Alyson Footer

Cards climb rankings in pursuit of playoffs

St. Louis enters final week half-game back of Giants, 1.5 behind Mets in NL Wild Card race

Cards climb rankings in pursuit of playoffs

With most of the division races decided, or on the cusp of being so, all that is left is the matter of a couple of Wild Card races, and determining who will grab home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the postseason.

The Cubs clinched home-field advantage awhile back and should surpass the 100-win mark soon. But the other series, presumably pitting the Nationals against the Dodgers, is still up in the air in terms of where it will begin. Through Sunday, the Nationals had a one-game edge in the win column over Los Angeles, but with a week to play -- the Dodgers play in San Diego and San Francisco; the Nationals are home against the D-backs and Marlins -- things can change quickly.

Power Rankings

Biggest jump: The Cardinals improved from 14 to 11, if only for the fact that they've hung in the National League Wild Card race despite plenty of ups and downs, especially in September. They also have a decent chance to make a move as that race winds down this week with a four-game set against the Reds opening Monday in St. Louis.

Biggest drop: The Mariners dropped three spots, from 11 to 14, and are barely hanging in the American League Wild Card race. They missed opportunities to gain ground in the last week-plus, dropping series to the Astros and Blue Jays, two teams also vying for Wild Card berths. Seattle plays three in Houston before ending the season at home against the A's. The Mariners are 2 1/2 games out of the second spot with seven to play.

Power Rankings Top 5

1. Cubs: They began the rankings season as the No. 1 team, and they've never relinquished the spot. The Cubs have too many good pitchers worthy of a postseason rotation spot, a "problem" any team would love to have. Now it's just a matter of maintaining some level of intensity and momentum as they prepare for a Division Series that won't start until five days after the regular season ends.

Ross' solo home run

2. Red Sox: A tight division race is pretty much over, thanks to the Red Sox's 11-game winning streak that included four-game sweeps over the Yankees and Orioles and a three-game sweep of the Rays. Forget what we said about the AL East race coming down to the last weekend. Boston could have the division wrapped up by Tuesday.

Red Sox set a franchise K record

3. Rangers: A favorable schedule through the stretch run has proven to be just that. The Rangers had few challenges this month, playing a bunch against the Angels and A's, and also the Astros, against whom they were 15-4 this season. Postseason home-field advantage is still very much in play for the Rangers, so it's unlikely they'll ease up during the upcoming home series with the Brewers and Rays.

Must C: Rangers clinch AL West

4. Nationals: The NL East champs, like most teams, have had to deal with their share of injury concerns this season, but considering they have legitimate candidates for NL MVP (Daniel Murphy), NL Cy Young (Max Scherzer) and NL Rookie of the Year (Trea Turner), it's no surprise they handily won the division. Also, five Nats players hit 20 home runs this year, and Tanner Roark emerged as a front-line starter.

Must C: Nats clinch NL East

5. Indians: The Tribe's rotation issues won't go away when the postseason begins, but they'll be slightly less glaring when they actually won't need a fifth starter. Filling in the gaps with the help of a host of "bullpen days" isn't ideal, but it won't be necessary once the playoffs get here and only four starters are needed. The division is all but clinched, which fortunately for Cleveland means even devastating blows to the rotation of late won't hinder their chances to win the AL Central.

Crisp's two-run double

The rest of the top 20

6. Dodgers (6)

7. Blue Jays (8)

8. Orioles (7)

9. Mets (9)

10. Tigers (13)

11. Cardinals (14)

12. Giants (10)

13. Astros (12)

14. Mariners (11)

15. Pirates (17)

16. Yankees (15)

17. Marlins (16)

18. Royals (18)

19. Rockies (20)

20. White Sox (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.