MLB power rankings: With stunning turnaround, Nationals are a major force in the NL

On May 23, the Washington Nationals hit rock bottom. They had just suffered a four-game sweep in New York and at 19-31, were 12 games under .500 for the first time since 2010.

Washington has gone 30-12 since then, getting as far as seven games over .500 and currently hold the National League’s top wild-card spot.

The team’s turnaround has certainly been keyed by the starting pitching. After going 2-10 in ace Max Scherzer’s first 12 starts, Washington has won his last seven, with Scherzer posting an 0.87 ERA and 79 strikeouts in that stretch.

Stephen Strasburg is on pace to top 200 innings for the second time in his career and prized free agent addition Patrick Corbin has been as good as advertised.

The bullpen is obviously the problem, though it’s been slightly less of a dumpster fire the past month. If they can add an arm or two ahead of the deadline, they’ve got a real chance to go deep into October.

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Juan Soto, 20, hasn’t had any sort of sophomore slump. (Photo: Bill Streicher, USA TODAY Sports)

Here’s how USA TODAY Sports’ eight-person panel voted this week:

RANK (movement from last week)

1, Los Angeles Dodgers (–)

Corey Seager returns after a month on the shelf.

2. New York Yankees (-1)

Luis Severino and Dellin Betances both cleared to start throwing again.

3. Houston Astros (+1)

Starting a stretch of 10 games in a row against AL West rivals.

4. Atlanta Braves (+1)

Dallas Keuchel only gave up five earned runs in first three July starts.

5. Minnesota Twins (-2)

Took two of three in huge series vs. Indians coming out of the break.

6. Tampa Bay Rays (–)

Nate Lowe is here to stay, starting July 10-for-29 with five HR, 10 RBI.

7. Washington Nationals (+9)

Things are finally coming together – but they need to bolster the bullpen.

8. Chicago Cubs (-1)

Jason Heyward had a .688 OPS in first three years with Cubs. He’s at .833 in 2019.

9. Boston Red Sox (–)

Getting Andrew Cashner from Baltimore was a good early move.

10. Oakland Athletics (+2)

Second-half hopes dealt a blow by injury to prospect Jesus Luzardo.

11. Texas Rangers (-3)

Should get a serious boost with Hunter Pence coming off the IL.

12. Milwaukee Brewers (-2)

Jesus Aguilar from June 6-July 13: .370/.443/.648.

13. Cleveland Indians (-1)

They’re back in the wild-card race and could make a push for the division.

14. Philadelphia Phillies (–)

Gabe Kapler could be on the hot seat if things don’t turn around.

15. St. Louis Cardinals (+2)

Carlos Martinez has been impressive in the ninth inning.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks (+2)

Tricky situation: In the wild-card hunt but should probably trade Zack Greinke.

17. Los Angeles Angels (+2) 

Mike Trout’s slugging percentage and OPS would be both career-highs.

18. Colorado Rockies (-7)

Went 1-6 to start July, which doesn’t bode well for postseason hopes.

19. San Diego Padres (-4)

Fernando Tatis Jr. is setting the world on fire and you should be paying attention.

20. Pittsburgh Pirates (–)

Chris Archer has 51 strikeouts in his last 37 innings.

21. Cincinnati Reds (+1)

Phillip Ervin becomes first Reds player since 1949 to have six hits in a game.

22. Chicago White Sox (-1)

Eloy Jimenez has raised his OPS nearly 100 points in the past month.

23. New York Mets (–)

Zack Wheeler will likely be dealt, but could Noah Syndergaard go too?

24. San Francisco Giants (–)

Only a few more weeks of Madison Bumgarner consternation.

25. Seattle Mariners (–)

Is there a market for Dee Gordon? Contract makes him hard to move.

26. Miami Marlins (–)

Starlin Castro is having a disastrous a season, but could help a contender.

27. Toronto Blue Jays (–)

Can we just get Vlad Jr.’s batting practice nationally televised every night?

28. Kansas City Royals (+1)

Bubba Starling, the fifth overall pick in 2011, finally makes MLB debut at age 26.

29. Detroit Tigers (-1)

Jordan Zimmmermann is due $25 million in 2020, which is not ideal.

30. Baltimore Orioles (–)

Entering the day he was traded, Andrew Cashner had nine wins. Baltimore had 27.

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