MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 3 Weeks to Go

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2016

MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand with 3 Weeks to Go

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Just three weeks remain in the 2016 MLB regular season, and while a handful of teams appear to be locks for the postseason, there are still a number of playoff spots up for grabs.

    The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals both look like safe bets to win their respective divisions, while the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants will duke it out in the NL West and the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets will fight for an NL wild-card spot.

    On the AL side, the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers are sitting pretty, but the AL East is a dog fight with the New York Yankees pulling into the mix along with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles. The Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals and hard-charging Seattle Mariners are all in the mix for a wild-card spot as well, so there's a lot still to be decided on the AL side in particular.

    Meanwhile, non-contenders are taking a long look at some of their young talent while simultaneously trying to play the role of spoiler.

    At any rate, there was a good deal of shuffling in this week's rankings (like always) as we head down the home stretch.

    One thing remains true: These rankings are a fluid process as teams move up or down based on where they ranked the previous weekIf a club keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.

30. Minnesota Twins (53-90, Previous: 30)

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    Brian Dozier
    Brian DozierBrad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-4

    After a surprising run at contention and an 83-79 record last season, the Minnesota Twins will need to go 10-9 over their final 19 games to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1982. That will be easier said than done for a team that has gone an abysmal 4-19 in its last 23 games and has not won a series in nearly a month.

    Had Minnesota taken another step forward and contended as expected this season, there's a good chance we'd be talking about second baseman Brian Dozier as an AL MVP candidate. Following a streak of five straight games with a homer, Dozier now boasts a .919 OPS with 39 home runs and 93 RBI.

    Only three times in MLB history has a second baseman reached the 40-homer mark, as Dozier looks to join Davey Johnson (43, 1973), Rogers Hornsby (42, 1922) and Ryne Sandberg (40, 1990).

    Hitter of the Week

    • 2B Brian Dozier (8-for-26, 1 2B, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Hector Santiago (ND, 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 2 K)

29. Atlanta Braves (55-88, Previous: 26)

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    Dansby Swanson
    Dansby SwansonBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 1-5

    The Atlanta Braves climbed a few spots with a 6-0 performance two weeks ago, but they slide back down after a tough showing against the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.

    Rookie shortstop Dansby Swanson rattled off four consecutive multihit games last week, including his first career home run on Tuesday, which was of the inside-the-park variety. Swanson, who is batting .306/.354/.431 with five extra-base hits and 10 runs scored in 79 plate appearances, then hit his first of the over-the-fence variety the following day. 

    Catcher A.J. Pierzynski suffered a strained hamstring last week that will likely bring an end to his season and perhaps his career, as the 39-year-old was on a one-year deal.

    "I don't know what’s going to happen. I don't know what tomorrow’s going to bring, but if that's it, then it was fun," Pierzynski told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Hitter of the Week

    • SS Dansby Swanson (9-for-17, 1 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Mike Foltynewicz (ND, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K)

28. Arizona Diamondbacks (58-84, Previous: 22)

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    Chris Owings
    Chris OwingsAndy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 0-6

    The Arizona Diamondbacks are not exactly relishing the role of spoiler, as both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants swept them last week.

    A.J. Pollock was dealt another blow in what has been a trying year, suffering a strained groin last week that may shut him down for the season. The injury came just 12 games into his season after he worked his way back from a broken right elbow that he suffered during spring training.

    "It could be the end of the season. We're not going to put him back out there until he's 100 percent," manager Chip Hale told reporters.

    Positives have been few and far between for this year's Diamondbacks club, but the swing-and-miss stuff of left-hander Robbie Ray has been a bright spot. He's now tied for fourth in the NL with 195 strikeouts, and his punchout rate has spiked from 8.4 to 11.3 K/9 this year.

    Hitter of the Week

    • SS Chris Owings (7-for-28, 3 2B, 1 RBI, 4 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Robbie Ray (L, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 12 K)

27. San Diego Padres (59-84, Previous: 29)

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    Christian Friedrich
    Christian FriedrichJake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-4

    After dropping two of three to the Boston Red Sox, the San Diego Padres managed to split a four-game set with the Colorado Rockies, moving them out of the NL West cellar.

