Over the past week, the National League Wild Card situation has become a little clearer, but for those who are fans of nail-biting postseason races and stressful Septembers -- good news! The playoff picture is still a delightful, jumbled mess.At this point, it's safe to realistically eliminate the teams that
Over the past week, the National League Wild Card situation has become a little clearer, but for those who are fans of nail-biting postseason races and stressful Septembers -- good news! The playoff picture is still a delightful, jumbled mess.
At this point, it's safe to realistically eliminate the teams that are still not at the .500 mark. That essentially takes the Nationals (.496) and Giants (.492), 7 1/2 and 8 games out, respectively, out of the picture. That leaves the Cardinals, Brewers, Rockies, Phillies and Dodgers fighting for two spots, with all five teams also very much involved in their respective division races.
The picture is slightly more settled in the American League. Three teams -- the Yankees, A's and Mariners -- are fighting it out for the two Wild Card spots, though Seattle, five games out, has some work to do. Also, the A's, while surely pleased with their stronghold on the second Wild Card berth, are undoubtedly aiming higher. Heading into a three-game set in Houston starting Monday, Oakland is a mere 1 1/2 games back of the Astros for first place in the AL West.
Biggest jump: The Rockies jumped four spots, from No. 14 to No. 10. Prior to their 12-3 loss on Sunday, the Rockies had won 11 of 14 dating back to Aug. 10, scoring 70 runs over that stretch. Coincidentally, the only team that has posted a better record in the Majors over the same span is the team that beat them so handily in Sunday's Players' Weekend finale -- St. Louis.
Biggest drop: Not a lot of major movement this week. Three teams dropped two spots -- the Indians, from No. 4 to No. 6, the Dodgers from No. 11 to No. 13 and the Mariners from No. 12 to No. 14. Of the three, the Dodgers' slide appears to be the more alarming -- they were not the same team during Kenley Jansen's absence, and the closer has struggled mightily since returning on Aug. 20, allowing a home run in each of his three appearances. Meanwhile, the rest of the bullpen has been unable to pick up the slack. Over nine of 14 losses prior to the weekend sweep over the Padres, relievers were 2-8 with a 4.57 ERA.
Power Rankings Top 5
1. Red Sox (1 last week)
The Red Sox were swept for the first time since last August, and they've lost six of eight, with the starters posting an ERA around 6.00. That's a poor showing for the best team in baseball, but it's not enough to knock them from the top of our Power Rankings. They've been on a historic pace for much of the season, and while, yes, they're not 50 games over .500 anymore, it's fair to guess Boston's lagging offense and pitching issues will be short-lived.
2. Yankees (2)
Since losing five in a row to start August, the Yankees have won 15 of 20 and have more opportunities to take advantage of an easier part of their schedule. Most recently, they've won eight of nine against the Blue Jays, Marlins and Orioles, and they begin a seven-game homestand on Monday with the non-contending White Sox and Tigers.
3. Astros (3)
The Astros have scored 33 runs during their five-game winning streak and have received a boost from 24-year-old rookie starting pitcher Framber Valdez, who earned his second career win in his first big league start Sunday against the Angels. In two appearances, the left-hander has allowed one earned run over a combined 9 1/3 innings. Offensively, Alex Bregman extended his MLB-leading road on-base streak to 45 games, the club's longest in a single season.
4. Cubs (5)
It's still too early to count out the Cardinals and Brewers, but the Cubs are starting to create a little comfort for themselves at the top of the NL Central standings. A four-game sweep of the last-place Reds at Wrigley Field was timely and effective, extending the Cubs' winning streak to five, while elevating them to a season-high 23 games over .500. It's likely the Murphy's Bleachers folks are having a field day with the team's new acquisition, Daniel Murphy, who is hitting .391 (9-for-23) with two homers and five RBIs during the Cubs' win streak.
5. A's (6)
The A's have navigated through injuries all season -- most recently a shoulder impingement that will sideline rotation mainstay Sean Manaea for a bit -- but good times continue to roll in the Bay Area. Oakland took three of four from Minnesota to move to a season-high 27 games over .500, and the A's stellar play over the past 2 1/2 months has allowed them to keep pace with the Astros in the AL West. Since June 16, Oakland is 45-16. The A's are an MLB-best 24-10 since the All-Star break. Their team ERA is below 3.00, and they're a perfect 56-0 when entering the seventh inning with a lead. No other team is undefeated in that scenario.
The rest of the Top 20
- Indians (4 last week)
- Braves (7)
- Cardinals (8)
- D-backs (9)
- Rockies (14)
- Phillies (10)
- Brewers (13)
- Dodgers (11)
- Mariners (12)
- Rays (16)
- Nationals (15)
- Angels (19)
- Pirates (17)
- Giants (18)
- Blue Jays (20)
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.