Just three weeks remain in the 2018 MLB regular season, and as the postseason draws ever closer, playoff races are reaching a fever pitch.
Eight teams on the National League side of things are within five games of their respective division leads, and each of the three division titles is still up for grabs.
Conversely, the American League playoff picture is all but decided. According to FanGraphs, the Seattle Mariners (0.8 percent) and Tampa Bay Rays (0.1 percent) are the only teams with even a fleeting chance of reaching the postseason beyond the five teams in the driver's seat.
At any rate, our weekly power rankings remain a fluid process. Teams will 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 where all 30 teams stand:
Teams That Impressed
The Milwaukee Brewers climbed into the top spot among NL teams with a series win over the division-rival Chicago Cubs and a weekend series sweep of the San Francisco Giants.
It was an important momentum swing for a team that went a pedestrian 13-13 with a minus-27 run differential in August, and the gap in the NL Central standings is now just two games. That's enough for FanGraphs to give the Brew Crew a 95.4 percent chance of reaching the postseason as they push for their first playoff appearance since 2011.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays just keep winning.
A 5-1 week against the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles gives the surging club a 16-3 record in its last 19 games. Unfortunately, they've made up just four games in the wild-card standings during that span, and there might not be enough season left for them to close that gap.
The Houston Astros (5-1) and Oakland Athletics (5-1) continued to match each other stride for stride in the AL West race, with the Astros still clinging to a 2.5-game lead.
The two teams are finished facing off head-to-head, and they have similar schedules the rest of the way:
- OAK: 3 @ BAL, 3 @ TB, 3 vs. LAA, 3 vs. MIN, 3 @ SEA, 3 @ LAA
- HOU: 3 @ DET, 3 vs. ARI, 3 vs. SEA, 3 vs. LAA, 3 @ TOR, 4 @ BAL
There's a good chance that division title will be decided in the season's final week.
Further down the rankings, the Los Angeles Angels (5-1), Pittsburgh Pirates (5-0), New York Mets (4-2) and Detroit Tigers (4-2) were the other teams to win both series.
As far as quality of those wins, the Mets had the best week, taking two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.
Teams That Disappointed
It was a rough weekend for playoff hopefuls.
The Boston Red Sox (vs. HOU), Chicago Cubs (vs. WAS), St. Louis Cardinals (vs. DET), Colorado Rockies (vs. LAD), Seattle Mariners (vs. NYY), Arizona Diamondbacks (vs. ATL) and Philadelphia Phillies (vs. NYM) all lost their weekend series.
The Red Sox and Cubs are still locks for a postseason berth, but for those other five teams, every win counts, and the Cardinals and Phillies fell to teams well off the contention pace.
The Phillies (16.8 percent), D-backs (12.9 percent) and Mariners (0.8 percent) have all seen their postseason hopes fade to long-shot status, according to the latest odds from FanGraphs, and they'll have to get red-hot the rest of the way to shift that narrative.
As for teams losing both of their series last week, the Cubs and Phillies were joined by the San Francisco Giants (0-6), Texas Rangers (1-5), Chicago White Sox (1-5), Kansas City Royals (2-4) and Baltimore Orioles (1-5).
That said, for those teams that are already out of the playoff hunt, this time of year is less about wins and losses and more about assessing in-house talent and looking ahead to next season. Anything they can do to play spoiler is simply a bonus.
MVPs of the Week
Hitter: DH Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
Stats: 9-for-19, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 8 R, 4 BB, 2 SB
It was a tough week for Shohei Ohtani the pitcher.
The Angels rookie phenom made his triumphant return to the mound on Sept. 2 but found himself in the MRI room on Wednesday when it was revealed that he will, in fact, need Tommy John surgery after all.
"Shohei got some very disappointing news the other day," manager Mike Scioscia told reporters. "He's got some big decisions coming up when we get back to southern California. But he wants to play baseball. He goes out there, and he's excited to be in there and be able to swing the bat. He's playing very well."
Indeed, it was an excellent week for Shohei Ohtani the hitter.
On the same day he learned his season on the mound was over, he went 4-for-4 with two home runs at the plate in a 9-3 victory over the Texas Rangers.
