Which will come first, a Cleveland Indians loss or a Los Angeles Dodgers win?
That's not the question we expected to be asking with three weeks to go in the regular season, but it's become one of the biggest storylines as one team has rattled off 18 straight wins and the other is in a complete tailspin with 10 consecutive losses.
Big picture, both of those teams are going to be playing in October.
The more intriguing questions surround who will come out on top in a cluttered AL wild-card picture and a tight three-team battle in the NL Central.
For now, 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
Another week is in the books, and there's still little in the way of clarity as far as the AL postseason picture is concerned.
The Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros are locks with 13-game leads in their respective divisions and magic numbers of seven to officially claim division titles, and they're both playing some of their best baseball right now.
While the Indians have rattled off an impressive 18-game winning streak, the Astros put together a seven-game streak of their own before getting swept by the Oakland Athletics over the weekend.
Those two would be overwhelming favorites to meet in the ALCS if the playoffs started today.
Meanwhile, the other three playoff spots are still completely up for grabs.
The Boston Red Sox have a 3.5-game lead in the AL East standings and figure to reach October in some capacity. They took care of business this past week with series wins over the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays and have an eight-game cushion for a postseason spot.
Beyond that, there are still eight teams within 3.5 games of a wild-card spot.
The New York Yankees are still in the driver's seat with a 3.5-game lead for the No. 1 spot and a 4.5-game cushion overall, and they picked up important series wins over two of the other wild-card contenders in the Baltimore Orioles (three games back) and Texas Rangers (2.5 games back).
For now, it's the Minnesota Twins who are still clinging to the second wild-card spot with a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels—who welcomed back former All-Star Garrett Richards on Tuesday for his first start since April 5.
The Kansas City Royals (2.5 games back) are still a .500 team and split a big four-game series with the Twins over the weekend, while the Seattle Mariners (three games back) and Tampa Bay Rays (3.5 games back) are also still very much in the mix despite losing records.
It could be a short ride in the playoffs for whomever emerges from the Wild Card Game if the Indians keep steamrolling people, but that doesn't take away from what's shaping up to be a thrilling battle to claim those final two postseason spots.
National League Playoff Picture
It's an odd feeling ranking the Arizona Diamondbacks ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers—a team they trail by nine games in the NL West standings.
That's a prime example of the difference between power rankings and regular standings.
The D-backs have gone 16-3 in their last 19 games with a pair of three-game sweeps over the Dodgers included in that impressive stretch.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have lost 10 in a row and 15 of their last 16.
With a 92-51 record, they're in no real danger of the missing the playoffs, but home-field advantage is quickly slipping away.
The Washington Nationals now trail them by just four games for the best record in the NL, and they crossed one item off the to-do list Sunday when they officially clinched the NL East.
"It is not easy to win baseball games at the major league level. It is not easy to win division championships," general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters. "To look at the amount of games that we've won, the amount of days we've been in first place, the amount of divisions that we've won, it's really mind-boggling to think about."
Clearly, they have loftier goals for 2017 than just a division title, as Rizzo added: "Look, I get it. We're not satisfied. We want to do more. We expect to do more."
Beyond those three teams, there are four contenders battling for two spots.
The NL Central is shaping up to be a dog fight right down to the season's final days, as the Chicago Cubs hold a narrow two-game lead over both the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers aided their cause considerably with a three-game sweep of the Cubs over the weekend, but they were also dealt a major blow when it was announced that ace Jimmy Nelson would miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.
The two teams that miss out on the NL Central title will have the Colorado Rockies to contend with for the second wild-card spot.
It looked like the Rockies might be falling out of the race with a shaky 8-17 stretch of games heading into last week, but they righted the ship with a series win over the Giants and a four-game sweep of the Dodgers.
Their lead over the Cardinals and Brewers stands at three games, so they still control their own destiny.
MVPs of the Week
AL MVP: 1B Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics
Stats: 10-for-28, 1 2B, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 8 R
The August trade of Yonder Alonso has given Matt Olson a chance at everyday playing time for the Oakland Athletics, and he's making the most of that opportunity.
A 37-homer season at the High-A level in 2014 made him one of baseball's top power-hitting prospects and the No. 3 overall prospect in the Oakland system heading into the 2015 campaign, per Baseball America.
However, his development had stalled a bit in the years since as he struggled to make enough consistent contact to tap into that plus raw power.
