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 (-)
Chas McCormick closing in on a 20-20 season.
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)
If nothing else, Spencer Torkelson on track for a 30-homer season.
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)
Adam Wainwright goes for No. 200 this week.
26. Washington Nationals (-2)
Pitching prospect Jackson Rutledge makes first home start Tuesday.
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