Power Rankings: All eyes on Wild Card races

August 23rd, 2021

The Wild Card races are growing increasingly more interesting, even in the National League, where the top spot is all but sewn up by the team who doesn’t win the National League West. The Dodgers are in first place in the NL Wild Card race by 9 1/2 games, so the only thing preventing them from hosting the one-game playoff is winning their division.

Same goes for the Giants, who managed to hold on to first place throughout the Dodgers’ nine-game winning streak. At this point, barring a complete collapse, the worst they could do is host the Wild Card Game. But who will they play? That’s where the storyline grows more compelling each day.

The Reds are stomping all over the theory that three NL West teams -- the Giants, Dodgers and Padres -- would get into the postseason. Through Sunday’s action, Cincinnati, winners of seven of its past 10 games, are in second place in the Wild Card race. The Reds are one game ahead of the Padres, who could use a life raft after losing eight of 10.

In the American League, the Yankees used the strength of their own nine-game win streak to move into first place in the Wild Card chase, whereas the Red Sox are tied with the A’s for second -- the latter losing twice in crushing fashion to the cross-town Giants over the weekend. And don’t count out the Mariners, who, despite being steamrolled twice by the Astros in Houston, are only three games out.

Biggest jump: Two teams jumped four spots -- Cincinnati (14 to 10) and Atlanta (12 to eight). The Reds secured their third four-game sweep of the season with a win over the Marlins on Sunday. They’ve also swept the Cardinals and Pirates in that fashion. Only the Reds, Astros and Rays have as many as three four-game sweeps this year.

Biggest drop: The Padres dropped three spots, from eight to 11. From Aug. 10 through Saturday, the Padres had one of the three lowest batting averages in MLB at .218. The others are the Phillies (.174) and Pirates (.206).

Power Rankings Top 5

1) Dodgers (2 last week)
The Dodgers had their winning streak halted at nine after a 7-2 loss to the Mets on Sunday, which dropped Los Angeles 2 1/2 games behind San Francisco in the NL West standings. Still, the Dodgers made up ground (2 1/2 games) during their streak, outscored opponents 48-20 and increased their run differential to an MLB-best +204.

2) Giants (1)
The Giants did it again Sunday with a late-game, pinch-hit homer by Donovan Solano to give them the lead, and, eventually, the win over the A’s. They did the same thing on Saturday behind a two-run, pinch-hit homer by LaMonte Wade Jr. in the ninth. The Giants have 33 comeback wins this season, second-most in the NL. The Reds have the most at 34.

3) Rays (3)
The Rays shut out the White Sox 9-0 on Sunday to lower their home ERA to 2.93. They’ve scored eight runs or more in 11 of their past 16 games, and they’ve won 24 of their past 35. They’ve been in first place in the AL East for 17 straight days.

4) Astros (4)
The Astros stumbled in their Sunday series finale against the Mariners and lost 6-3, but that does little to overshadow the sheer dominance they displayed in the first two games, when they outscored Seattle 27-4. Houston hit six homers and had 17 extra-base hits in those two games. Next up are the Royals, who beat the Astros for three of four in Kansas City last week.

5) Brewers (5)
The Brewers have won 10 of 13 games since Aug. 10 and hold a commanding 7 1/2 game lead in the NL Central. This week could be interesting -- the only team presenting a realistic threat to them in the division is the Reds, who the Brewers host for a three-game set beginning Tuesday. Milwaukee has benefited from the resurgence of Christian Yelich, who has 16 hits in 45 at-bats in his past 10 games, with two homers, three doubles and nine RBIs.

The rest of the field of 30

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