Power Rankings — With time running out, wild-card races heat up

With three weeks to go, we might see the Dodgers clinch the National League West at any moment; the other division races are beginning to look like they’re virtually settled, as well, with the Cardinals’ 4½-game lead in the NL Central being the narrowest of six not-very-narrow margins. Which means the drama from here on out might belong to the wild-card races. Thanks to the Cubs’ stumble and the Diamondbacks’ rise in the NL, we have compelling three-team races in both leagues.

While those teams jostle for position, we saw some small shake-ups in the rankings. The Dodgers and Astros are deadlocked in a virtual tie for the No. 1 slot, with L.A. winning out thanks to one more first-place vote. Despite the absence of any really big gains or losses, the Braves and Cardinals, the two hottest teams in the NL since the All-Star break, both picked up ground within the top 10, while Arizona closed with the Cubs here, as in the standings.

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For Week 22, our panel of voters was Bradford Doolittle, Christina Kahrl, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian and David Schoenfield.

Los Angeles Dodgers
2019 record: 93-52
Week 22 ranking: 1

Tony Gonsolin continues to make a strong pitch for the postseason roster — either as a fourth starter or at least as a long man and bullpen arm. He has a 2.81 ERA through seven outings (six starts), including a 1.70 ERA and .165 average allowed if you take out his major league debut back in June. Still, manager Dave Roberts said the other day that the priority would be to get Rich Hill back as the fourth starter, which earmarks Gonsolin and the solid Kenta Maeda (4.18 ERA, .208/.276/.381 opposing batting line) for the pen. — David Schoenfield

ICYMI: Prospect Lux ‘knocked the door down’ to earn October audition

Houston Astros
2019 record: 94-50
Week 22 ranking: 2

Intriguing outfield prospect Kyle Tucker is with the big league team after a strong Triple-A season at Round Rock in which he hit 34 home runs and stole 30 bases, but it remains questionable how much the Astros intend to play him. Tucker is not like fellow rookie Yordan Alvarez, the probable American League Rookie of the Year, but Tucker certainly can fill a box score, as he showed in hitting his first home run on Thursday. The Astros could use Tucker in right field, where Josh Reddick has been merely a replacement-level option. Alvarez has played some outfield, but he is really a designated hitter. Regardless, keep an eye on Tucker this fall and next year. — Eric Karabell

ICYMI: Everyone thinks Verlander is HOF-bound, but the stats don’t agree

New York Yankees
2019 record: 94-50
Week 22 ranking: 3

Don’t discount J.A. Happ as a postseason option for the rotation after he spun back-to-back scoreless starts of six innings and 6⅓ innings against the A’s and Red Sox — allowing just three hits in those 12⅓ innings. James Paxton also is pitching his most consistent baseball of the season, with a 2.98 ERA in seven starts since the beginning of August, including 11 K’s against the Dodgers on Aug. 23 and 12 against the Rangers on Tuesday. — Schoenfield

ICYMI: How ‘Gio Urshela?’ became ‘Gio Urshela!’

Atlanta Braves
2019 record: 89-55
Week 22 ranking: 5

The Braves all but wrapped up the NL East with a nine-game winning streak, including taking the first three games of a four-game series at home against the Nationals. The winning streak culminated a dominant stretch in which the Braves won 17 of 19 and posted a 2.63 ERA. They outhomered their opponents 28 to 15 and outscored them 98 to 55. — Schoenfield

ICYMI: Will Acuna be MLB’s fifth 40-40 player?

Minnesota Twins
2019 record: 88-55
Week 22 ranking: 4

While the Twins break home run records, there is reason for October concern about the rotation, and that includes the ace. Right-hander Jose Berrios could not handle Mookie Betts last week and permitted six runs over five innings at Fenway Park. When August began, Berrios had a 2.80 ERA; it has risen in each of his six outings since then, to a season-worst 3.78 mark. Home runs have been a problem, as Berrios has permitted two of them in three of six outings. Nobody is saying another Twin should start Game 1 of the division series, assuming the Twins win the AL Central, but a better Berrios would be nice. — Karabell

ICYMI:Which Twins prospect put himself into the MLB picture for 2020?

