As the final week of the MLB regular season begins, seven of the 10 postseason tickets have been punched.
The National League Central, second National League wild card and second American League wild card are still up for grabs, while the American League East is undecided. The NL Central and second NL wild-card berth, in particular, could come down to the wire.
That will lead us into another thrilling month of playoff baseball, starting with the AL Wild Card Game on Oct. 3 and the NL Wild Card Game on Oct. 4.
As the Oakland Athletics proved last week, there's still time for teams below the playoff line to climb significantly in these rankings. Teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners also proved the opposite, falling hard.
Just remember these rankings are fluid and teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.
Here's a look at where all 30 teams stand:
American League Playoff Picture
Much of the drama has disappeared from what was a seasonlong battle for the second American League wild-card spot.
The New York Yankees became the fourth American League team to clinch a playoff berth Saturday, and with a 4.5-game lead in the wild-card standings, they look like a safe bet to host the Wild Card Game.
"It's great, but it's just the beginning for this team," rookie slugger Aaron Judge told reporters. "We've just got to keep working. We're not done yet. This is just the beginning. We've got a lot of goals for this team, a lot of stuff that we want to do. This is just the beginning, getting a chance to be in the postseason. Now we've got to keep it rolling and finish out strong."
After a brutal month of August, Judge has returned with a vengeance in September, posting a 1.267 OPS with 11 home runs and 23 RBI in 94 plate appearances.
Technically, the AL East title is still up for grabs. However, the Yankees are five games behind the rival Boston Red Sox with seven games to play, so avoiding the do-or-die game looks like a long shot at best.
As for the second wild-card spot, the Minnesota Twins enter the week with a 4.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels.
It's been a rough month for a number of teams who were clinging to wild-card hopes at the start of September.
- Kansas City (11-12, minus-16 run differential)
- Texas (10-12, minus-21)
- Tampa Bay (9-12, minus-16)
- Seattle (9-13, plus-2)
- Los Angeles (8-13, minus-11)
- Baltimore (7-16, minus-53)
As a result, the biggest question on the AL side now appears to be: Can the Cleveland Indians (98-58) hold off the Houston Astros (95-60) for the best record and home-field advantage?
They're not playoff-bound, but a tip of the cap to the Oakland Athletics.
After sweeping the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers last week, they're 14-8 with a plus-28 run differential in September.
It won't be enough to salvage a winning record, but it's a positive jumping-off point for a rebuilding club.
National League Playoff Picture
While the AL side of the playoff bracket is all but decided, there's still plenty left to play for in the National League.
First, here's what we know.
The Los Angeles Dodgers (99-57) and Washington Nationals (94-61) repeated as division winners and will be hosting the National League Division Series.
With a win Sunday, the Arizona Diamondbacks clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2011. They hold a six-game lead in the wild-card standings, so it's a safe bet Chase Field will be home to the Wild Card Game.
That leaves a pair of three-team battles for the NL Central and second wild-card spot.
Let's start with the Central.
The Chicago Cubs have a 5.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers after taking three of four over the weekend at Miller Park.
That put the Cubs' magic number at two, and with a 10-2 record in their last 12 games, they look poised to claim the division again.
The more compelling race is for that final wild-card slot.
The Colorado Rockies are clinging to a two-game lead over the Brewers, while the St. Louis Cardinals are still alive as well at 2.5 games back.
Here's how those three teams will finish the season:
- Colorado: 3 G vs. MIA, 3 vs. LAD
- Milwaukee: 3 vs. CIN, 3 at STL
- St. Louis: 4 vs. CHC, 3 vs. MIL
The Rockies have gone 4-7 in their last 11 games, and their lead could evaporate if they continue to struggle.
There's still potential for a three-way fight heading into the final day of the regular season Sunday, and that's exactly what MLB envisioned when it added the second wild card in 2012.
MVPs of the Week
AL MVP: SP Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
Stats: W, 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 13 K
The American League Cy Young Award race isn't over yet.
Indians ace Corey Kluber is still the front-runner, as he leads the AL in ERA (2.27) and WHIP (0.86) and is 10-1 with a 1.39 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 101-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his last 11 starts.
