Power Rankings: Rivals play for the top

The fight in the West of the National League has been as spectacular as it is popular all season, and everything indicates that we will have an even better finish in the middle of the final stretch of the regular season.

One game separates the Giants and Dodgers, and it may take more than 162 games to decide the winner of the division. The Giants, clinging to first place, have 12 games left, all against division rivals, but only six against a contending team: two series against the Padres, one at home and one on the road. The other six are against the Rockies (on the road) and the D-backs (at home).

The Dodgers have a similar schedule, with one twist: They close out the regular season with a three-game home series against another NL powerhouse, the Brewers, who will likely have secured the division well before that final weekend. The Dodgers’ other series are against the Rockies (road), D-backs (road) and Padres (home).

If you haven’t checked out the potential tiebreaker scenarios, here’s an idea. Specifically in the case of the Dodgers and the Giants, we have:

If tied, they would play a tiebreaker match to determine the division champion on Monday, October 4. The game would be in San Francisco, as the Giants won the particular series against Los Angeles 10-9.

To fasten your seat belts …

Biggest jump: The Cardinals improved five spots, from 15 to 10. They beat the Padres on Sunday, 8-7, matching their longest winning streak (eight games) since Mike Shildt led the club. St. Louis also won eight games in a row from Aug. 7-15, 2018, Shild’s first month in charge.

The biggest drop: Without much movement on this front. Several ninths lost two spots, including the Yankees, who dropped from 9 to 11. Since Aug. 30, the Yankees have lost nine of 15 games against teams with a negative record.

1) Giants (1 last week)

The Giants were shut out by the Braves on Sunday, 3-0, to wrap up their seven-game home run at 4-3. Brandon Crawford went 3-0 in the last game against the Braves, but that didn’t dampen the fiery streak he’s going through with the tree in the slightest bit: In his last 14 games, the shortstop is hitting .400 (of 50- 20) with eight extra-base hits and 12 runs scored.

The Dodgers have won eight of their last nine games, and their starters are 7-1 with a 1.46 ERA (9 CL / 54.1 EL) in that stretch with just one home run received. One of those key arms has been Clayton Kershaw, who shined in his second comeback start after spending two months on the disabled list. The southpaw limited the Reds to one run in just over five innings in Sunday’s victory, and the veteran will be able to extend his work even further in his next outing.

The Rays are two games under .500 in September, but they’ve built such a wide lead during the first five months of the season that even a losing streak probably wouldn’t affect their aspirations to win the AL East. The club’s magic number to secure the division pennant is six, with 12 games to go. His next opponent will be the Blue Jays, whom the Rays could face in a Division Series, if Toronto makes it through. Toronto currently owns the second Wild Card in the American League, behind Boston.

The Brewers’ magic number to win their division is now three, and they could clinch the pennant this week during their four-game series in Milwaukee against the Cardinals. The Brewers’ 25-12 record since Aug. 10 is the best in MLB, behind only the Dodgers (29-9) and Giants (26-12).

The Astros took two of three games against the D-backs over the weekend, but the series was more fought than anticipated, given the positions these two squads occupy in the leaderboard. The series featured two games of extrainnings and Houston had to resort to last-minute attacks to come back in both victories. Despite this, overall, the Astros are one of the most complete teams in all of baseball, ranking in the top five in OPS, runs per game, ERA and run differential.

Voters: Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Jesse Sánchez, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn.