Alyson Footer

Cardinals, Tigers move up Power Rankings

With big division leads, Cubs, Rangers hold firm at top two spots

Cardinals, Tigers move up Power Rankings

A couple of division races are proving to be close enough to have a chance to stretch into the final weekend of the season, but the most compelling storylines are coming out of the American League Wild Card race, where a whole mess of teams -- as many as seven, as of Monday -- have a realistic shot to grab one of the final two playoff spots.

Boston leads the AL Wild Card standings with a one-game lead, with the Orioles and Tigers tied for the second spot. On the outside, but closely looking in, are the Astros (two out), Yankees (3 1/2) and Royals (four), with the Mariners hanging in there with a five-game deficit.

• Power Rankings

It may be a bit too early to give the full rundown on all the tiebreaker scenarios, but it's safe to assume there will be some very meaningful baseball played on Oct. 2 -- the final day of the regular season.

Biggest jump: The magic number, it seems, is three. The Tigers jumped from 11 to eight; the Cardinals, 13 to 10 and the Mets, 17 to 14. The Cardinals' play of late could be described as little more than adequate -- in the last two weeks, they've lost series to the Mets, A's and Reds while taking two of three against only the Brewers. Yet they're near the top of the National League Wild Card standings and would be the visiting team in that game if the playoffs started today. They're also getting healthier by the day with a rotation that is starting to come together.

Miggy collects four hits vs. Sox

Biggest drop: The Mariners dropped five spots, from 12 to 17, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Seattle was rolling for a while in August, but have won only four games since Aug. 22. Even in wins, the pitching has not been good. Roster expansion has given the Mariners much-needed bullpen reinforcements, but they have some ground to make up in a Wild Card race that could be slipping away.

Power Rankings Top 5:

1. Cubs

The Cubs could clinch the division title in another week or so, a staggering target date given they play in one of the more challenging divisions. They're 41 games over .500 and 16 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals and on pace for 105 wins. When it's early September and most of the conversations surrounding this team involve how it's going to stay both sharp and rested with so many more games to play after wrapping up the division race and whether Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo is the more worthy MVP, that's a pretty good indication life is good at the Friendly Confines.

Heyward's walk-off RBI single

2. Rangers

The AL West race isn't officially over, but, well, it's over. The Rangers are 13-3 against the Astros and 11-4 against the Mariners this season, helping them build a nearly double-digit lead with 24 games to play. Texas isn't a perfect team, but it is deep, thanks in large part to the additions of Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Rangers' 82-56 record matches its best 138-game mark, tying the 1999 and 2012 clubs.

3. Indians

The Tribe bounced back from a rough week late in August to win six in a row before Monday's loss to the Astros. The Indians own the second-lowest bullpen ERA (3.44) and the lowest staff ERA in the AL at 3.79. Following the Astros series, the Indians will play the rest of the season against only AL Central teams. That includes seven games with the Tigers -- three at home Sept. 16-18 and four in Detroit Sept. 26-29.

4. Nationals

The Nationals, owners of the third-best record in baseball, are 40-18 against the NL East, making them the winningest team in the Major Leagues within their own division. They also owned the best bullpen ERA in the NL at 3.34, a mark that sat just behind the Royals for the best in MLB (3.12).

Scherzer's 16th victory

5. Blue Jays

Toronto leads a tight AL East race that looks primed to be a three-team race to the end. The Blue Jays were just 7-6 over the past two weeks and have both won and lost several high-scoring affairs; still, they own the second-lowest staff ERA in the AL (3.84) and have the added luxury of playing in a division where their two closest rivals, the Orioles and Red Sox, have plenty of pitching issues.

The rest of the top 20:

6. Red Sox (7)

7. Dodgers (6)

8. Tigers (11)

9. Orioles (8)

10. Cardinals (13)

11. Giants (9)

12. Royals (10)

13. Astros (15)

14. Mets (17)

15. Yankees (14)

16. Marlins (16)

17. Mariners (12)

18. Pirates (18)

19. Rockies (19)

20. White Sox (20)

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.