    The star of the week was left-hander Christian Friedrich, who twirled a gem Saturday against the Rockies. A former first-round pick in 2008 by that same Rockies team, Friedrich allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out 10 over seven scoreless innings for a game score of 82, the best by a Padres pitcher this season.

    "Curveball was all right, [the] slider was really on point today," Friedrich told reporters. "[Derek Norris] was great at calling them at the right times and when you have that extra confidence when he's throwing the fingers down and you're expecting what he's going to call it made a really big difference."

    Meanwhile, Jon Jay is now 5-for-20 with a double in six games since returning from the disabled list. San Diego expressed some interest in re-signing the 31-year-old outfielder last month, according to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 3B Yangervis Solarte (10-for-28, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 2 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Christian Friedrich (W, 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K)

26. Cincinnati Reds (60-82, Previous: 28)

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    Brandon Phillips
    Brandon PhillipsBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-4

    After the New York Mets swept them to kick off last week, the Cincinnati Reds bounced back to take three of four from a struggling Pittsburgh Pirates team over the weekend.

    An oblique injury has now sidelined center fielder Billy Hamilton since Sept. 4, opening the door for Jose Peraza to see regular at-bats. The 22-year-old has a .329/.357/.410 line over 171 plate appearances with 15 stolen bases, and he figures to step into a starting role somewhere on the diamond next season.

    "This guy certainly looks like he's capable of being a regular, everyday player," Reds manager Bryan Price told reporters. "Now it's just a matter of finding his best spot and where he best serves the team. He can serve our team in a lot of different ways."

    A resurgent Brandon Phillips has also been a welcome sign, as the veteran second baseman is hitting .341/.366/.486 since the All-Star break and is perhaps building some trade value ahead of the upcoming offseason.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 2B Brandon Phillips (11-for-29, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 6 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Brandon Finnegan (W, ND, 10.0 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 9 BB, 13 K)

25. Philadelphia Phillies (63-80, Previous: 27)

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    Jerad Eickhoff
    Jerad EickhoffBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-4

    The Philadelphia Phillies managed to take two of three from the Miami Marlins last week, but they dropped their four-game series with the division-leading Washington Nationals over the weekend.

    Alec Asher joined the Phillies rotation on Thursday with six scoreless innings. Along with Jake Thompson and Jerad Eickhoff, he is now one of three pitchers on the staff the team acquired in last year's Cole Hamels blockbuster with the Texas Rangers.

    "Asher said yesterday it's kind of crazy to see all these Rangers up here," Eickhoff told reporters. "It's a cool thing. We all kind of reflect and just look at each other and see how fortunate and lucky we are to have this opportunity to contribute at the big league level."

    The Phillies will have no shortage of competition for rotation spots next spring, with Eickhoff and Vincent Velasquez looking like the only locks to be part of the staff.

    Speedy outfielder Roman Quinn also made his MLB debut last week, going 0-for-3 with a walk on Sunday. He currently ranks as the team's No. 8 prospect, according to MLB.com's Prospect Watch.

    Hitter of the Week

    • RF Peter Bourjos (7-for-23, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Jerad Eickhoff (W, ND, 12.0 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K)

24. Oakland Athletics (60-82, Previous: 25)

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    Jharel Cotton
    Jharel CottonKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-4

    The Oakland Athletics picked up a nice series win over the Los Angeles Angels last week before the resurgent Seattle Mariners swept them over the weekend.

    Jharel Cotton, one of three pitching prospects acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Josh Reddick and Rich Hill at the deadline, made his MLB debut on Wednesday in stellar fashion. Squaring off against the Angels, he allowed just two hits and one earned run on a solo home run by C.J. Cron over 6.1 innings to pick up a quality start and a win.

    "Of course my dream is to get to the big leagues. I'm here now, my dream came true. I got to pitch in front of the Oakland A's fans and I'm happy I did a great job and showed them I can pitch up here in the big leagues," Cotton told reporters.

