Power Rankings: As Cubs take charge, their rivals regroup

After 24 weeks, the regular season is winding down, and we’re seeing the rankings approach their final shape. The Indians saw their win streak snapped at 22 just before they clinched an AL Central title, and they were the easy, unanimous choice for No. 1 among our voters. The Dodgers rebounded from their slump to climb back up to the second slot, while the Astros sit perched at the third spot. All three clubs have had long runs at the top, but the Indians seem likely to finish the regular-season No 1.

What races we have left are nearly run, but they could provide some final drama, in the standings, in the postseason picture — and in the Rankings. The Cubs’ sweep of the Cardinals over the weekend pushed their NL Central lead to four games over the Brewers with just 13 left to play. Will that be enough? The voters still like Milwaukee and St. Louis, but they might be the two top-ranked teams left outside of October’s action. Will either be able to mount a late rally to reignite the Central race or keep up with the Rockies for the second wild card? Time is running out.

Lower in the rankings, we saw a few minor moves. The largest leap was made by the Athletics, who sprang forward four slots, perhaps a late reward for a club among the league’s bottom third for a recent four-game sweep of the Astros. The fading Marlins and Mets fell furthest, as both NL East teams dropped three rungs as the division’s trailing quartet of clubs behind the Nationals all close in on losing records this season.

This week’s voters are Bradford Doolittle, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, David Schoenfield and Mark Simon.

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