MLB power rankings: Orioles stand strong in showdown series - and playoffs are next

The Baltimore Orioles celebrate after clinching a playoff spot against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The Baltimore Orioles celebrate after clinching a playoff spot against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The Baltimore Orioles are running out of boxes to check.

In the seven-month life cycle of power rankings, the checkpoints just keep coming, and this weekend, the Orioles staggered toward one as they dropped the first two games of a four-game showdown with the Tampa Bay Rays, seeing their lead in the American League East — which they'd led for 61 days — dissipate.

Yet behind distinguished rookies Gunnar Henderson and starter Grayson Rodriguez, they won the biggest game of the season Saturday — not only to take a slim division lead but also clinch the season series against Tampa, adding a de facto extra game to their margin. And they capped that off Sunday with a come-from-behind, walk-off win in 11 innings, just moments after their first postseason berth since 2016 was assured with a Texas Rangers loss.

Yet manager Brandon Hyde reminded everyone that much bigger goals are in mind, starting with the division title. And for now, just a couple days after wobbling, they've cemented their No. 2 spot in USA TODAY Sports' power rankings.

A look at this week's full rankings:

1. Atlanta Braves (–)

  • Uh-oh: 6.21 ERA in September ranks 29th, last in NL.

2. Baltimore Orioles (-)

  • Grayson Rodriguez, No. 1 playoff starter?

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (-)

  • Might mess around and wake up as the NL's 1 seed.

4. Tampa Bay Rays (-)

  • That's five consecutive years in the playoffs.

5. Houston Astros (-)

6. Milwaukee Brewers (-)

  • Carlos Santana has nine home runs in 40 games with Milwaukee.

7. Toronto Blue Jays (-)

  • This team is best enjoyed by ignoring it entirely and assuming the projections will land right around 90 wins and a wild card.

8. Philadelphia Phillies (-)

  • Cristopher Sanchez's emergence deepens their playoff pitching options.

9. Texas Rangers (+1)

  • Kind of imperative to mop the floor with sleepwalking Boston before finishing with seven of 10 vs. Seattle.

10. Seattle Mariners (-1)

  • Just 33-42 against clubs with winning records.

11. Miami Marlins (+5)

  • And they're doing all this without Sandy Alcantara.

12. Arizona Diamondbacks (-)

  • Tough biz: Nick Ahmed named club's Roberto Clemente Award nominee after getting designated for assignment.

13. Chicago Cubs (-2)

  • Just a really, really bad time to lose seven of nine.

14. Minnesota Twins (+1)

15. Cincinnati Reds (+2)

  • Still not out of it. Still.

16. New York Yankees (+2)

  • Just feels like you can already pencil Yoshinobu Yamamoto's name into the 2024 rotation.

17. San Francisco Giants (-3)

  • What a depressing weekend in Denver.

18. Boston Red Sox (-5)

  • The efficiency experts came for Chaim Bloom, who never found that elusive sustainability.

19. San Diego Padres (+1)

  • A 10-5 September just makes the months preceding it all the more galling.

20. Cleveland Guardians (-1)

  • José Ramírez hits 216th career homer, tying Carlos Santana and Hal Trosky for fifth-most in club history.

21. Detroit Tigers (+2)

22. New York Mets (-)

23. Los Angeles Angels (-2)

  • Shohei Ohtani didn't even leave any Del Taco hot sauce packets behind.

24. Pittsburgh Pirates (+1)

  • Two more losses ensure fifth consecutive losing season.

25. St. Louis Cardinals (+1)

26. Washington Nationals (-2)

27. Colorado Rockies (+1)

  • Doubleheader sweep of Giants was first since 2014.

28. Chicago White Sox (-1)

  • Dylan Cease four strikeouts from a third consecutive 200-K season.

29. Kansas City Royals  (–)

  • They swipe a series off Astros, their first series win (non-White Sox category) since Aug. 3.

30. Oakland Athletics  (–)

  • The record: 46-103. The run differential: -316. Number of owners on three-man "relocation" committee also in the process of tapping public funds for stadiums: Two.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB power rankings: Baltimore Orioles back in postseason