    Meanwhile, fellow rookie Ryon Healy continued his hot hitting at the plate. The breakout prospect now has a .289/.318/.481 line with 12 doubles and eight home runs in 196 plate appearances.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 3B Ryon Healy (9-for-24, 1 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Jharel Cotton (W, 6.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K)

23. Tampa Bay Rays (60-82, Previous: 24)

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    Kevin Kiermaier
    Kevin KiermaierReinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-5

    The Tampa Bay Rays were unable to shake things up in the AL East chase last week, turning in series losses to a pair of contenders in the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees.

    Even in a down year overall and with ace Chris Archer falling short of expectations, the Rays still rank fourth in the AL and 10th in the majors with a 4.24 starter's ERA. After shipping out Matt Moore at the trade deadline, it bears watching whether they deal any further from their wealth of controllable arms in an effort to add some balance to their offense.

    With Matt Duffy done for the season following Achilles surgery, Tampa Bay signed veteran Alexei Ramirez as a short-term solution at shortstop following his release from the San Diego Padres. The 34-year-old is 1-for-7 with two strikeouts in two games since joining the team.

    A road trip to take on the Toronto Blue Jays and Orioles this coming week gives the Rays another terrific chance to play spoiler.

    Hitter of the Week

    • CF Kevin Kiermaier (11-for-23, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Chris Archer (L, 7.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K)

22. Los Angeles Angels (63-79, Previous: 18)

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    Tyler Skaggs
    Tyler SkaggsJoe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-4

    The Los Angeles Angels had steadily climbed in these rankings with a 9-2 stretch of games heading into last week, but series losses to the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers send them back in the other direction.

    Left-hander Tyler Skaggs was terrific once again last week, squaring off against Yu Darvish with six scoreless innings in a no-decision. The 25-year-old is now 3-3 with a 4.13 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 48 innings over nine starts since returning to action in June following his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

    He still has a chance to live up to his former top-prospect billing and emerge as a big part of the team's future plans.

    The Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays will head to Angel Stadium this coming week, where the Angels are a respectable 33-35 on the year.

    Hitter of the Week

    • SS Andrelton Simmons (8-for-20, 2 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Tyler Skaggs (ND, 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 8 K)

21. Milwaukee Brewers (64-79, Previous: 23)

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    Matt Garza
    Matt GarzaBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-3

    The Milwaukee Brewers have quietly gone 26-30 with a plus-12 run differential since the All-Star break, and they proved to be a tough draw once again last week. The Chicago Cubs dropped two of three at Miller Park, including a 12-5 thumping on Tuesday, before the Brewers hit the road and split a four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

    After going 4-7 with a 6.68 ERA in 13 starts to begin the season, Opening Day starter Wily Peralta earned himself a demotion to Triple-A. He returned roughly two months later, and he's gone 2-2 with a 3.35 ERA in six starts since returning.

    "The way his season started, yeah, he had to pitch his way back in," manager Craig Counsell told reporters. "And I think he's done so."

    Matt Garza has also thrown the ball well of late, turning in back-to-back quality starts. With one year left on his contract, he could be a decent trade chip this offseason in a thin market for arms.

    Hitter of the Week

    • LF Ryan Braun (8-for-23, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 6 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Matt Garza (ND, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K)

20. Pittsburgh Pirates (69-72, Previous: 19)

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    Jung Ho Kang
    Jung Ho KangCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-5

    While a number of teams failed to live up to expectations here in 2016, no team has collapsed quite like the Pittsburgh Pirates. Six games over .500 and a half-game out of a wild-card spot just a few weeks ago, they've gone 2-11 in their last 13 games to slip out of the playoff hunt.

    The Pirates just wrapped up a 10-game homestand at 2-8 following series losses to the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, and they now hit the road for their next 11 games.