Oakland Athletics
2019 record: 84-59
Week 22 ranking: 7

Roster-expansion reinforcements are providing the A’s a boost down the stretch, with Sean Manaea returning to the rotation, A.J. Puk contributing from the bullpen and catcher Sean Murphy auditioning for a 2020 role. But the biggest surprise has been Seth Brown, a 19th-round pick in 2019 out of Lewis-Clark State College who has been a solidly professional bat and has helped paper over Stephen Piscotty‘s absence from the outfield thanks to a high ankle sprain. — Christina Kahrl

ICYMI:Who’s adding the most, least to A’s wild-card run

Tampa Bay Rays
2019 record: 86-59
Week 22 ranking: 8

The return of Tyler Glasnow is heartening, so step back and view the Rays’ season through a wide lens. Glasnow looked like a Cy Young candidate before hitting the injured list, but he has made just eight starts. The only Tampa Bay starter who will put up a full season in the rotation is Charlie Morton, while 17 pitchers have logged at least one high-leverage appearance. In the year of the home run, the Rays might not have a batter reach 30 and perhaps as few as two or three even reach 20. And yet, the Rays are on pace to win 95 games and host the AL wild-card game. On a national scale, manager Kevin Cash is kind of anonymous, in a way that his predecessors — Joe Maddon and Lou Piniella — never were, but has there been a better managerial performance in 2019? — Bradford Doolittle

ICYMI: Experts mull Rays’ chances of reaching October

Washington Nationals
2019 record: 79-63
Week 22 ranking: 6

With the NL East title out of reach after the Nationals lost three of four to the Braves, it’s all about the wild card. The next three series are tough: at Minnesota, at home against Atlanta and at St. Louis. Juan Soto reached 100 RBIs, becoming just the sixth player to hit the century mark in his age-20 season, joining Alex Rodriguez, 1996 (123); Al Kaline, 1955 (102); Ted Williams, 1939 (145); Mel Ott, 1929 (151); and Ty Cobb, 1907 (119). Pretty good company. — Schoenfield

ICYMI: Epic comeback tells us what the Nationals are … and aren’t

St. Louis Cardinals
2019 record: 81-62
Week 22 ranking: 10

The Cards carry a 4½-game lead in the NL Central race. And a three-game, week-opening series at Colorado’s Coors Field allows them an opportunity to extend that gap in advance of the most critical part of their schedule during the season’s final 2½ weeks. Beginning on Friday, they’ll play three apiece against the Brewers and Nationals, then seven against the Cubs sandwiching a three-game series against the Diamondbacks. — Tristan H. Cockcroft

ICYMI:Which player has done the most for Cards’ NL Central sprint?

Cleveland Indians
2019 record: 83-61
Week 22 ranking: 9

As the Indians try to keep pace with the Rays and A’s in the AL wild-card race, they’ve gotten top production from their best player, as Francisco Lindor keeps raking down the stretch. The only hitter with more extra-base hits than Lindor’s 35 in the second half is Rafael Devers. Carlos Santana also has remained solid with a .381 wOBA since the break. Unfortunately, season-ending injuries to Jose Ramirez and even Tyler Naquin have exposed how little depth Cleveland has left down the stretch. Will somebody else step up? — Kahrl

ICYMI: Who will come out on top in AL wild-card race?

Chicago Cubs
2019 record: 76-66
Week 22 ranking: 11

The Cubs’ playoff hopes are in jeopardy. When they lost to the Brewers on Christian Yelich‘s clutch double on Saturday, their playoff chances dipped below 60% for the first time since early May, according to the playoff odds report at Baseball-Reference. A big part of it is that, finally, one of the teams behind the Cubs in the wild-card race has emerged. Surprise! It’s Arizona, which has gone on a tear. None of this would be worth panicking about if Chicago had not lost Javier Baez to a thumb fracture this week, an injury that might have ended his regular season. The Cubs are still well-positioned in both the wild-card chase and in the NL Central. But now a team that has struggled to sustain success this season needs to do so while dealing with the absence of its best player. — Doolittle

ICYMI: If Javy is out for the stretch run, who steps into his shoes?

Arizona Diamondbacks
2019 record: 75-68
Week 22 ranking: 14

After floating within a few games of .500 pretty much the entire season, the D-backs picked a great time to play their best baseball of the year, winning 11 of 13 to pull within 1½ games of the scuffling Cubs for the second NL wild card. And Arizona is well-positioned, with 12 of its final 19 games against sub-.500 teams (three each versus the Reds and Marlins, and six against the Padres). — Steve Richards

ICYMI:Ketel Marte’s value to the Snakes’ wild-card push

Boston Red Sox
2019 record: 76-67
Week 22 ranking: 12

It has been largely a lost season for the Red Sox, but Xander Bogaerts‘ breakout campaign places him firmly in the conversation as one of baseball’s best shortstops. On Saturday, Bogaerts became the fourth player in Red Sox history with 1,000 career hits through his age-26 season, joining Tris Speaker, Bobby Doerr and Carl Yastrzemski. Bogaerts should move past Yaz (1,012 hits) before the season ends. — Richards

ICYMI:Could Mookie’s leverage yield a huge payday to stay in Boston?

