J.D. Martinez couldn’t play outfield for the lowly Astros, yet gets a chance to contribute big-time for the mighty Tigers.
25. White Sox (21): Because they play in the AL Central, they remain a threat for a postseason berth. But the last two weeks have been discouraging, to say the least.
26. Padres (25): Josh Byrnes is out as GM, after the team continued to struggle despite a bigger payroll. There are rumblings Kevin Towers could return, leaving Arizona.
27. Phillies (29): Jimmy Rollins now is the all-time hit leader for the franchise, surpassing Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt. So, how long until Rollins finally gets traded?
28. Diamondbacks (26): With Tony La Russa now overseeing things, and Kevin Towers rumored to be wanting to bolt for San Diego, manager Kirk Gibson can’t feel great about his job security.
29. Cubs (28): Jeff Samardzija is starting to look the poster-child for the movement to kill the “win.” The Cubs have lost seven times when he’s allowed one earned run or fewer.
30. Rays (30): In the same 29-game span the Tigers went 9-20, so did the Rays — but they’re buried, and the Tigers aren’t. Expect David Price to be long gone before too long.