Power Rankings: Rivals set for photo finish

September 20th, 2021

The NL West race has been as spectacular as advertised all season, and it’s barreling toward an even better finish as the regular season enters the home stretch.

One game separates the Giants and Dodgers, and it’s possible that it’ll take more than 162 games to decide the division winner. The Giants, holding on to first place, have 12 games remaining, all against division rivals, but only six against a contending team (they have two series remaining with the Padres, one at home and one on road). The other six are against the Rockies (road) and D-backs (home).

The Dodgers have a similar schedule, but one wrinkle -- they end the regular season with a three-game home set with another National League powerhouse, the Brewers, who will have wrapped up their own division race long before the final weekend. The Dodgers’ other series are vs. the Rockies (road), D-backs (road) and Padres (home).

If you haven’t read up on the potential tie-breaking scenarios, enjoy this primer. Specific to the Dodgers and Giants, here’s the rundown:

Were they to finish in a tie, they would play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday, Oct. 4. Home-field advantage would go to San Francisco, by virtue of the Giants’ 10-9 record in the head-to-head season series, which is complete.

Buckle up …

Biggest jump: The Cardinals jumped five spots, from 15 to 10. The Cardinals held off the Padres on Sunday, 8-7, to match their longest winning streak (eight games) under manager Mike Shildt. St. Louis also won eight straight from Aug. 7-15, 2018, in Shildt's first month on the job.

Biggest drop: Not a lot of movement the other way. Several teams dropped two spots, including the Yankees, who fell from 9 to 11. Since Aug. 30, the Yankees have lost nine of 15 games against teams under .500.

Power Rankings Top 5

1) Giants (1 last week)
The Giants were shut out by the Braves on Sunday, 3-0, to conclude their seven-game homestand with a 4-3 mark. Brandon Crawford was 0-for-3 in the finale against the Braves, but that barely made a dent in the hot streak he's been on: In his past 14 games, he's hitting .400 (20-for-50) with eight extra-base hits and 12 runs scored.

2) Dodgers (2)
The Dodgers have won eight of their past nine games, and their starters are 7-1 with a 1.46 ERA (9 ER/54.1 IP) in that span with just one homer allowed. One key contributor is Clayton Kershaw, who was sharp in his second start back after a two-month stay on the injured list. The lefty held the Reds to one run over five innings in a win on Sunday, and he'll be stretched out even further in his next outing.

3) Rays (3)
The Rays are two games under .500 in September, but they've built such a big lead in the first five months of the season that even a hefty slide likely wouldn't hurt their chances of winning the AL East division. The team's magic number to clinch is six, with 12 games remaining. Next up are the Blue Jays, whom the Rays could host in a Division Series, if the Jays get that far. Toronto currently holds the second AL Wild Card spot, behind Boston.

4) Brewers (4)
The Brewers' magic number to clinch the division title is down to three, and they could wrap things up this week during their four-game home series with the Cardinals. The Brewers' 25-12 record since the start of play on Aug. 10 is the third-best in MLB, behind only the Dodgers (29-9) and Giants (26-12).

5) Astros (5)
The Astros took two of three from the D-backs over the weekend, but the series was more strenuous than anticipated, given where these two teams are in the standings. The series included two extra-inning games and Houston had to stage late comebacks in both of its wins. Still, overall, the Astros are one of the most well-rounded teams in baseball, ranking in the top five in OPS, runs per game, ERA and run differential.

The rest of the field of 30

  1. White Sox (6 last week)
  2. Red Sox (8)
  3. Blue Jays (7)
  4. Braves (10)
  5. Cardinals (15)
  6. Yankees (9)
  7. A’s (11)
  8. Padres (12)
  9. Reds (13)
  10. Phillies (16)
  11. Mariners (14)
  12. Mets (17)
  13. Tigers (20)
  14. Indians (19)
  15. Angels (18)
  16. Rockies (21)
  17. Marlins (22)
  18. Cubs (23)
  19. Twins (24)
  20. Royals (25)
  21. Nationals (26)
  22. Rangers (27)
  23. Pirates (28)
  24. D-backs (29)
  25. Orioles (30)

Voters: Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Jesse Sanchez, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn