The final day of the 2019 MLB regular season will be played on September 29, which means later this week we will officially be just one month from the start of another exciting postseason.
Even at this late stage of the season, there are still 17 teams within six games of a playoff spot, which should make for an exciting four weeks of pennant race baseball.
For now, our weekly MLB power rankings remain fluid. 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 are the rankings:
Teams That Impressed
The Washington Nationals (6-1) were nine games under .500 and closer to the last-place Miami Marlins than the first-place Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East standings heading into the month of June.
Since that time, they've gone an MLB-leading 49-24 with a plus-133 run differential, and their postseason odds now stand at 97.6 percent heading into the week, according to FanGraphs.
The bullpen has been a question mark for most of the season, evidenced by their 14-19 record in one-run games, but this looks like a playoff-bound squad.
Despite that impressive run by the Nats, the Atlanta Braves (6-0) still hold a comfortable six-game lead thanks to an equally strong 50-25 record during that same time frame. Atlanta is currently riding an MLB-high eight-game winning streak after sweeping the Miami Marlins and New York Mets last week.
The expectation heading into the week was that whoever won the New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Dodgers series would likely move into the No. 1 spot in the rankings. That wound up being the Yankees, but they started off the week getting swept by the Oakland Athletics, opening the door for the Houston Astros (6-1) to once again stake claim to the top spot.
The three-headed monster of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke still has the Astros looking like the team to beat in October, and a 9.5-game lead in the AL West standings will allow them to keep guys fresh down the stretch.
The St. Louis Cardinals (6-1) joined those three teams in winning both of their series last week, as they took two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers before authoring a four-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
That gives the Redbirds a 2.5-game lead in the ever-changing NL Central standings, and they're now 13-3 in their last 16 games after sitting just three games above .500 on Aug. 7. Momentum is on their side, and that might be what ultimately decides the NL Central champ.
Further down the rankings, the Chicago White Sox (5-2) and Seattle Mariners (4-2) were the only other teams to post a pair of series wins last week. The White Sox will have to go 21-11 the rest of the way to finish .500, which is not entirely out of the question with 10 games left against the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals.
Teams That Disappointed
Once ranked as part of the top tier of teams in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays (3-4) have scuffled a bit of late, with a 3-6 record in their last nine games. That includes a series loss to the Mariners and a four-game split with the Baltimore Orioles.
Their postseason odds have dipped to 62.4 percent as a result, down from 85.4 percent prior to their recent downturn. The upcoming week will be crucial as they take on the Astros and Cleveland Indians.
Overall, it was an interesting week of ups and downs for some of the league's top teams, with the Cleveland Indians (vs. NYM), New York Mets (vs. ATL) and Chicago Cubs (vs. WAS) all sweeping their first series of the week before getting swept themselves over the weekend.
That said, no team slotted above the No. 20 spot in last week's rankings came out on the short end of both of their series.
That dubious distinction did belong to a laundry list of teams from the bottom rung of the rankings, though, as the Los Angeles Angels (1-6), San Diego Padres (2-4), Colorado Rockies (1-6), Toronto Blue Jays (1-5), Kansas City Royals (2-4) and Detroit Tigers (2-5) all suffered consecutive series losses.
Players of the Week
AL Hitter: Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays
Stats: 10-for-29, 4 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R
After years as a top prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, Austin Meadows has emerged as a star on the rise in his first full season with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The 24-year-old went the other way last summer in the trade that sent Chris Archer from Tampa Bay to Pittsburgh, and the Pirates would unquestionably take a mulligan on that deal if given the chance.
Following another strong showing last week, Meadows now leads the Rays in OPS (.880), home runs (23), RBI (67) and total bases (222), and he's hitting .280/.348/.531 on the year.
His 23rd home run of the season was his first career grand slam on Friday.
"Being able to stay healthy this year and be on the field, I knew I'd be able to produce numbers, and 23 is a pretty big number for me. The thing is to continue to keep it going and see where I end up," Meadows told reporters.
With team control through the 2024 season, it appears the Rays have found a cornerstone piece in the young outfielder.