After a dominant start against the Orioles last week, Chris Sale is the only other qualified AL pitcher with an ERA under 3.00 (2.75) and a WHIP under 1.00 (0.95).
His advantage comes in the strikeout department, as his 13th and final punchout Wednesday gave him an even 300 for the season—the first time since Pedro Martinez in 1999 that an AL pitcher reached that mark.
"That's special. We all know that's about as good a company as you can get," Sale told reporters. "Just appreciative of it. It's fun. Being here and having that name thrown around is special to me; I don't take it lightly. He's one of the best to ever step on that mound. To be in the same sentence as him is pretty crazy to me."
Each pitcher will likely make one final regular-season start this week to put the finishing touches on their case.
NL MVP: LF Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins
Stats: 10-for-20, 1 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R
Giancarlo Stanton casts a massive shadow, so it's not surprising Marcell Ozuna has flown under the radar in a breakout offensive season.
The 26-year-old ranks among the NL leaders in batting average (.308, ninth), OPS (.921, 13th), hits (181, fifth), home runs (36, tied for third), RBI (118, fourth) and WAR (5.5, ninth among position players).
"Giancarlo's had a terrific second half and really taken off," manager Don Mattingly said in August, per the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer. "But if you look at the whole season, Marcell's probably been the most consistent."
A career-best 9.6 percent walk rate has allowed him to become a complete hitter, and, under team control through the 2019 season, he's arguably a more valuable commodity than Stanton and his bloated contract.
Will the Miami Marlins consider flipping Ozuna this winter in a fairly weak market for impact bats? We shall see.
Stats of the Week
Let's dive into some of the better nuggets from around the league.
We'll start with Clayton Kershaw, who made some history with his 200th strikeout of the season.
That's decent company.
Then we have Jose Abreu, who joined some exclusive company of his own.
And we'll throw in Khris Davis for good measure.
With an 11-4 win Saturday, the Indians became the first team in more than 100 years to go 28-2 over a span of 30 games.
They joined the 1880 Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs), 1884 Providence Grays, 1884 St. Louis Maroons, 1887 St. Louis Browns (now the Cardinals), 1891-92 Boston Beaneaters (now the Braves), 1897 Boston Beaneaters, 1906 Chicago Cubs and 1916 New York Giants, according to Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN.com).
And we'll end with Judge, who is now one home run shy of the single-season rookie record.
He has seven games to break the record, all of which will be played at Yankee Stadium. Judge has hit 29 of his 48 home runs there.
He's also hit nine against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team the Yankees will host to close the regular season. That's the second-most he has against any team this season, trailing only the Orioles (11).
Methinks Big Mac might be in trouble.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals (Friday-Sunday)
Who would have guessed this would be the must-watch series on the final weekend of the regular season?
These teams will be scoreboard-watching at Busch Stadium to see how the Rockies' series with the Dodgers is going. Colorado's margin of error is small, and it won't take much for this final series to mean everything.
The Brewers hold a 9-7 advantage in the season series despite a minus-10 run differential, and they are 3-2 against the Cardinals since the All-Star break.
With a day off Monday ahead of a three-game series versus the last-place Cincinnati Reds, the Brewers will have a chance to realign their starting rotation for that final series.
Ideally, Milwaukee would go with some combination of Chase Anderson (24 GS, 11-4, 2.81 ERA), Zach Davies (32 GS, 17-9, 3.84 ERA) and either Brent Suter (21 G, 13 GS, 3-2, 3.29 ERA) or Brandon Woodruff (7 GS, 2-2, 3.76 ERA).
The loss of Jimmy Nelson to a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this month was a major blow.
St. Louis doesn't have the luxury of a day off, as it will host the rival Cubs for a four-game series that begins Monday.
John Gant (6 G, 1 GS, 0-0 3.65 ERA) started Sunday in place of rookie Jack Flaherty (4 GS, 0-1, 6.46 ERA) and pitched three innings. One of those two would be in line to take the ball Friday, followed by Luke Weaver (11 G, 8 GS, 7-1, 2.05 ERA) and Carlos Martinez (31 GS, 12-11, 3.63 ERA).
Expect both pitching situations to be fluid with the season hanging in the balance.
Looking for someone to yell at about where your favorite team was slotted in the latest rankings? I'll meet you in the comments section.