The following day, he hit a three-run shot against the Chicago White Sox for his 19th homer of the season, setting the single-season record for a Japanese rookie in the process. The previous mark was set by Seattle Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima in 2006.
Ohtani will play out the remainder of the season as a designated hitter before making a final decision on Tommy John surgery. Can he do enough offensively to make a compelling case for AL Rookie of the Year over the season's final month?
Pitcher: SP Jorge Lopez, Kansas City Royals
Stats: 1 GS, W, 8.0 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
Bright spots have been few and far between for the Kansas City Royals this season.
Rookie Jorge Lopez taking a perfect game into the ninth inning last week was one of the few.
Lopez, 25, was traded to the Royals along with outfielder Brett Phillips at the deadline in exchange for third baseman Mike Moustakas.
The right-hander was ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Milwaukee system and the No. 59 prospect in baseball at the start of the 2016 season, according to Baseball America, but he was never able to break through with the Brewers.
Now he'll be given every chance to carve out a long-term role with the rebuilding Royals. In five starts since the trade, he's gone 2-3 with a 4.40 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 22 strikeouts in 28.2 innings.
He's now twirled back-to-back quality starts, as he threw seven innings of one-run ball against the Baltimore Orioles in his previous start before coming three outs from making history on Saturday.
Video Highlights of the Week
Longest Home Run: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies (505 feet)
It's time to start talking about Trevor Story as a dark-horse candidate for NL MVP honors.
After leading the NL with 191 strikeouts last season while hitting a disappointing .239/.308/.457, it looked like he might have a hard time holding off top prospect Brendan Rodgers for the starting shortstop gig.
Instead, he's been one of the breakout stars of 2018.
The 25-year-old is hitting .293/.348/.555 with 39 doubles, 31 home runs, 95 RBI, 77 runs scored and 25 stolen bases, and his 4.8 WAR is tied with teammate Nolan Arenado for seventh among NL position players.
His 31 long balls already represent a career high, and that total was bolstered by a three-homer game on Wednesday against the Giants.
The second of his three blasts traveled an eye-popping 505 feet—not only the longest home run of the season, but the longest since Statcast began tracking home run distance at the start of the 2015 season.
All told, he hit a staggering 1,380 feet worth of home runs on Wednesday, and it was just the latest breakout moment for one of the game's newest stars.
Best Defensive Play: Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves
While Dansby Swanson is still developing offensively, his defense at the shortstop position has been an integral part of the Atlanta Braves' success this season.
That's not to say the former No. 1 overall pick has not taken a step forward offensively, as he's raised his OPS+ from 68 to 93 while hitting .246/.304/.411 with 23 doubles, 14 home runs and 55 RBI.
It's his glove that has really stood out, though.
When it comes to naming the defensive play of the week, the situation means as much as the highlight, and this play up the middle by Swanson came in the 10th inning and effectively sealed the win for the Braves.
"Get there at all costs," Swanson told reporters of his mindset on the play. "Especially in that situation, even if you knock it down, that's a win. You want to keep it in the infield. And I was able to glove it cleanly ... I don't think anyone anticipated that I'd be able to catch it and make a throw like that, so I think that was the right play on both sides, offensively and defensively. We were just able to make it happen."
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs (Monday-Wednesday)
The Brewers gained three games on the Cubs last week, and now the two teams perched atop the NL Central standings will meet for three crucial September games at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs lead the season series 10-6, but the Brewers are 5-3 since suffering a four-game sweep at the end of April, including taking two of three just last week at Miller Park.
Jon Lester (5 GS, 3-1, 3.95 ERA), Jose Quintana (5 GS, 2-1, 3.58 ERA) and Kyle Hendricks (6 GS, 3-1, 2.43 ERA) have all pitched well over the past month, and they'll toe the rubber for the Cubs.
The Brewers will counter with veterans Wade Miley (5 GS, 1-1, 2.15 ERA) and Jhoulys Chacin (5 GS, 3-2, 2.10 ERA), who are also pitching well for the first two games, while Chase Anderson (5 GS, 2-0, 4.68 ERA) takes the ball in the finale.
This will be the last time these two teams meet during the regular season, so expect a playoff atmosphere on the North Side.