    All-Star left fielder Starling Marte has missed Pittsburgh's last six games while nursing a back injury, which led to Gregory Polanco sliding over to left field and Josh Bell seeing regular at-bats in his absence. Bell figures to take over as the team's starting first baseman next season, so regular playing time in September should only help him prepare for that next step.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 3B Jung Ho Kang (12-for-23, 1 2B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 6 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Ivan Nova (W, 9.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K)

19. Chicago White Sox (68-74, Previous: 21)

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    Miguel Gonzalez
    Miguel GonzalezJohn Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    The Chicago White Sox may not be postseason contenders, but they still have an outside shot at finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2012. They'll have to go 14-6 the rest of the way, starting with a four-game series against the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians at home to begin the upcoming week.

    Veteran starter Miguel Gonzalez turned in one of his best starts of the season on Tuesday, tossing six scoreless innings against a good Detroit Tigers lineup. The Baltimore Orioles surprisingly released the 32-year-old in April, but he's pitched well for the White Sox, posting a 3.81 ERA and 1.307 WHIP in 108.2 innings of work. 

    "Keep doing what I'm doing and obviously stay healthy," Gonzalez told reporters of his goals for the rest of the season. "That's the most important thing for me and my teammates. I'm here to help them out as much as I can."

    He's under team control through next season and figures to fill a rotation spot once again in 2017.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 2B Tyler Saladino (11-for-23, 2 2B, 4 RBI, 3 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Miguel Gonzalez (W, 6.1 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K)

18. Miami Marlins (71-72, Previous: 20)

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    Jose Fernandez
    Jose FernandezKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    After dropping five straight series, the Miami Marlins finally wound up on the right end of things when they took two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend. The damage has been done, though, as their 5-11 record during that span has left them below .500 and a full five games back in the wild-card standings.

    As expected, Giancarlo Stanton has been limited since returning to the active roster, going 1-for-3 with two strikeouts while being deployed exclusively as a pinch hitter. Meanwhile, veteran Jeff Francoeur has been a major contributor since being acquired in August, hitting .368/.400/.474 in 41 plate appearances.

    The Marlins' next six games, which are against the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, likely represent their best chance to make one last playoff push. However, both series are on the road.

    Hitter of the Week

    • RF Ichiro Suzuki (5-for-15, 1 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Jose Fernandez (W, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 14 K)

17. Colorado Rockies (69-74, Previous: 17)

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    Chad Bettis
    Chad BettisRon Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-3

    The Colorado Rockies have gone 29-26 with a plus-31 run differential since the All-Star break, including a series win over the San Francisco Giants and a four-game split with the San Diego Padres last week.

    Chad Bettis turned in the performance of the week, tossing a two-hit shutout against the Giants on Monday. Manager Walt Weiss raved to reporters about Bettis' work ethic:

    You're always pleased for those guys who do things the right way. He works the right way, he prepares the right way, he's a great teammate, leader, and I always love when those guys get rewarded by the game. He's put a lot of time and a lot of work in. Outings like that don't just happen. He prepared himself to pitch like that.

    The 27-year-old is now 12-7 with a 4.78 ERA (104 ERA+) on the year, and with team control through the 2020 season, he certainly factors into Colorado's long-term plans.

    Slugger Mark Reynolds hit home run No. 250 in his career last week, and with an .802 OPS, 23 doubles and 13 home runs, he's provided great value on a one-year, $2.6 million contract.

    Hitter of the Week

    • RF Carlos Gonzalez (7-for-27, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Chad Bettis (W, ND, 16.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 K)

16. Detroit Tigers (76-66, Previous: 9)

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    Miguel Cabrera
    Miguel CabreraPeter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 2-4

    One of the hottest teams in baseball entering last week, the Detroit Tigers hit a rough patch with series losses to the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.

    Prior to that, they had gone 10-3 in their last 13 games to pull into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild-card spot. Luckily, with the AL East contenders continuing to beat up on one another, they are still just two games out of that No. 2 wild-card berth.

    Jordan Zimmermann returned to the mound Saturday after missing over a month with a strained lat, but he lasted just one inning, allowing four hits, three walks and six earned runs. That was enough for the Tigers to decide to skip his next start, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, as he'll throw a simulated game instead to try to work out the kinks.