Milwaukee Brewers
2019 record: 74-68
Week 22 ranking: 16

Christian Yelich appears to be at it again. Last year, Yelich accelerated what already was shaping up as a huge second half with a September for the ages. He hit .370/.508/.804 with 34 RBIs in 27 games, propelling the Brewers to an NL Central title and his first MVP award. He began this September by hitting .348/.483/.926 in six games. The Brewers are done with the Cubs after playing them at Miller Park over the weekend. They have one series left with St. Louis, three games beginning Friday. If Yelich can carry this more-flawed Brew Crew bunch back to October, it will be tough to vote for anyone else when the MVP ballots are cast. — Doolittle

ICYMI: Counsell on playing big games in September

New York Mets
2019 record: 72-70
Week 22 ranking: 13

Recent struggles by Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu have opened up the NL Cy Young Award race, and right-hander Jacob deGrom, last year’s winner, is right in the thick of things. Blame the lack of offense and atrocious bullpen for the lack of deGrom wins. However, he won the award last season with a 10-9 record, so it can happen again. Who else could win the award? Ryu still boasts a 2.45 ERA, better than deGrom’s 2.76 mark, but he does not have the strikeouts. Max Scherzer missed a month. Stephen Strasburg has a high ERA. Mike Soroka and Sonny Gray have excellent numbers but seem unlikely contenders. Yep, deGrom might win it again, and perhaps with fewer than 10 wins! — Karabell

ICYMI: Will Alonso set the MLB rookie HR record?

Philadelphia Phillies
2019 record: 74-68
Week 22 ranking: 15

Few will blame ace right-hander Aaron Nola if/when the overwhelmed Phillies officially fall out of the wild-card race, but he did not help matters by permitting five runs in the first two innings of last week’s start in Cincinnati. The Phillies desperately need Nola because the rest of the rotation is a mess. Nola delivered a 2.52 ERA in both July and August, over 12 starts, and he should face powerful Atlanta and Boston this week. The Phillies cannot afford to lose Nola’s outings, but that is exactly what has occurred over his past three starts. — Karabell

ICYMI:Howard on Phillies’ radar for 2020

Texas Rangers
2019 record: 72-73
Week 22 ranking: 19

Despite a 72-73 record, the Rangers still are in the middle of the postseason race, as they have three-game series this week against the Rays and A’s, both of whom are fighting the Indians for the two AL wild-card spots. And after two games at Houston, the Rangers play three more against Oakland. “What a great experience for our guys to finish the season on,” manager Chris Woodward said. “I want our guys to fight to the end.” — Richards

ICYMI: Why Minor > Verlander, and other shocking WAR battles

Cincinnati Reds
2019 record: 67-77
Week 22 ranking: 18

Eugenio Suarez continues to lead the Reds’ otherwise struggling offense of late, hitting 10 home runs in 14 games since Aug. 25, with the homers giving him a new career best with 44 for the season. He now is within eight home runs of George Foster’s franchise record in the category, set in 1977. — Cockcroft

ICYMI: Lorenzen has game not seen since Babe Ruth

San Francisco Giants
2019 record: 69-74
Week 22 ranking: 17

While the Giants’ 4-12 stumble into September killed off their wild-card hopes after reaching a high-water mark of two games over .500, winning Bruce Bochy’s last series against the Dodgers in L.A. pulled them out of that stumble. The remainder of their schedule basically will have no impact on the postseason picture, leaving them free to take long looks at kids with a future — including deadline addition Mauricio Dubon, who already has ripped four extra-base hits in just nine starts split between second base and short. — Kahrl

ICYMI:Dubon a Giants prospect to remember for next year

Los Angeles Angels
2019 record: 67-77
Week 22 ranking: 20

Looking for positives in a tough Angels season? Right-hander Hansel Robles was a waiver pickup in June 2018 after posting a 5.03 ERA for the Mets, and grabbing him was purely a depth move. His numbers for the Angels have been considerably better, as he has cut down on the home run rate. And after Cody Allen failed to pitch capably this season, Robles became the closer over hard-throwing right-hander Ty Buttrey. Robles posted a 1.50 ERA over June, July and August, saving 13 games, and while there are no guarantees for 2020 of his role or even his team, he has turned his career around. — Karabell

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San Diego Padres
2019 record: 66-76
Week 22 ranking: 21

The Padres have gotten some good production from their young starters during the past couple of weeks, with Joey Lucchesi, Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet in particular leading the way. How the team assembles its rotation will be one of its biggest questions heading into 2020, chief among them whether the Padres will attempt to acquire a staff anchor by using some of its prospect depth. — Cockcroft

Pittsburgh Pirates
2019 record: 62-81
Week 22 ranking: 25

The Pirates have unearthed some unexpected contributors on the hitting side this season, with Kevin Newman‘s recent play one of their more promising stories, flashing power and speed while staking his claim to the team’s regular leadoff role. The Pirates are 9-5 in games with Newman atop the batting order. — Cockcroft

