Just two full weeks remain in the 2019 MLB regular season.
Only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves have punched their tickets to the postseason. While teams like the Houston Astros and New York Yankees are essentially locks, there are several spots up for grabs as we come down the home stretch.
For now, our weekly power rankings remain fluid. 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 are the rankings:
Teams That Impressed
The Oakland Athletics (6-1) scored a huge series win over the Houston Astros to begin last week before sweeping a three-game series with the Texas Rangers.
They now hold a 1.5-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the No. 1 AL wild-card spot, while the Cleveland Indians face a 1.5-game deficit to climb into a playoff slot.
Left-hander Sean Manaea made his season debut Sept. 1 after spending the first five months of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he's given the rotation a huge boost, posting a 0.50 ERA and a .103 opponents' batting average in 18 innings over three starts.
On the NL side of things, the Milwaukee Brewers (6-1) kept their postseason hopes alive with a four-game sweep of the Miami Marlins and a series victory over the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.
While losing reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich for the rest of the season to a fractured kneecap was obviously a huge blow to the Brew Crew, they could have All-Star starter Brandon Woodruff back within the week, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.
The only other contender to tally a pair of series wins last week was the Los Angeles Dodgers (4-2), who bested the Baltimore Orioles before wrapping up a weekend series victory over the New York Mets with a win on Sunday Night Baseball.
Further down the rankings, the Colorado Rockies (5-1), Seattle Mariners (4-2) and Toronto Blue Jays (4-2) played well, with the Rockies (vs. STL) and Blue Jays (vs. NYY) both scoring series wins over contending teams.
Teams That Disappointed
The St. Louis Cardinals (2-4) were arguably the hottest team in baseball heading into last week, and they had climbed to their highest spot in the rankings at No. 5 as a result.
Now, after series losses to the Rockies and Brewers, their NL Central lead has shrunk to just two games, and they slid four spots in the rankings as a result.
With a pair of contenders in the Washington Nationals and rival Chicago Cubs on tap this week, the Cardinals will need to quickly right the ship or risk losing their division lead.
The Arizona Diamondbacks (1-6) also fell flat after entering last week with considerable momentum.
Their four-game series against the Mets was highlighted as our "Must-See Upcoming Matchup" in last week's rankings, as both teams were battling for NL wild-card positions. The D-backs ended up enduring a four-game sweep before dropping two of three to the Cincinnati Reds over the weekend.
Those were the only two contending teams to really lay an egg last week.
Further down the rankings, the Los Angeles Angels (1-5) and Chicago White Sox (2-4) moved closer to the bottom tier of teams, while the Miami Marlins (1-6) and Detroit Tigers (2-4) also dropped both of their series.
Players of the Week
AL Hitter: Sean Murphy, Oakland Athletics
Stats: 9-for-17, 4 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R
The biggest hurdle for Sean Murphy in establishing himself as the catcher of the present and future for the Athletics has been staying healthy.
After injuries limited him to 73 games during a breakout 2018 season in the minors, he was sidelined again earlier this year by a torn meniscus. He ended up playing 31 total games at the Triple-A level in 2019, posting a 1.011 OPS with 10 home runs and 30 RBI, before earning an MLB call-up.
He hasn't missed a beat since making the leap, homering in his MLB debut on Sept. 4 and continuing to rake for a playoff-bound Oakland squad.
"You're having to learn a pitching staff," Oakland manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "You're having to learn players in the league with extensive scouting reports these days and he handles it all really well. Obviously, the bat has shown up too. The more he plays, the more comfortable he's going to be, and he looks pretty comfortable right now."
Teammates Marcus Semien (11-for-29, 4 HR, 8 RBI) and Matt Olson (6-for-26, 5 HR, 10 RBI) also had big weeks at the plate for the Athletics.
AL Pitcher: Zach Plesac, Cleveland Indians
Stats: 1 GS, W, 9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
A 12th-round pick in the 2016 draft out of Ball State, right-hander Zach Plesac was not even ranked among the top 30 prospects in the Cleveland Indians system at the start of the year, according to Baseball America.
The 24-year-old began the season with a 1.41 ERA and a 56-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A before making his MLB debut May 28.
He's emerged as a key arm for an Indians team that has not been at full strength in starting pitching for most of the season.
The 19th start of his MLB career was his best to date, as he tossed a four-hit shutout against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
"He doesn't act like a rookie," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor told reporters. "He goes out there and performs every single time. He has a lot of confidence, and he doesn't seem like a rookie. It seems like he's been around for a long time."
NL Hitter: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
Stats: 11-for-22, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 8 R
Kris Bryant has been playing through a nagging knee injury for much of the second half. It no doubt played a major role in a dismal month of August that saw him hit just .248/.315/.436 with nine extra-base hits in 111 plate appearances.
The month of September has been considerably kinder.
In 11 games since flipping the calendar, he's hitting .378/.478/.811 with five home runs and 13 RBI, with the bulk of that damage coming last week.
He hit two home runs Sunday, giving him 138 in his career. With his first of the day, he set a new franchise record for the most home runs in the first five seasons of a career, surpassing Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.
"People can be critical of him, but look at the numbers at the end of the day," Cubs manager Joe Maddon told reporters. "Very few people do that."
He's now hitting .288/.386/.538 with 35 doubles and 31 home runs.
NL Pitcher: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
Stats: 2 GS, W, ND, 14.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 19 K
Could Jacob deGrom repeat as NL Cy Young winner?
With two more terrific starts last week, he's squarely in the conversation.
The 31-year-old ranks among the NL leaders in ERA (2.61, third), WHIP (1.01, first), strikeouts (239, first), innings pitched (190, fourth) and opponents' batting average (.212, fifth).
He matched fellow Cy Young candidate Hyun-Jin Ryu pitch-for-pitch Saturday. Both pitchers tossed seven shutout innings in what wound up being a 3-0 victory for the Mets.
Mets manager Mickey Callaway told reporters:
"You've gotta give Jake a lot of credit and he didn't let (the tough opening month) rattle him, that start, and he could have. But this guy doesn't let anything rattle him. Still, at times, it's hard to score runs for him and he doesn't let it bother his performance. He knows he can control one thing and that's Jacob deGrom and he knows he's really good and it doesn't take anybody else. He knows deep down inside who he is and he's going to go out and show it every day."
His next start will come Friday against the Cincinnati Reds as he looks to continue building his Cy Young case.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs (Thursday-Sunday)
The Cardinals entered last week with a four-game cushion in the NL Central standings and momentum on their side as one of the hottest teams in baseball.
However, with a pair of series losses last week, that lead has shrunk to just two games over the rival Cubs.
The two teams are set to meet at Wrigley Field this week for a huge four-game series that could decide who wins the division.
The Cubs lead the season series 7-5 with a plus-12 run differential, but the two teams still have seven games left against each other, including a three-game series in St. Louis to wrap up the regular season.
For now, all eyes will be on the North Side of Chicago as the two teams continue to jockey for position in the playoff picture.
The Cardinals will send ace Jack Flaherty to the mound Thursday, followed by Michael Wacha, Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas. The Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks, who has a 1.75 ERA at home this year, with Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish to follow.