    A four-game series with the last-place Minnesota Twins kicks things off this coming week, so Detroit will have a great chance to build some momentum ahead of a big weekend series with the Cleveland Indians.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 1B Miguel Cabrera (6-for-21, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Michael Fulmer (ND, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)

15. Houston Astros (75-68, Previous: 8)

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    Yulieski Gurriel
    Yulieski GurrielEvan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-4

    The Houston Astros had a tough draw this past week, as they took on two of the league's best teams in the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs. All things considered, a 3-4 record is a respectable showing, but it still drops them down the rankings with so many other contenders posting winning records for the week.

    Second-half call-ups Alex Bregman (17-for-45, 3 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 12 RBI) and Yulieski Gurriel (13-for-37, 1 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI) have been the team's two best hitters in September, helping the offense overcome a slumping Jose Altuve.

    The big issue is piecing together a starting rotation that is currently without Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers. Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, Joe Musgrove, Doug Fister, Brad Peacock and David Paulino have combined to go 2-6 with a 10.69 ERA in 10 games this month, and Musgrove has the lone quality start.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 3B Yulieski Gurriel (10-for-26, 1 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Collin McHugh (W, 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K)

14. Toronto Blue Jays (78-64, Previous: 5)

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    Edwin Encarnacion
    Edwin EncarnacionRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 1-5

    The Toronto Blue Jays began last week with a one-game lead in the AL East standings, but after a sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees and dropping two of three to the Boston Red Sox, they are now two games back and tied with the Baltimore Orioles.

    "We'll be alright," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki told reporters following Sunday's 11-8 loss to Boston. "It's a veteran lineup. You go through some good times and bad times. Ideally, you want the middle of the order to click at the same time and that doesn't happen. I think when they do click at the same time, that's when you see those big offensive games. Hopefully we can get that going here soon."

    The pitching staff looks like the bigger area of concern right now, as it's posted a 6.16 ERA since the beginning of the month. All-Star starter Aaron Sanchez is currently dealing with a blister, according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm, leaving his status for his next start still up in the air.

    The Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels await this coming week as the Blue Jays look to get things headed back in the right direction.

    Hitter of the Week

    • DH Edwin Encarnacion (9-for-25, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP J.A. Happ (W, 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)

13. San Francisco Giants (77-65, Previous: 14)

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    Hunter Pence
    Hunter PenceRon Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    The San Francisco Giants offset a series loss to the Colorado Rockies by sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend, keeping pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West standings to remain three games back.

    Hours after the Giants removed Santiago Casilla from the closer's role, he notched his eighth blown save of the season Friday.

    "We're going to use everybody and put out the guy we think is the right guy to get us through the inning," manager Bruce Bochy told reporters prior to Friday's game against the D-Backs.

    Sergio Romo, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith and Javier Lopez could all be options, as may rookie Derek Law once he returns to action from an elbow strain.

    The Giants welcome the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals to AT&T Park this coming week, ahead of a huge three-game series with the Dodgers in Los Angeles next week.

    Hitter of the Week

    • RF Hunter Pence (12-for-23, 4 2B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 8 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Johnny Cueto (W, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K)

12. St. Louis Cardinals (75-67, Previous: 13)

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    Adam Wainwright
    Adam WainwrightCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-3

    The St. Louis Cardinals took two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates to open last week, but they were only able to split their four-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers, dropping them a half-game behind the New York Mets for the second NL wild card.

    Getting All-Star shortstop Aledmys Diaz back should give the Cardinals a boost, as he's been sidelined since Aug. 1 due to a fractured thumb he suffered after getting hit by a pitch. However, they're now faced with a tough decision with both Jedd Gyorko and Kolten Wong hitting well at the middle infield spots.

    "More than anything, [we're] just trying to get his rhythm down in the field and at the plate and kind of see what we see when we give him an opportunity," manager Mike Matheny told reporters.

    On the pitching side, it looks like Alex Reyes will be used out of the bullpen the rest of the way, while fellow rookie Luke Weaver will stay in the rotation. Weaver is 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA and a 39-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six starts, while Reyes could give St. Louis the right-handed setup man that the bullpen has been lacking.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 3B Matt Carpenter (8-for-24, 4 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 7 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Adam Wainwright (2 W, 13.0 IP, 13 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 12 K)

11. Kansas City Royals (74-68, Previous: 12)

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    Kendrys Morales
    Kendrys MoralesBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    The Kansas City Royals currently sit four games back in the AL wild-card standings, and they're trending back in the right direction after picking up series wins over the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox last week. After they finished August 20-9 with a plus-42 run differential, the Royals are now 5-4 with a plus-11 differential in September.