Now the 23-year-old is looking like a legitimate long-term piece with a .268/.351/.624 line that includes 17 home runs and 34 RBI in 168 plate appearances.
"This is the first real opportunity that he's gotten. Usually, he knows that at some point in time he's probably going back down but now he's going to get a significant opportunity," manager Bob Melvin told reporters last month. "Whether it's defensively or offensively, I think it was good that we brought him up when he was swinging the bat well and I think he's having a good year. He's been very impactful for us."
Olson already has six home runs in 10 games this month, and he'll have a chance to square off against fellow rookie slugger Rhys Hoskins when the A's head to Philadelphia this coming weekend.
NL MVP: OF J.D. Martinez, Arizona Diamondbacks
Stats: 12-for-28, 1 2B, 7 HR, 11 RBI, 8 R
J.D. Martinez has been an absolute beast since joining the Diamondbacks in July.
Over 187 plate appearances in Arizona, he sports a .269/.342/.701 line with 21 home runs and 45 RBI in 45 games.
"I don't know the history of baseball, but I think you can put him up there as one of the best midseason trades that's ever been made," D-backs reliever Archie Bradley told reporters. "The guy is incredible. Every homer is getting more expensive. Hopefully, he likes us a lot and wants to stay here."
He is, of course, referring to the fact that Martinez is set to reach free agency for the first time this coming offseason.
The 30-year-old will likely be the top offensive player on the market—depending on what Justin Upton does with his buy-out—and there's no question his late-season surge is adding to his asking price.
But first things first, he'll look to help the Diamondbacks go on a significant run this October.
Stats of the Week
Let's dive into some of the better nuggets from around the league.
The red-hot Indians have run their winning streak to 18 games and now have the 2002 Oakland Athletics and the infamous 20-game winning streak that was played out in the movie Moneyball within reach.
Fans outside of Cleveland might not remember that the Indians also put together a 14-game winning streak last season.
It's worth noting the 1935 Cubs lost in the World Series and the 1936 Cubs failed to make the playoffs, though it doesn't appear this year's Indians club is in any danger of missing out on the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers made some inauspicious history of their own as their puzzling late-season swoon continues.
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge finally seems to be snapping out of his second-half funk, and he joined some elite company with his 40th home run on Sunday.
Brewers starter Zach Davies picked up his 17th win of the season on Sunday, and with 19 games left on the schedule, he has a chance to be the most under-the-radar 20-game winner in recent memory.
A few other candidates for that title from the past 25 years:
- Bill Swift (21-8, 1993)
- Rick Helling (20-7, 1998)
- Jose Lima (21-10, 1999)
- Jon Lieber (20-6, 2001)
- Esteban Loaiza (21-9 2003)
- J.A. Happ (20-4, 2016)
Yes, wins are a terrible gauge of a pitcher's contributions, but 20 wins is still a revered accomplishment.
And finally, Matt Eddy of Baseball America wrote an interesting piece comparing Minor League Player of the Year Ronald Acuna to other teenage standouts over the years.
The entire article is worth a read to get an idea just how good the Braves outfield prospect has been this season. Among other notes, his 155 OPS+ is the ninth-best mark ever for a player under the age of 20 playing above the Single-A level.
Ahead of him on that list: Alex Rodriguez (twice), Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, Jason Heyward, Gregg Jefferies, Justin Upton and Mike Trout.
No prospect is ever a lock to be a star, but that's pretty good company.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs (Friday-Sunday)
Does it get any better than September baseball at Wrigley Field against the rival Cardinals with the NL Central title up for grabs?
The Cubs and Cards haven't played each other since July 21-23 when the Cubs took two of three at home, but they'll face off seven times over the final three weeks.
So far, the Cubs are up 8-4 in the season series, despite a minus-four run differential.
Both teams have off days on Monday, so they'll have a chance to line up their rotations for the weekend, and the Cubs have already announced that they'll push veteran John Lackey back to start Friday's game in place of Mike Montgomery.
Jake Arrieta could also be in line to start one of the games, depending on his continued recovery from a mild hamstring strain suffered during his last start on Sept. 4.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals could potentially line up ace Carlos Martinez to start on Friday, with Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn to follow, depending on what they do coming out of the off day.
Regardless of who's on the mound, expect a playoff atmosphere at Wrigley this weekend.
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.
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