Power Rankings: First-place Guardians put top teams on notice

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The September stretch run is around the corner and the races for division titles, home-field advantage in the postseason and, of course, the Wild Card chase in each league — now with three spots up for grabs for the first time — are intensifying.

With that as the backdrop, this week’s Power Rankings feature a familiar five at the top, though the balance of power continues to shift in the American League. The gap is growing between two juggernauts of the Junior Circuit, while an AL Central surge continues for the team that made the biggest jump from last week.

On to the rankings:

Biggest jump: The Guardians jumped into the top 10, coming in at No. 9 this week, which represents a four-spot improvement over last week’s rankings. Cleveland went 3-3 on the week before Sunday’s series finale against the division-rival White Sox was postponed due to rain, but the Guardians have won 10 of their last 14 games to leapfrog the Twins for the top spot in the AL Central.

Biggest drop: The Padres’ slide down the rankings continued this week, with San Diego falling five spots, from sixth to 11th. A 2-1 victory over the Nationals at Petco Park on Sunday capped a 3-4 week for the Friars, who were flying high with the acquisition of superstar slugger Juan Soto before being hit with major adversity because of the 80-game suspension of shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.

Power Rankings Top 5:

1) Dodgers (84-36; last week: 1)

What can be said about the Dodgers that hasn’t been said already? Despite losing ace Walker Buehler for the season and having several key bullpen arms sidelined for much of the year, Los Angeles just keeps rolling toward what could end up being a modern-day record number of wins — after sweeping the Marlins to finish 5-2 on the week, the Dodgers are on pace for 113 victories. The modern record is 116, set by the 2001 Mariners.

2) Astros (78-45; last week: 2)

Despite a 3-4 week that ended with a series loss to the Braves in a World Series rematch, Houston continues to march on toward October with the best pitching staff in the AL by ERA (3.08) and the second-best offense by wRC+ (115). Combine that with the vast postseason experience on the roster, and things are looking good for the Astros as September nears.

3) Mets (79-44; last week: 3)

It was an inauspicious start to the week for the Mets when they dropped three of four to the team chasing them in the NL East standings, the Braves. But the week ended on a high note thanks to Mark Canha’s heroic performance in a tremendous comeback win over the Phillies on Sunday to take three of four on the road from Philadelphia. The Mets were down 4-0 in the second inning, then trailed 7-4 in the fifth and 8-7 in the ninth before a three-run frame lifted New York to victory.

4) Braves (75-48; last week: 5)

The Braves took two out of three from the Astros over the weekend to cap a 5-2 week that began with three wins in four games against the NL East-leading Mets. Overall, the defending World Series champs have won 11 of 13 to keep the pressure on New York, fueled by rookie Vaughn Grissom’s sizzling debut and a combined 1.76 ERA from starters Max Fried, Kyle Wright, Charlie Morton and Spencer Strider over the past week.

5) Yankees (74-48; last week: 4)

The Yanks got a desperately needed 4-2 win over the Blue Jays in the Bronx on Sunday thanks to Andrew Benintendi’s first homer in pinstripes. The victory came on the heels of New York losing five of six during the week. Once considered the best team in baseball and ranked at the top of this list in past weeks, the Bronx Bombers are just 5-14 this month, with their offensive doldrums leading manager Aaron Boone to slam the table in frustration during Saturday’s postgame press conference.

The rest of the field of 30:

6. Cardinals (last week: 7)7. Blue Jays (8)8. Mariners (9)9. Guardians (13)10. Phillies (10)11. Padres (6)12. Rays (12)13. Brewers (11)14. Orioles (15)15. Twins (14)16. White Sox (16)17. Red Sox (18)18. Giants (17)19. D-backs (21)20. Marlins (20)21. Rangers (19)22. Cubs (24)23. Angels (22)24. Rockies (23)25. Royals (27)26. Reds (26)27. Pirates (25)28. Tigers (28)29. A’s (29)30. Nationals (30)

Voters: Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Paul Casella, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, David Venn, Douglas Gausepohl