AL Pitcher: Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox
Stats: 1 GS, W, 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K
Lucas Giolito turned in a brilliant start to the 2019 season before running into some trouble in the month of July.
After posting a 2.72 ERA through his first 16 starts, he went 0-3 with a 5.65 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in five July starts, and the White Sox went 1-4 in those games.
It appears that was just a minor hiccup for the budding ace, who has now rattled off five straight quality starts, including a three-hit shutout of the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
"Best I've ever felt pitching in my life," Giolito told reporters. "In most games, you are going to have periods where maybe you feel a little out of sync. You make the adjustment and get back into it, give up a walk or have a mental lapse. The biggest thing for me going into that game was I wanted to challenge myself and see how much I could focus on each individual pitch. ... It was just one of those days where the focus was there, the execution was there. I felt really good."
It was the second shutout of the season for the AL Cy Young candidate, and both of them have come on the road against potential playoff teams. He twirled a four-hitter while blanking the Houston Astros on May 23.
NL Hitter: Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
Stats: 14-for-29, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R
Third baseman Anthony Rendon is about to get paid this offseason.
The 29-year-old is having arguably the best season of his pro career, and he's doing it at the perfect time with free agency looming and a thin market for bats that will make him the winter's most coveted position player.
Despite hitting .305/.389/.534 while averaging 42 doubles, 24 home runs, 96 RBI and 5.0 WAR the past two seasons, Rendon has somehow managed to take his game to another level this year.
After a week that included four multi-hit games, he's now batting .329/.407/.617 with 35 doubles, 29 home runs and 104 RBI in 116 games.
He's right in the thick of a tight NL batting title race that also features Jeff McNeil (.333), Christian Yelich (.329), Bryan Reynolds (.328) and Ketel Marte (.321). With a 1.024 OPS, he joins Yelich (1.099), Mike Trout (1.085) and Cody Bellinger (1.062) as the only qualified hitters with an OPS above 1.000.
NL Pitcher: Dakota Hudson, St. Louis Cardinals
Stats: 2 GS, 2 W, 12.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 7 BB, 9 K
Over his last three starts, Dakota Hudson has put together an 18.2-inning scoreless streak. He's allowed just seven hits during that span for a dominant .119 opponents' batting average.
Two of those scoreless outings came last week, starting with 6.2 no-hit innings Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers. While he didn't allow a hit, he did tally four walks and seven strikeouts, and he exited the game with a pitch count of 111.
"I was just out there competing and trying to throw up some zeros and get a win," Hudson told reporters.
He followed that up with six shutout innings of two-hit ball Saturday against the Colorado Rockies, and he's now 13-6 with a 3.47 ERA in 140 innings on the year.
His 4.2 BB/9 walk rate shows he still has work to do with his command, and he would benefit from missing a few more bats with a relatively low 6.8 K/9 strikeout rate. Still, he's been an invaluable member of a St. Louis starting staff that has been inconsistent at times this year.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros (Tuesday-Thursday)
Not only does this series feature two of the best teams in the American League, but it also features a homecoming of sorts as Charlie Morton returns to Houston for the first time since departing in free agency this past offseason.
"I know I had a real special experience over there, and those guys are important to me," Morton told reporters. "It's always been a special place, Minute Maid [Park]. There are guys over there I'm still friends with. I'll just have to be pitching against them now."
The 35-year-old reinvented himself during his two seasons in Houston and won a World Series ring along the way before signing a two-year, $30 million deal with the Rays during the offseason.
He's been worth every penny of that contract so far, ranking among the AL leaders in ERA (2.85, third), WHIP (1.06, fourth), strikeouts (197, t-sixth) and innings pitched (161, ninth).
He'll go head-to-head with fellow AL Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander in the series opener Tuesday. The Astros will follow with Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, while the Rays will turn to Ryan Yarbrough on Thursday and likely Trevor Richards in the finale.
These two clubs are second (TB, 3.56) and fourth (HOU, 3.69) in the majors in ERA, so runs could be at a premium throughout the series.