Power Rankings at start of season's final month

September 2nd, 2019

It's one of the most glorious times of the year: September is here, the playoffs are looming, and three teams are battling for two spots in the American League Wild Card race, with only a couple of percentage points separating them in the standings.

Isn't life grand?

Sure, there are other races to pay attention to. The National League Central race is still compelling, though the Cardinals-Cubs-Brewers season-long dogfight appears to be whittling down to just the Cardinals and Cubs. The NL Wild Card situation is a little less chaotic than it was a few weeks ago, but with the Phillies, Brewers, Mets and D-backs no worse than four games back, there's plenty of room for a wacky finish.

But the fight for the two AL Wild Card spots is shaping up to be a doozy. The standings entering Monday show Tampa Bay in the lead by a half-game ahead of the Indians, who are a half-game ahead of the A's. The three teams do not have any more head-to-head matchups -- the last one was just completed over the weekend, with the Rays sweeping the Indians in St. Petersburg.

On to the rankings ...

Biggest jump: The Nationals jumped four spots, from No. 10 to No. 6, fixing a glitch in our voting system last week that saw the Nats drop two spots despite stringing together six wins in seven games, including a sweep over the Cubs. The Nats are trending upward and have a 4 1/2 game lead for homefield privileges in a one-and-done Wild Card game, which, if the season ended today, would be against the Cubs.

Biggest drop: The Brewers dropped three spots, from No. 13 to No. 16, which speaks volumes about how our voters think this season will end for Milwaukee. They're not in a total freefall -- in fact, they went 5-4 through a challenging stretch with the D-backs, Cardinals and Cubs. But from a bigger-picture view, the Brewers have lost 10 of their last 18 and now have to dig out of a hole in the NL Wild Card race. This upcoming week will be telling -- they have two games with the Astros and four with the Cubs.

Power Rankings Top 5:

1) Astros (2 last week)

The Astros are 10-3 in the past two weeks and their lead is back to double digits in the AL West race. But let's use this space to salute Justin Verlander, who on Sunday logged his third career no-hitter, the sixth pitcher in history to do so. He struck out 14 in his gem over the Blue Jays, with only a Cavan Biggio walk standing in the way of a perfect game. Verlander has 257 strikeouts this year, joining Randy Johnson (9), Nolan Ryan (8), Max Scherzer (5) and Roger Clemens (5) as the only pitchers with at least five seasons of 250 or more strikeouts.

2) Yankees (3)

The Yankees can breathe a little easier now that they've completed one of the more challenging portions of their second-half schedule, though the upcoming four-game set this weekend at Fenway Park surely won't be a cake walk. The Bombers were able to counterbalance a three-game sweep in Oakland at the beginning of this 12-game stretch with a sweep over the Mariners a few days later, and including series wins over the Dodgers and, most recently, the A's, the Yankees ended up with a 7-5 mark. Not bad, especially considering they now lead all of baseball with 90 wins.

3) Dodgers (1)

The Dodgers launched four solo homers on Sunday against the D-backs, bringing their season home run total to 238, three more than the previous franchise record, which they set last year. The Dodgers lead the National League in home runs and they trail only the Twins (268) and Yankees (256). The win in Arizona ended a somewhat ugly weekend in the desert, where they lost three of four.

4) Twins (5)

The Twins, who have the easiest remaining strength of schedule in the Majors, have to feel good about their chances to win the AL Central after widening the gap over the Indians. Minnesota has opened a 5 1/2 game lead and 14 of their 26 remaining games are against the Tigers, White Sox and Royals. Meanwhile, the Twins did something on Sunday that was highly unusual: They didn't homer! That does little to diminish the fact that they have 268 homers, a Major League record -- and there's still four weeks left in the season.

5) Braves (4)

The Braves offense has caught fire, scoring 35 runs in its last four games. Among NL teams, only the Dodgers (755) have scored more runs than the Braves (741) this season. More importantly, the Braves have been able to keep the surging Nationals at arm's length in the NL East, matching their division foes practically win-for-win. Over the past 10 games, the Braves are 8-2; the Nationals, 9-1.

The rest of the top 20:

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