ICYMI: Bucs’ Brault on singing the national anthem

Chicago White Sox
2019 record: 63-80
Week 22 ranking: 22

The White Sox are pretty well locked into third place in the AL Central. Along with the team’s decision to not promote prospects Luis Robert or Nick Madrigal, that has made September a little anticlimactic. So much for generating some early buzz for 2020, when the ChiSox are expected to begin emerging from their rebuild. In the meantime, South Side fans of old-school Triple Crown categories have plenty to root for. Shortstop Tim Anderson passed the plate-appearance minimum this week, which vaulted him into the AL lead in batting average. Anderson is bidding to become Chicago’s third batting champion, joining Luke Appling (1936 and 1943) and Frank Thomas (1997). Also, Jose Abreu has moved into the AL RBI lead; Dick Allen (1972) is the only previous ChiSox hitter to lead the league. — Doolittle

ICYMI: White Sox suffering MLB-worst production at more than one position

Colorado Rockies
2019 record: 60-84
Week 22 ranking: 23

Not much has seemed to go right for the Rockies this season, with the team now into the auditions-and-experimentation stage as they gear up for the 2020 campaign. New leadoff man Trevor Story is struggling in the role thus far, posting a .298 OBP in 11 games since his installation into that lineup spot. — Cockcroft

Seattle Mariners
2019 record: 58-86
Week 22 ranking: 26

An 0-6 week against the Cubs and Astros culminated in Sunday’s ugly blowout loss, dropping the Mariners to 1-16 against the Astros. The Mariners are 20-55 against teams .500 or better (38-31 against losing teams). The Mariners are allowing 5.72 runs per game, which would break the previous franchise worst of 5.59 in 1999. That team had Ken Griffey Jr. (48 homers), Alex Rodriguez (42 HRs) and Edgar Martinez (1.001 OPS) and still finished under .500. — Schoenfield

Toronto Blue Jays
2019 record: 55-89
Week 22 ranking: 24

It was a rough week for the Jays, who went 0-6 and scored just 15 runs. But it’s all about the young guys in Toronto, and this week that is 24-year-old lefty Anthony Kay, who was the centerpiece coming from the Mets in the Marcus Stroman trade. Kay tied the Jays’ franchise record for strikeouts by a pitcher making his major league debut, fanning eight Rays over 5⅔ innings. Kay allowed two runs on four hits and three walks in a 5-3 loss. — Richards

Miami Marlins
2019 record: 51-91
Week 22 ranking: 27

With the team 18-36 since the All-Star break and closing in on the third 100-loss season in franchise history, there aren’t many positives. The pitching has posted a 5.50 ERA in the second half. In the lineup, Jon Berti might be the lone hitter who has played his way into a job. With just two home series left, barring any local excitement for watching Christian Yelich crush Fish pitching this week, an embarrassing per-game (paid) attendance figure under 10,000 per game seems certain. — Kahrl

ICYMI: Got you, bro — Marlins’ Moran K’s brother in MLB debut

Kansas City Royals
2019 record: 53-91
Week 22 ranking: 28

Kansas City’s goals for the rest of the regular season are modest and individual in nature, save for the race to avoid another 100-loss season. Jorge Soler already has become the first 40-homer hitter in franchise history, and given his penchant for abundant hot streaks, a run at 50 is not out of the question. He also is second in the AL behind Mike Trout, and if he can overtake the likely MVP, Soler would be K.C.’s first home run champion. Meanwhile, Whit Merrifield is bidding to become the first Royal to reach 200 hits since Melky Cabrera in 2011, as well as the first-ever K.C. hitter to lead the circuit in back-to-back seasons. — Doolittle

Baltimore Orioles
2019 record: 46-97
Week 22 ranking: 29

Who is Hanser Alberto? Baseball’s best hitter against left-handed pitching, that’s who. The Orioles infielder, who had 35 hits in 182 career at-bats (.192) entering the season, is batting .420 against lefties this year, including three hits off Rangers ace Mike Minor on Sunday. And it’s not a small sample size: Alberto has 202 plate appearances against left-handers, fourth in MLB entering Sunday. Go figure. — Richards

ICYMI: Trumbo returns to lineup, first time in over a year

Detroit Tigers
2019 record: 42-100
Week 22 ranking: 30

Three weeks to go, and the Tigers already are a 100-loss team. Remember when starting pitching was at least the one thing you could tout as a positive? Since the All-Star break, the Tigers’ rotation has posted a 6.22 ERA, which, horrific as it is, isn’t the worst in that span (the Orioles and Rockies are worse still). But with Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull running ragged and Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmermann looking done, Detroit might be better off giving the opener a whirl than accepting routine beatings. — Kahrl

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