    Kendrys Morales has been as hot as any hitter in baseball the past few weeks, hitting .382/.462/.824 with five home runs and 15 RBI this month and helping spark the offensive attack.

    One of the more underrated additions to the team has come in the form of lefty Matt Strahm, who has posted a 0.54 ERA, 0.840 WHIP and 11.9 K/9 in 14 appearances since debuting on July 31. His future may still be as a starter, but he's filled a glaring need for a late-inning left-hander in the Royals' bullpen.

    The Oakland Athletics and Chicago White Sox are up next this coming week as the Royals look to close the gap in the wild-card race.

    Hitter of the Week

    • DH Kendrys Morales (9-for-22, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 6 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Danny Duffy (ND, 6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 10 K)

10. Seattle Mariners (75-68, Previous: 16)

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    Kyle Seager
    Kyle SeagerJennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 6-1

    The Seattle Mariners enter the upcoming week riding an MLB-best five-game winning streak and trailing the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles by 3.5 games in the AL wild-card race. Their postseason hopes appeared to be flickering as they kicked off last week in a 2-10 funk, but they delivered a big series win over the Texas Rangers before sweeping the Oakland Athletics over the weekend.

    Nori Aoki was one of the more interesting names lost in the wave of September call-ups around the league, as he returned from a surprising August demotion to Triple-A. He's gone 5-for-14 with two doubles and a home run since returning, starting in left field and batting leadoff each of the past three games.

    Meanwhile, Ariel Miranda continues to impress after coming over from the Baltimore Orioles in the Wade Miley trade as something of an unknown commodity. The 27-year-old has proved to be an upgrade over Miley in the rotation, going 2-1 with a 4.13 ERA in six starts.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 3B Kyle Seager (9-for-27, 2 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Ariel Miranda (W, 6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K)

9. New York Yankees (76-66, Previous: 15)

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    Masahiro Tanaka
    Masahiro TanakaWendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 6-1

    What the New York Yankees have accomplished after selling at the trade deadline and kicking off a youth movement has been nothing short of amazing. A sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays and a series win over the Tampa Bay Rays leaves them four games back in the AL East standings and two games out of a wild-card spot, and they're now 13-5 in their last 18 games.

    Bryan Mitchell took the ball on Wednesday for his first start of the season and tossed five shutout innings to pick up the win over Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays. With Chad Green shut down for the remainder of the season, he'll likely be asked to fill a rotation spot from here on out.

    Luis Severino also returned to the active roster at the beginning of the month after spending a good chunk of the summer in the minors. He turned in 5.1 innings of scoreless relief last week.

    "We need it to continue as we move forward here, but it should give him confidence," manager Joe Girardi told reporters. "He's been really effective there, so he should be gaining confidence."

    The Yankees host the Los Angeles Dodgers for three games this week before heading to Boston for a huge four-game series with the rival Red Sox.

    Hitter of the Week

    • CF Jacoby Ellsbury (9-for-25, 3 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Masahiro Tanaka (2 W, 13.2 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 14 K)

8. New York Mets (76-67, Previous: 11)

23 of 30

    Bartolo Colon
    Bartolo ColonShanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 5-1

    The New York Mets were two games under .500 and 5.5 games back of a wild-card spot on Aug. 19, but they've been as hot as any team in baseball ever since. With an MLB-best 16-5 record and a plus-44 run differential in their past 21 games, they're now a half-game up on the St. Louis Cardinals for the No. 2 NL wild card.

    Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Rafael Montero deserve a ton of credit for bolstering an injury-plagued starting rotation, while Asdrubal Cabrera has been the team's best hitter over the past month.

