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Races heating up near top of Power Rankings

@alysonfooter
August 11, 2019

This is about the time of year that we can start getting a little giddy at the thought of unbridled chaos that awaits us in September. Anywhere between 16 to 18 clubs -- depending on if you consider a sub-.500 team a "contender" -- are legitimately vying for a postseason

This is about the time of year that we can start getting a little giddy at the thought of unbridled chaos that awaits us in September.

Anywhere between 16 to 18 clubs -- depending on if you consider a sub-.500 team a "contender" -- are legitimately vying for a postseason spot. Most of that action resides in the National League Wild Card race, where as many as eight teams are still in it. That includes bubble teams Cincinnati and San Francisco, both of whom have losing records but have performed well enough lately to suggest they may have a September run in them.

Even without those two, the Wild Card race should be a doozy down the stretch. The Mets, who have lost only twice in the past 2 1/2 weeks, have jumped into a fray that features six teams either in the lead for one of the two Wild Card Spots (currently, the Nationals and Cardinals) or are within no more than 2 1/2 games of the second slot (Brewers, Mets, Phillies and D-backs).

MLB standings

In the American League, things are slightly more subdued, with the exception being the race in the Central. Two months ago, the Twins had a double-digit lead. Today, they're tied with the Indians. This is likely to be the only AL division race not decided heading into the final week to 10 days of the regular season.

Biggest jump: The Mets jumped seven spots from No. 16 to No. 9. Also, they were No. 20 on July 29, but that was before we knew they'd go on a 15-2 run that included an eight-game winning streak. Over their past 17 games, the Mets have scored 96 runs, averaging 5.6 runs per game. They've also hit 32 homers over that stretch.

Biggest drop: The Cardinals and Giants each dropped four spots -- St. Louis from No. 9 to No. 13 and San Francisco from No. 14 to No. 18. The Cardinals enjoyed a convincing sweep over the Pirates over the weekend, but before that, they struggled during their West Coast swing, losing two to the A's before being swept by the Dodgers. The Giants beat the Phillies on Sunday to log consecutive wins for the first time in nearly three weeks.

1. Astros (1 last week)

There were no changes in the top three, including the Astros' standing as the strongest team in baseball. They ended an eight-game winning streak when the Orioles walked them off with a two-run homer on Sunday, but that won't do much to move the needle in the AL West race (which really isn't one). Rookie Yordan Alvarez continues to mash at a historic pace. He reached 51 RBIs through his first 45 games, the most by any player to start his career. The previous record-holder? Ted Williams, who drove in 47 runs in his first 45 games of the 1939 season.

2. Dodgers (2)

Dodgers starting pitchers have allowed just two earned runs over 38 2/3 innings over their past six games, for a 0.47 ERA. That includes 20 scoreless innings from the past three games. One of those pitchers is Hyun-Jin Ryu, who came off the injured list on Sunday for his first start since July 31. The lefty held the D-backs scoreless over seven innings.

3. Yankees (3)

The Yankees have scored just seven runs on 17 hits in the past three days. On Sunday, they barely squeaked by the Blue Jays in a 1-0 win during which they logged exactly five hits. This can probably be chalked up to one of dozens of oddities that will happen to a team over the course of the season. During a recent nine-game winning streak, the Yankees batted .319 and scored 77 runs.

4. Cubs (10)

Nicholas Castellanos, acquired at the trade deadline from Detroit, has ingratiated himself well with the Cubs and their fans. The outfielder recorded 10 extra-base hits in his first nine games as a Cub, through last Friday, and he hit safely in all nine games. Castellanos leads the Majors with 43 doubles, ahead of Boston's Xander Bogaerts, who has 39.

5. Braves (4)

The Braves have lost 13 of 25 games since the start of play July 16, but despite playing under .500 over that stretch, it didn't really hurt them in the standings. They hold a semi-comfortable 6 1/2 game lead in a still-intriguing NL East division, though the next two weeks will be a true test. Atlanta hosts the surging Mets for a three-game set that starts on Tuesday, which will be followed by three with the Dodgers. After the Braves wrap up their homestand with the Marlins, they'll head to New York for three more with the Mets.

The rest of the Top 20:

6) Twins (5 last week)
7) Indians (7)
8) Rays (6)
9) Mets (16)
10) Nationals (11)
11) A’s (8)
12) Brewers (15)
13) Cardinals (9)
14) Red Sox (12)
15) Phillies (13)
16) Reds (20)
17) D-backs (17)
18) Giants (14)
19) Padres (NR)
20) Rangers (19)

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.