By Paul Casella
Though the top five teams remained the same this week, there was some shuffling between a pair of division rivals.
As the Mets and Braves continue to jostle for position atop the National League East, they also flipped spots once again in the latest edition of our Power Rankings. There was also a decent amount of movement involving the teams battling for position in the AL Wild Card race.
Here’s a closer look at this week’s full Power Rankings.
Biggest jump: The Brewers came up short in their bid to sweep the Yankees on Sunday, but they still made up some ground in the NL Wild Card race over the past week — and jumped three spots from No. 16 to No. 13 this week. After splitting a pair of games in St. Louis, Milwaukee won the first two against the Yanks before letting a three-run lead slip away on Sunday.
Biggest drop: No team dropped more than two spots this week, but the group that fell two places included a trio of AL postseason hopefuls — the Rays (from No. 6 to No. 8), the Mariners (from No. 7 to No. 9) and the White Sox (from No. 13 to No. 15).
1) Dodgers (100-44, last week: 1)
The Dodgers needed only 144 games to reach 100 wins, becoming the fastest team to reach triple-digits since the 2001 Mariners. Offensively, they continue to lead the Majors in team OPS and runs scored, while their pitching staff has the lowest ERA in the big leagues. As if they needed more help, Clayton Kershaw has looked sharp since returning from the IL, posting a 1.50 ERA over 18 innings in three September starts.
2) Astros (96-51, last week: 2)
Houston has won seven of its past eight games as the Astros continue to close in on winning their fifth AL West title in the past six seasons. Their starting rotation has an AL-best 3.04 ERA this season — and they received a crucial reinforcement this week with the return of Justin Verlander. The AL Cy Young favorite came back following a three-week absence and immediately turned in a dominant performance against the A’s, striking out nine batters over five hitless innings.
3) Mets (93-55, last week: 4)
It was an up-and-down week for the Mets, who began it by getting swept in a three-game series against the Cubs before bouncing back with a four-game sweep of the Pirates. Jacob deGrom continues to shine, striking out 13 batters in just five innings on Sunday against the Pirates. The Mets are also expected to get three pitchers — Max Scherzer, Tylor Megill and Drew Smith — back from the IL to start this week. That should help in their quest to hold on to their one-game lead in the NL East.
4) Braves (91-55, last week: 3)
Though they swept the rival Phillies over the weekend, it proved to be a bittersweet series with the loss of Ozzie Albies. One night after returning from a three-month absence due to a fractured left foot, Albies fractured his right pinky finger on Saturday sliding into second base. He’ll miss the rest of the regular season, and is unlikely to return for the postseason, though Atlanta hasn’t ruled it out. Despite playing so much time without Albies, the Braves have posted an MLB-best 68-28 record since the start of June, thanks in part to the superb play of emerging young stars Spencer Strider and Michael Harris II. Still, they find themselves looking up at the first-place Mets.
5. Cardinals (87-61, last week: 5)
The Cardinals hold an eight-game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central, but they’re about to get a series of postseason tests during their upcoming eight-game road trip. St. Louis opens a three-game set against the Padres — a potential NL Wild Card Series opponent — in San Diego on Tuesday before facing the MLB-leading Dodgers for three games in L.A. That trip wraps up with a two-game set against the Brewers — a series that could see the Cardinals potentially clinch the division, if all goes well.
The rest of the field of 30:
Voters: Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Paul Casella, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn, Brett Blueweiss