Halos holding strong atop Power Rankings

Halos holding strong atop Power Rankings

It's that time of year again. The postseason contenders have separated themselves from the pack, and now it's a mad dash toward the finish line. The marathon season has officially evolved into a three-week sprint to October.

Will your favorite team be in the running toward playoff glory when September ends, or is it time to start thinking about next year?

Are the Angels the best team in baseball, or do the Orioles deserve that honor? Can any team in the American League compete with the Nationals or the powerhouses in the National League Central?

That's where you come in.

For the fourth consecutive season, MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. The group includes MLB.com vice president and executive editor Carlton Thompson, executive editor Matthew Leach, columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Tracy Ringolsby, Phil Rogers and Lyle Spencer along with reporters Alyson Footer and Jesse Sanchez.

What do you think? Agree, disagree? Have your opinion counted by submitting your Power Rankings.

1. Angels: The Halos keep finding ways to win and that's not good news for the rest of the AL. They are coming off a four-game sweep of the Twins to push them to a season-best 32 games above .500. Their lead over the A's in the AL West is now seven games.

2. Orioles: Baltimore dropped two of three to the Rays over the weekend, but still leads the AL East by 9 1/2 games. The O's also reduced their magic number to 12 with a win on Sunday.

3. Nationals: Washington leads second-place Atlanta by seven games in the NL East entering this week's series at Turner Field. The Nats are 10-22 against the Braves since the start of last season, and they are hoping to reverse that trend.

4. Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw is the favorite to win his second straight NL Cy Young Award and possibly even the NL MVP Award, despite missing a month of the season. He leads the Majors with a 1.70 ERA, an .850 winning percentage, six complete games and remains one of the most intimidating forces in baseball. The Dodgers, who have a three-game lead over the second-place Giants in the NL West standings, will send Kershaw to the mound Monday.

5. Athletics: Once considered the best team in baseball, Oakland is struggling. The club's offense has struggled, the pitching has been inconsistent and now the A's sit seven games behind the Angels in the AL West. They still have a two-game cushion for the top AL Wild Card spot.

6. Mariners: Seattle sits nine games out of first place in the AL West, but is in position to take one of the two AL Wild Card spots and earn its first postseason berth since 2001. Could this be the year Felix Hernandez finally gets to pitch in a playoff game?

7. Giants: San Francisco still holds the NL's top Wild Card spot, but is now three games behind the Dodgers in the NL West after Sunday's loss to the Tigers. The Giants should be feeling good about themselves. They won two of three against Detroit and have won seven of their last 10 games.

8. Royals: It's a great time to root for Kansas City. The Royals won two of three against the Yankees over the weekend and are two games ahead of the second-place Tigers in the AL Central. Kansas City opens a three-game series against Detroit at Comerica Park on Monday afternoon with the top spot in the division on the line.

9. Cardinals: Is St. Louis starting to pull away in the NL Central? The club won six games against the Brewers and Pirates last week and now enters the final three weeks of the regular season with a 4 1/2-game lead over Pittsburgh. The Cards are the only one of the NL Central's three contending teams to boast a winning record within the division.

10.Tigers: Detroit, which has six games remaining with the AL Central-leading Royals, trails the Mariners by a half-game in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot. The good news? Miguel Cabrera hit five home runs last week and is heating up. The slugger has hit as many home runs in seven September games as he did over his previous 73 games from June 11-Aug. 31.

11. Indians: Pitching, including the emergence of Carlos Carrasco, has been a big part of Cleveland's 21-12 run since the start of August. The Indians remain five games back of the Royals in the AL Central and 3 1/2 back of the Mariners for the second AL Wild Card.

12. Pirates:  Pittsburgh remains 4 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central's top spot, but slid into second place in the NL Wild Card by beating the Cubs on Sunday. The Bucs can thank their pitching staff. The starters have allowed three earned runs or fewer in 13 of their last 16 starts.

13. Blue Jays: Toronto's high-powered offense has helped keep the team within five games of the second AL Wild Card. The Blue Jays have to be almost perfect in their final 20 games of the season, but the team remains optimistic.

14. Braves: Atlanta's slumping offense has more than four runs in just four of the past 15 games. Including Sunday's 4-0 loss to the Marlins, the Braves have been shut out in four of their past eight games and 13 times this season.

15.Yankees: The Bombers celebrated "Derek Jeter Day" on Sunday, but they'll need a strong finish and some help to extend the Captain's season into the October playoffs. The Yanks are 4 1/2 games behind the Mariners in the chase for the second AL Wild Card spot.