Alyson Footer

Nationals join Cubs in top 2 spots of Power Rankings

Red Sox move into top 5; Mets vault themseleves into top 10

Nationals join Cubs in top 2 spots of Power Rankings

By this time next week, the Cubs will probably have clinched the National League Central, with the Nationals and Rangers (and possibly the Indians) inching closer to nailing down their respective division titles.

Still, there should be plenty of compelling storylines heading into the final stages of the 2016 regular season, including whether the young Yankees can nab one of the American League Wild Card spots; if the Giants' terrific first half will be enough to carry them to a Wild Card berth despite having one of the worst second-half records in baseball; and if there will be a confusing three-way tie with the Orioles, Red Sox and Blue Jays at the end of the 162-game schedule, which will make Oct. 3 and 4 very interesting for more than one traveling secretary.

This week's Power Rankings, thankfully, aren't nearly that confusing.

• Power Rankings

Biggest jump: Not a ton of movement from last week to this week. The most noticeable is the Mets' jump from 14 to 10, which coincides, not so coincidentally, with their moving into second place in the Wild Card standings. They went 5-1 in the past week after sweeping the Reds and taking two of three from the Braves, and their schedule is one of the easiest from here on out. After playing three in Washington this week, they have an extended homestand against the Twins, Braves and Phillies, and they end the season in Miami and Philadelphia. This should bode well for the reigning NL champs.

Cespedes' scorching grand slam

Biggest drop: The Royals dropped four spots, from 12 to 16. It's not over for the World Series champs, but they're going to have to not only play well down the stretch, but hope that the six teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings take a collective nose dive over the remaining 20 games. The Royals are four back of the second Wild Card spot and still have six games with the Indians and three with the Tigers.

Power Rankings Top 5

1. Cubs

The NL Central division should be wrapped up sometime this week, considering the Cubs have a 16-game lead with 20 games left to play. Heading into their win over the Astros Sunday night, Cubs pitchers had an MLB-best 2.62 ERA since the All-Star break, more than a full run lower than the Nats, who were second with a 3.71 second-half ERA. From Aug. 24 through Saturday, the Cubs bullpen had a 1.62 ERA and .168 opponents' batting average. Justin Grimm has been dominant lately, allowing one run over his past 22 1/3 innings.

2. Nationals

Trea Turner followed up a spectacular August during which he slashed .357/.366/.571 with an equally as impressive start to September, logging 13 hits in 41 at-bats (.317) with three homers and eight RBIs. The Nationals, who are 45-19 against the NL East, have a bullpen with best ERA in the league at 3.28.

3. Rangers

The Rangers had just a so-so week, dropping three of four in Seattle before winning two of three over the Angels. A 3-4 week hardly matters, however, given the Rangers' 9 1/2-game advantage in the AL West and their favorable schedule moving forward. After a three-game set in Houston this week, Texas will not play another team with a winning record until the postseason. The Rangers host the A's and Angels, travel to Oakland for three and end the regular season with a Brewers-Rays homestand.

4. Indians

The Indians have a comfortable lead in the AL Central, but still have seven to play with the second-place Tigers -- three at home Sept. 16-18 and four in Detroit Sept. 26-29. Overall, it's been a good first half of September for the Tribe as it prepares for an all-division finish to the season. Among the many bright spots: Corey Kluber is 8-1 with a 2.04 ERA and 94 strikeouts over 12 starts since July 8, and Francisco Lindor, with 92 runs scored, is vying to become the first Indians hitter since Jhonny Peralta in 2008 (104) to score 100 runs in a season.

5. Red Sox

The ever-jumbled AL East became a little clearer after the Red Sox took two of three in a weekend series in Toronto and left with a two-game lead in the division. The Red Sox pitching, suspect in the early stages of the season, has stabilized over time -- over their past 57 games, the starters have a 3.42 ERA -- lowest in the AL and second-lowest in baseball, behind only the Cubs. The Sox bullpen has been terrific in September, holding opponents to two runs over 20 2/3 innings for a 0.87 ERA. Opponents hit .192 off their relievers during that span.

The rest of the top 20:

6. Dodgers (7)

7. Blue Jays (5)

8. Orioles (9)

9. Tigers (8)

10. Mets (14)

11. Giants (11)

12. Cardinals (10)

13. Yankees (15)

14. Astros (13)

15. Mariners (17)

16. Royals (12)

17. Marlins (16)

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.