    Lugo in particular has been a huge surprise, going 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA in five starts with the big league club after posting a 6.50 ERA and 1.677 WHIP over 73.1 innings with Triple-A Las Vegas.

    "This guy has a feel for pitching," manager Terry Collins told reporters. "He knows what he's got to do. He knows what he needs to do. He knows how to get a ground ball to help him get out of trouble."

    Hitter of the Week

    • LF Yoenis Cespedes (6-for-22, 1 2B, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Bartolo Colon (W, ND, 12.0 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K)

7. Baltimore Orioles (78-64, Previous: 10)

24 of 30

    Chris Tillman
    Chris TillmanRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    The Baltimore Orioles looked to be playing a clear third fiddle to the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox for much of the summer, but they've come on of late and have pushed to within two games of the AL East lead.

    The pitching staff has posted a 2.62 ERA in nine games so far this month, and the starting rotation no longer looks like the glaring weakness it was for much of the year.

    Chris Tillman returned from the disabled list Sunday after missing nearly three weeks with a sore shoulder, throwing six innings of one-run ball to help the Orioles pick up a good series win over the Detroit Tigers. Baltimore will count on him to pitch like an ace the rest of the way. 

    "There's nothing like it. You get kind of bored and frustrated sitting on the bench that long and not being able to help the team, but it was a big series, big win, and it's good to get out of here with a big win," he told reporters Sunday.

    The AL East battles continue for the Orioles this coming week with series against the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 1B Chris Davis (5-for-16, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Chris Tillman (W, 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K)

6. Los Angeles Dodgers (80-62, Previous: 6)

25 of 30

    Rich Hill
    Rich HillRichard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    The Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks to start last week off with a bang, but they dropped two of three to the Miami Marlins over the weekend, keeping their lead in the NL West at three games.

    Clayton Kershaw returned to the mound Friday, allowing five hits and two earned runs over three innings before exiting at 66 pitches. Considering he made just one three-inning rehab start after missing over two months, it wasn't surprising to see him get an early hook, and him making it through the outing healthy was a big win for the team.

    "That was for me bigger than the results and the line score yesterday, just to see how he felt today," manager Dave Roberts told reporters Saturday. "You see him walking around with a smile. Talking to our training staff, they said he came out of it well. He's still on track for Wednesday."

    Rich Hill upstaged Kershaw's return, however, as he was perfect through seven innings Saturday before Roberts decided to lift him from the game after 89 pitches.

    "Dave has been incredible, and this organization has been incredible, and where we're at as a team is far more important than any individual accolades," Hill told reporters, supporting the decision to put his health first.

    Hill missed significant time earlier this year with a blister issue, but he's finally back healthy. In three starts so far with the Dodgers, he's allowed just six hits and has thrown two walks while striking out 20 in 19 scoreless innings.

    Hitter of the Week

    • SS Corey Seager (11-for-25, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Rich Hill (W, 7.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K)

5. Boston Red Sox (80-62, Previous: 7)

26 of 30

    Rick Porcello
    Rick PorcelloJohn E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-2

    The Boston Red Sox are now alone atop the AL East standings, besting the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays in three-game series last week to take a two-game lead in the division. 

    Over the past month, the Red Sox have gone 19-10 with a staggering plus-82 run differential, putting up 6.24 runs per game with the offense firing on all cylinders.

    Yoan Moncada is off to a slow start in the big leagues, going 4-for-18 with 11 strikeouts, but his presence has seemingly sparked the man many thought he would replace in Travis Shaw. After slumping for much of the summer, the Red Sox incumbent third baseman is 6-for-19 with two doubles and two home runs since Moncada joined the team.

    The Red Sox welcome the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees to Fenway Park this coming week in another huge slate of games.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 1B Hanley Ramirez (9-for-25, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Rick Porcello (W, 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K)

4. Texas Rangers (85-59, Previous: 2)

27 of 30

    Adrian Beltre
    Adrian BeltreJerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-4

    After holding the No. 2 spot in these rankings for the past several weeks, the Texas Rangers drop down to No. 4 following a 3-4 record last week that included dropping three of four to the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers are still 9.5 games up in the AL West and are as safe a bet as anyone to reach the playoffs. But with a mediocre 38-37 record on the road, they'll be looking to nail down home-field advantage.

