Now that we're in the midst of the real, true stretch run of the regular season, it's probably time to look at the weekly Power Rankings as the Postseason Power Rankings -- in other words, rank the teams by how likely it is they'll still be playing past Oct. 2, and how easy it will be for them to get there.
Though September has been unkind to a couple of teams that spoiled their fan bases with pure dominance for much of the season (we're looking at you, Dodgers and Astros), and although the American League Wild Card race still could go in a half-dozen directions, the division races are starting to look pretty settled (minus the National League Central).
Because these rankings are based more on how things may look after the playoffs begin in earnest, some of the hottest teams of late may be ranked a bit lower. Take the D-backs, for instance. Other than the Indians, is there a team on a better roll right now? That said, because they are likely headed to the win-or-go-home NL Wild Card Game, their ranking is weaker than, say, the Nationals, who already clinched the NL East and look strong heading into the postseason.
Biggest jump: Haven't we learned by now not to count out the Cardinals? Despite several extremely tough stretches this season when it looked like this just might be the year they lose their edge, here they are, right in the thick of it. A win over the Pirates on Sunday put the Cards a season-high seven games over .500 and within two games of the Cubs for the division lead. Their impressive week-plus boosted their place in the rankings, from No. 17 to No. 12.
Biggest drop: Not a lot of significant drops this week, mainly because the postseason picture is getting clearer. The Orioles had the biggest drop, from No. 13 last week to No. 16 this week. They have one win in their past seven games after falling in Monday's opener in Toronto.
Power Rankings Top 5
1. Indians (last week: 2)
This was easy. The Win-dians have won 19 in a row, the last one arriving via a blowout home win over the Tigers on Monday. There are a few dozen ways we could go to illustrate the Indians' dominance during their streak. For starters, they've trailed in just four of 171 innings. They have a plus-100 run differential. One hundred. Also, the Tribe's rotation is 17-0 with a 1.84 ERA during the streak. On the offensive side, Francisco Lindor has been a rock for these 19 games, batting .365 (27-for-74) with eight homers, 18 RBIs and 17 runs scored.
2. Nationals (4)
This was also a no-brainer. The team that clinches first deserves prominent billing in the Power Rankings, especially when it leads its division by a whopping 20 games. The Nationals' bullpen, the worst in baseball for much of the first half, has posted a 3.65 ERA since July 18, the date Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson made their team debuts. The rotation, on the other hand, has been among the best in baseball since Day 1, and it got better as time progressed. Stephen Strasburg has thrown 34 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest streak in the Majors this season and the longest streak in franchise history.
3. Dodgers (1)
The Dodgers have lost 11 games in a row and 16 of their last 17 after dropping Monday's opener against the Giants. But -- and there has to be a "but" here doesn't there? -- in terms of October, the Dodgers will be there when the postseason begins. They're making things interesting and could be in danger of relinquishing the best record in the NL to the Nationals -- a concept that seemed unfathomable just a couple of weeks ago.
4. Astros (3)
Houston is another team that, after pure dominance for four-plus months, has stumbled onto harder times. At this point, the Astros need to focus on clinching the division title, which could happen as early as this weekend when they return home from a three-city road trip. They had visions of possibly clinching on the road -- hopes that were squelched when they were swept in a four-game set by the last-place A's. That series really wasn't even competitive, and the Astros are going to have to get their bullpen in order if they hope to compete in October.
5. Red Sox (7)
Boston has played like a very average baseball team over the past couple of weeks, but it's been enough to hold off the Yankees and keep its grip on the lead in the AL East. A three-game lead isn't exactly comfortable, but without anymore head-to-head matchups with the Yankees this season, as long as the Red Sox don't completely collapse, they should be OK. They have a somewhat favorable schedule coming up in the next couple of weeks -- they play the A's and Reds, teams both many games under .500 -- though they do end the season with the Astros, who, like the Red Sox, will probably still be fighting for best-record postseason seeding.