Power Rankings: Wild playoff push on deck

September 13th, 2021

And then there were ... three?

Looking at each division race plus the Wild Card chase, it looks like there are still three that are up for grabs: the NL West and both Wild Cards. In the NL, the club that doesn’t win the West among the Giants and Dodgers will get that first Wild Card spot, but the second one is far from decided, with the Reds, Padres, Cardinals, Phillies and maybe the Mets still sniffing around.

In the AL, the Wild Card is pure chaos. The Blue Jays have steamrolled their way through September, a surge so definitive that they’re now the clear favorites to host the one-game playoff. The Jays are neck-and-neck with the Red Sox for the top spot, with the Yankees right on their heels. The A’s and Mariners are still hanging around, three games back.

We can add the NL East as one more race that could take some weird twists and turns as we head into the final stretch. The Braves are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Phillies and 5 1/2 ahead of the Mets, an advantage that in most cases would seem like enough of a gap to seal a division title. (Also, the Braves are the only NL East team with a positive run differential, at +100.) But because it took so long for one team to take hold of first place and then actually stay there, maybe we shouldn’t hand the title over to Atlanta just yet.

Biggest jump: The Blue Jays and A’s each jumped three spots, 10 to 7 and 14 to 11, respectively. The Blue Jays have jumped six spots over the past two weeks, which should come as no surprise. They took full advantage of their weekend in Baltimore, scoring 44 runs in their three wins there.

Biggest drop: The Yankees and Braves dropped two spots each. The Yankees went from 7 to 9, and the Braves from 8 to 10. The Yankees beat the Mets Saturday to snap a seven-game losing streak, during which they hit .176 with runners in scoring position.

1) Giants (1 last week)
The good times keep rolling for the Giants, who can clinch a playoff spot in the next couple of days. They reached a season-high seven wins in a row when they topped the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday. They batted .335 (85-for-254) with 62 runs scored through the winning streak.

2) Dodgers (2)
The Dodgers have the second-best record in baseball at 91-53 but still may be hosting the Wild Card Game, as they trail San Francisco by 2 1/2 games. The one person we can’t blame this on is Max Scherzer, who is 6-0 with a 0.88 ERA -- that’s not a typo -- since he joined the Dodgers. The Dodgers are 8-0 when he starts. The newest member of the 3,000-strikeout club is starting to look like a favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award.

3) Rays (3)
The Rays fell short of reaching the 90-win mark with an extra-inning loss to the Tigers on Sunday, but they’re still just eight wins from tying their franchise record of 97, set in 2008. They also have virtually no chance to blow their sizable lead in the AL East division, given that none of the other teams took advantage of any of the Rays’ rare mediocre stretches. Tampa Bay is 5-6 over its last 11, for example, but didn’t lose any ground.

4) Brewers (5)
An already special season was punctuated on Saturday when Corbin Burnes and Josh Hader combined to no-hit the Indians, inching the Brewers closer to the division title. After that game, the Brewers were on pace to 100 wins for the first time in franchise history. The current record is 96 wins, shared by the 2011 and '18 teams. After sweeping the Indians, the Brewers’ magic number is five.

5) Astros (4)
The Astros are just 19-19 since July 31, but that’s hardly an issue in an AL West division, where the A’s and Mariners have done little to threaten to take over the lead. The Astros’ remaining schedule remains an advantage. Including Sunday’s game with the Angels, their .479 remaining opponents’ win percentage is the third easiest among AL playoff contenders, behind the Red Sox (.446) and White Sox (.474).

The rest of the field of 30

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