    Veteran Colby Lewis returned to action Sunday, allowing seven hits and three runs on three solo home runs over 5.1 innings in his first start since suffering a Grade 2 lat strain in late June.

    "He was able to move the fastball around, use the curveball, go to the slider to get the outs," manager Jeff Banister told reporters. "Other than those three pitches [for homers], he was in control of what he wanted to do, and it was nice to see, because we're going to need Colby down the stretch."

    Lewis was 6-0 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts before getting hit hard on June 21 and then landing on the DL a few days later.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 3B Adrian Beltre (12-for-27, 1 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Yu Darvish (ND, 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K)

3. Cleveland Indians (83-59, Previous: 3)

28 of 30

    Corey Kluber
    Corey KluberKen Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 4-3

    The Cleveland Indians split a four-game series with the Houston Astros before taking two of three from the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, leaving them seven games up in the AL Central standings.

    Danny Salazar was forced out of his Friday start with forearm tightness, and he'll skip at least one turn in the rotation, according to an Associated Press report (via ESPN.com).

    "He's a little more sore today," manager Terry Francona told reporters Saturday. "We'll get him worked up, get him imaged and all that, and then let the proper people look at it. Then we can plan when we know what's going on. There's really nothing else to do."

    Mike Clevinger had already moved into the rotation as a spot starter in place of Josh Tomlin, who was trying to iron out some command issues. It now looks like the team will need both of those guys for the upcoming week.

    A series with the Detroit Tigers, who are currently in second in the AL Central standings, awaits this coming weekend following a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox.

    Hitter of the Week

    • DH Carlos Santana (7-for-26, 1 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Corey Kluber (W, L, 14.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 19 K)

2. Washington Nationals (85-58, Previous: 4)

29 of 30

    Trea Turner
    Trea TurnerRon Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 6-1

    The Washington Nationals are back in the No. 2 spot after sweeping the Atlanta Braves and taking three of four from the Philadelphia Phillies.

    A successful season is as much about beating the teams you're supposed to as it is about holding your own against fellow contenders.

    Rookie Trea Turner had another huge week at the plate, and he's now hitting .343/.365/.552 with 12 doubles, six triples, eight home runs and 23 stolen bases in 241 plate appearances. Despite playing in just 54 games, his 2.9 WAR ranks inside the top 70 among all position players, and if not for Corey Seager, he'd have a strong case for NL Rookie of the Year honors.

    Despite the New York Mets making a strong push, the Nationals are still nine games up in the NL East standings, and their magic number stands at eight entering the week.

    Hitter of the Week

    • CF Trea Turner (12-for-30, 3 2B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 5 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Max Scherzer (W, ND, 13.2 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 13 K)

1. Chicago Cubs (91-51, Previous: 1)

30 of 30

    Jon Lester
    Jon LesterTroy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Last Week: 3-3

    The Chicago Cubs dropped two of three to the Brewers in Milwaukee last week, but they followed that up with a series win over the Houston Astros. Their magic number to clinch the NL Central title stands at five entering the week.

    John Lackey has come back strong from his trip to the disabled list, allowing just five hits and four runs (three earned) over 11 innings in his first two starts back. With Jason Hammel struggling of late, Lackey is that much more important as Chicago's fourth starter once the postseason rolls around.

    Closer-turned-setup man Hector Rondon is also back from the disabled list, bringing some welcome help to Carl Edwards Jr., Justin Grimm and Travis Wood in an effort to bridge the gap to closer Aroldis Chapman.

    Keeping everyone healthy and getting guys rest while still keeping the intensity up to avoid a lull heading into the playoffs will be manager Joe Maddon and the entire team's biggest challenge the rest of the way.

    Hitter of the Week

    • 1B Anthony Rizzo (5-for-22, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 4 R)

    Pitcher of the Week

    • SP Jon Lester (W, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K)

    All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. Hitter and pitcher of the week stats refer to the week from Monday, Sept. 5 through Sunday, Sept. 11.

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