MLB Power Rankings: Astros fight off World Series hangover as AL West heats up

Through last Thursday, the Tampa Bay Rays had lost six of their last nine games, and I started to think we'd be able to debate who should be the top team, especially with the Dodgers' footsteps 

World Series, even though I've tried to forget that year). Considering the debate was exciting. Then the Rays took two of three from the Brewers while the Dodgers lost three of four in St. Louis. 

Defending champions first. It's deserved. Winner takes all, right? Sometimes the next season goes better for them. 

It's aggravating when a sports cliché is used without analysis, but the World Series hangover is genuine. Consider how late teams must play to win the World Series. More physical toll and a shorter offseason result.

 From a mental aspect (being slightly less eager as a player than if you were coming off a loss), there may be something to dialing down the offseason fitness plan. After Justin Verlander left, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Lance McCullers Jr. were injured.

Naturally, they started slowly. Astros were 17-18 and outside playoff place recently. Since then, they've won 10 of 11. They're 7-0. I expect them to finish the season as one of baseball's finest. 

The Astros still look up to the Texas Rangers, so we can't leave them. The Rangers have led or tied every day except one this season. They've maintained.500. They've had the second-best run differential all season (+108, behind the Rays) because to a strong offense and solid pitching. 

Corey Seager has played 15 games and Jacob deGrom has started six, so they haven't dodged difficulty either. While we're here, Bruce Bochy's managership must mean something. Managers like Bochy, Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, and others win, and it's not a coincidence.