We’re 152 games into this baseball season and some things are finally starting to make sense. The Tampa Bay Rays might have been a good team all this time. The Milwaukee Brewers’ hype from the preseason was real — and their recent record against the Chicago Cubs proves it. The Boston Red Sox are good, so are the Houston Astros. The Baltimore Orioles are definitely not good.
And the Los Angeles Dodgers — there’s the real epiphany.
The Dodgers have been up and down these rankings all season. They started high, hung in the middle despite a tough start and dove down to an embarrassing level in May when they were a fourth-place team. After it all, here we are, a week and a half out from the postseason and we might have the most interesting truth of them all: The Dodgers are still the team nobody in the NL wants to see in the playoffs.
They haven’t accumulated wins like the Red Sox or wowed us with their rotation like the Astros or been an unbelievable story like the Oakland A’s — they’ve just been good enough to stick around until the time the games really start to matter. After Tuesday night’s walk-off 10th inning win against the Colorado Rockies, the Dodgers have their biggest lead in the NL West since July 28. It’s only 1.5 games, but if they win another division title, it doesn’t really matter how many they win it by.
Maybe the Dodgers can’t hang with the titans of the AL. But right now they seem just as good as anybody in the National League. And that should scare more than a couple teams.
Onto this week’s Power Rankings, where we give the Rays their due and try to make sense out of the rest of the NL.
1. Red Sox (103-48; last week: 1)
It’s hard to argue with the Red Sox, who have earned all the accolades this season. First team to clinch a playoff berth. First to 100 wins. Heck, they have a chance to reach 110 wins still. The Red Sox have problems — every team does — but their body of work in undeniable. Their postseason success will depend on their pitching. If their starters can go effectively deep into games and they don’t need to depend on their bullpen as much, Boston will be successful.
2. Astros (95-56; last week: 2)
The Astros, at their best, are probably the most potent team in baseball — no matter what the Red Sox’s win column or these rankings say. The Astros haven’t been at their best all season, but they’ve shown quite a few flashes of it. When it’s on point, their pitching is daunting. When it’s healthy, their lineup is endlessly talented. For Houston, it might come down to Carlos Correa, who is coming off an injury and hitting just .178 in August and September. If he finds his groove, they get even better.
3. Yankees (92-58; last week: 3)
Aaron Judge is back and that’s the best possible news for the Yankees, who are 6-8 so far in September but haven’t had a losing month all season. Judge is one fewer question mark for the Yankees, who are also waiting to get Aroldis Chapman back and Luis Severino back to his first-half self. If all those things happen and Giancarlo Stanton gets hot, they’re extremely dangerous. If not, well, they might not make it past the A’s.
4. A’s (90-61; last week: 4)
The A’s are on a little bit of a skid lately, losing four of five, including Tuesday night’s game to the Los Angeles Angels. The universe likes to balance things out, though, and this comes after a six-game A’s winning streak. The A’s starting pitching doesn’t make you flinch, but the fact is, they’ve won more games than anybody in the National League, so doubt them at your own risk.
5. Brewers (86-66; last week: 5)
The Brewers stay ahead of the Cubs here even though they’re behind them in the standings. The reason? They won two series against the Cubs this month and we can’t ignore that. There’s a good chance the Brewers and Cubs could meet in the NLDS, and you best believe recent success will boost Milwaukee’s confidence.
6. Cubs (89-62; last week: 6)
The Cubs, as maligned as they are sometimes by their hometown fans, should finish the season with the best record in the NL and home-field advantage throughout the NL side of the playoff bracket. They’ll need every advantage they can get, since their bullpen is beaten up and looking like a problem. But their starting pitching has been pretty good lately and you know how good that lineup is.
7. Indians (84-66; last week: 7)
The Indians feel like the veteran NFL quarterback who is going through the motions in the preseason waiting to turn it on for Week 1. At least, they hope that’s the case. Not much about the Indians’ performance this season is glamorous. They won baseball’s worst division, they have as many wins as the NL wild-card teams. But they still look like a team that’s built to win in October, from their deep lineup to their bulked-up bullpen. Let’s see if they turn it on when it matters most.
8. Dodgers (84-68; last week: 11)
As up and down as the Dodgers’ season has been, there’s a good case to be made that they’re the most dangerous team in the National League. They’re still the deepest and most talented team, other than maybe the Cubs — and they’ve shown us in the past week they can dispatch of the Cardinals and Rockies when the stakes are high.
9. Braves (83-68; last week: 8)
Atlanta should hope they’re getting the cold streak out of their system. The Braves will almost certainly win the NL East, but they’ve also lost four straight. As long as they take care of business in the next week and a half, they can rewrite the narrative in October.
10. Rays (84-66; last week: 13)
How crazy is it that we’re putting the Rays in the top 10 at this point in the season? Promise this isn’t trolling. The Rays are the Cardinals of September, putting together a 13-3 record so far. Add that to August and they’re 30-13. Even crazier: The Rays have as many wins as the Indians, Cardinals and Dodgers and more than the Braves and Rockies. If they played in a different division, their season could be completely different. Still, they’re playing as good as anyone right now.
11. Rockies (82-69; last week: 10)
The Rockies have put up a good fight this season, but they remain a team that has had plenty of chances to distance themselves from the Dodgers and just haven’t done it. It doesn’t help that they’re 7-12 against L.A. after Tuesday night’s crushing walk-off loss.
12. Cardinals (84-68; last week: 9)
As good as the Cardinals were in August, they just couldn’t carry it over to September. Whether they get into the postseason or not, their push back to relevance should be commended. They’re just under .500 for September, and with the tough schedule they have ahead, the last two weeks will be even tougher for them.
Postseason hopes dying by the minute
13. D-backs (78-74; last week: 12)
14. Mariners (83-68; last week: 14)
15. Phillies (77-73; last week: 15)
It was a nice thought, wasn’t it, thinking about the D-backs, Mariners or Phillies making the postseason? The Mariners would have broken the longest playoff drought in pro sports. They still can technically, but if you’ve been paying attention to baseball for the past couple months, you know that’s not happening.
Still officially alive*, but come on …
16. Nationals (77-75; last week: 16)
17. Angels (75-76; last week: 17)
18. Pirates (76-74; last week: 18)
*The Angels are actually eliminated, but that’s because the American League is so top heavy. If they were in the NL, they’d still be alive.
Officially eliminated from postseason contention
19. Mets (70-81; last week: 19)
20. Giants (72-80; last week: 20)
21. Twins (70-81; last week: 21)
22. Blue Jays (69-82; last week: 22)
23. Rangers (64-87; last week: 23)
24. Reds (65-87; last week: 24)
25. Tigers (61-90; last week: 25)
26. Padres (60-92; last week: 27)
27. Marlins (59-92; last week: 26)
28. White Sox (59-91; last week: 28)
29. Royals (52-99; last week: 29)
30. Orioles (43-108; last week: 30)
Frankly, the end of the season can’t come soon enough for these teams.
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