Alyson Footer

Mariners make biggest leap in Power Rankings

Cubs, first to clinch division title, a solid No. 1, followed by Nats, Rangers

Mariners make biggest leap in Power Rankings

For the first half of the season, the National League West race tipped in favor of the Giants, who had one of the best records in baseball until the All-Star break. Few could have predicted that the Giants would put together one of the worst two-month stretches ever compiled by a contending team and that the Dodgers, piecing together an injury riddled rotation lacking star power and veteran durability, would somehow keep winning and eventually take over the division lead.

As we present one of the final Power Rankings rundowns of the 2016 regular season, it should be noted the Giants and Dodgers play each other six more times over the next two weeks, which could affect the final NL West standings. But the Giants have to be nearly perfect from this point, quite a lofty expectation given their continual inability to put together any type of significant winning streak.

Power Rankings

Biggest jump: The Mariners jumped from 15 to 11, and perhaps it should be even higher, given how relevant they are in the Wild Card race heading into the stretch run. Seattle seemed to be fading quickly a couple of weeks ago but then strung together nine wins in 11 games to inch to within two games of the second Wild Card spot. They missed a bit of an opportunity over the weekend by dropping two of three to the Astros, but they can boost their chances this week when they host the very team they're trying to catch, the Blue Jays, for three games at Safeco Field.

Smith's three-run smash

Biggest drop: The Tigers dropped from nine to 13 after a so-so week during which they won three and lost four. Last week Tigers manager Brad Ausmus mentioned during an interview with MLB Network commentator Chris Russo that they would need to take five of their seven remaining games against the Indians to have a realistic chance to catch up in the AL Central. After dropping two of three in Cleveland over the weekend, that means they'll have to win all four in Detroit the week of Sept. 26. The Wild Card is more attainable. They're neck-and-neck with the Mariners, two games out.

Power Rankings Top 5

1. Cubs
The first team to clinch a division title, the Cubs will soon secure home-field advantage through their first two rounds of the postseason. The Cubs enter the final two weeks of the season with a staggering 200-plus run differential over opponents, the starting pitchers have led the NL in most relevant categories all season and they have two MVP candidates taking up space in the middle of the lineup. Yep, the Cubs are good.

Cubs celebrate NL Central title

2. Nationals
It's a matter of when, not if, the Nationals wrap up the NL East title, and it's likely this task will be completed by the time next week's rankings are revealed. The Nats rotation depth could be better, given uncertainties surrounding Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross, but they have two horses at the top in Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark, and Gio Gonzalez, despite two inexplicably poor outings against the last-place Braves, provides depth for a playoff rotation that will only need to be four-deep.

3. Rangers
The Rangers, who should have their division wrapped up sometime this week, are running away with the AL West for a couple of reasons, one being that they are making history with their last at-bat, come-from-behind wins. They recently set a club record with their ninth win when trailing in the ninth inning or later. They're the first team to win that many games when trailing that late since the 2012 A's. Why else does Texas have such a large lead? They positively steamrolled their two closest opponents -- the Mariners, against whom the Rangers are 12-7, and the Astros, who lost 11 of 15 against them this season.

4. Indians
The gigantic blow the Indians were dealt over the weekend cannot be overstated. Losing Carlos Carrasco, whose season is over after he fractured his pitching hand on an Ian Kinsler comebacker, is huge. Opening the postseason without Carrasco and Danny Salazar is not how the Indians envisioned it, but it is now their reality. This is not all doom and gloom, however. They have a very healthy seven-game lead over the Tigers, and they still have Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer at the top of the rotation. Bullpens, benches and defense often influence outcomes of playoff games more than rotations, and the Indians, in that respect, are in a good place. The Tribe has the lowest bullpen ERA in the AL since the All-Star break.

5. Red Sox
The Red Sox have placed somewhere between No. 5 and No. 7 in our Power Rankings in the past month, and it's hard to argue their occupancy of the No. 5 spot for the last two weeks, given their strong showing against the Blue Jays and Yankees that surrounded a series loss to the Orioles. As much criticism as the Red Sox pitching has received over the course of the season, it should be noted the bullpen has the lowest ERA in the AL in September at 1.06, and the rotation's 3.81 ERA is the third-lowest in the AL this month.

The rest of the Power Rankings top 20
6. Dodgers (6)
7. Orioles (8)
8. Blue Jays (7)
9. Mets (10)
10. Giants (11)
11. Mariners (15)
12. Astros (14)
13. Tigers (9)
14. Cardinals (12)
15. Yankees (13)
16. Marlins (17)
17. Pirates (18)
18. Royals (16)
19. White Sox (20)
20. Rockies (19)

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.