Power Rankings: One last Red Sox-Astros showdown before October -- who's No. 1?

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Red Sox still leading Power Rankings (1:23)

The Baseball Tonight crew breaks down the American League still dominating the top of the Power Rankings, with the Red Sox at the top. (1:23)

With just three weeks left in the season, we're at the point when a good run matters a lot more for teams that still have October on their agendas than it will for, say, the Rays building on their stretch-run spoiler bragging rights. That's why our voters have drilled down to the big disagreements over the ballclubs bidding to be this season's best.

There's no real disagreement about who the worst teams are. But at the high-stakes table, even with the Red Sox likely to reach 100 wins with two weeks to spare, they're no longer our unanimous No. 1 -- the Astros still get a lot of support as they try to hold off the A's and win a second straight World Series title. The margins between teams in the top 10 are razor-thin.

While the top of the rankings are still AL-heavy, the Cubs have separated themselves from the rest of the NL. And that five-team fight over who will be the NL's wild-card teams still could go any way -- but our voters have their favorites, as the Brewers bumped the struggling Diamondbacks from the top 10 while making the week's single biggest move up: three spots. The Dodgers and Rockies moved up two spots apiece as they work to excuse the Snakes from the three-team race in the NL West. Predictably, Arizona and the Cardinals lost ground in the rankings just as they did in the actual races, with both falling a week-worst three rungs in the rankings as their playoff hopes took a hit. Can they turn that around this week? Time is running out, so there's no time like now.

This week, our panel of voters is composed of David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford Doolittle and Sarah Langs.

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1. Boston Red Sox

Record: 98-46
Week 22 ranking: 1

David Price seems to have found his rhythm at just the right time. With Chris Sale out for extended stretches in the second half, Price has put together stellar numbers; his 1.78 ERA since the All-Star break is the AL's best. Much of this can be attributed to improved results with his fastball and cutter. Since the break, Price owns a 5.3 K/BB ratio with heaters (2.8 prior) and opponents have hit just .134 against the pitches (.227 prior). -- Dan McCarthy, ESPN Stats & Information


2. Houston Astros

Record: 89-54
Week 22 ranking: 2

In a season filled with injuries to key Astros hitters, Alex Bregman has been able to weather the storm and has been the biggest offensive weapon for Houston of late. Since Aug. 1, Bregman is hitting .354/.454/.661, leading the AL in OPS (1.115) in that span. Bregman leads the Astros in numerous categories this season, including hits, runs, home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits, where his 80 currently lead all of MLB. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information


3. New York Yankees

Record: 89-54
Week 22 ranking: 3

Gleyber Torres has been exceptional the past two weeks, pacing the Yankees with a .340 batting average and 13 RBIs since Aug. 26. He has been exceptionally clutch over that stretch, as 10 of those RBIs have come in situations that either tied the game or put the Yankees ahead. That is tied for the league lead in RBIs in those situations over that span with the Nationals' Juan Soto. -- McCarthy


4. Chicago Cubs

Record: 83-59
Week 22 ranking: 4

After finishing up a season-long road trip at 5-5, the Cubs will play 13 of their final 20 games at home, where they are 44-24 (.647) this season, the best home record in the NL. All 13 of those games are against NL Central opponents. On top of that, three of the Cubs' remaining road games will be played in Chicago, as they have a series at the White Sox at the end of next week. -- Nitzberg


5. Oakland Athletics

Record: 87-57
Week 22 ranking: 6

Front-line stars such as Khris Davis and Matt Chapman draw the most attention, but the A's are getting big-time production from Stephen Piscotty and now Ramon Laureano as well. Piscotty is among the AL's top 10 in slugging (.557) and home runs (20) since June 1, while Laureano has a .912 OPS in his first 102 plate appearances while making an impact with his glove in center, reflected both by advanced metrics and eye-popping greatness. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com


6. Cleveland Indians

Record: 81-62
Week 22 ranking: 5

It says something about how great Jose Ramirez has been that his second-half .836 OPS might seem like a disappointment, but opposing pitchers simply aren't throwing him strikes. Ramirez's 18.4 percent walk rate in the second half is the second highest in baseball, and his rate of pitches seen in the strike zone has dropped from 48.2 percent in the first half (roughly the same rate as Michael Conforto, or Nico Goodrum) to 43.9 percent in the second (where Giancarlo Stanton lives). Consider it a result of the respect he has earned. -- Kahrl


7. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 78-65
Week 22 ranking: 9

The Dodgers entered last week in sole possession of first place for the first time in almost a month, but yet again that wasn't their cue to take over the NL West race. If not for their almost complete ownage of the Padres (12-4 this season), we'd already be hip-deep in Dodgers postmortems. With the constantly morphing roster, depth hasn't been the problem (except perhaps in the pen), but that still-daunting collection of talent only has to deliver three strong weeks to put the race away.. -- Kahrl


8. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 82-62
Week 22 ranking: 11

After Wade Miley posted a 5.61 ERA for the Orioles last season, no one would have expected him to be a key contributor in a playoff race this season. However, that's what he has been for Milwaukee, posting a 2.12 ERA (and 2.06 since the All-Star break). Miley has allowed three or fewer earned runs in all 12 of his starts this season, including his last turn against the division-leading Cubs, whom he faces again Monday night. -- Nitzberg


9. Atlanta Braves

Record: 79-64
Week 22 ranking: 10

After a bullpen meltdown led to a sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, the Braves are still searching for answers once their starting pitchers leave the game. One potential solution could be Arodys Vizcaino, who reportedly is nearing a return from his stint on the DL with shoulder inflammation after posting a 1.65 ERA in 33 games this season. -- Evan Wildstein, ESPN Stats & Information


10. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 79-64
Week 22 ranking: 7

It's September, and here we are: The Cardinals replaced their manager midseason, are contending, and Carlos Martinez is pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in a while. Mike Shildt is likely to get serious consideration for Manager of the Year, although he'll have managed just 69 games by season's end. The fewest games for a Manager of the Year winner, since the award was first given in 1983, is 116 by the Rockies' Jim Tracy in 2009 (excluding strike-shortened seasons). There are only two managers to win the award as an in-season replacement: Tracy in 2009 and Jack McKeon (Marlins) in 2003. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information


11. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 76-67
Week 22 ranking: 8

The Snakes have settled for break-even ball since the All-Star Game, going 23-23 as they begin to fall behind in the NL West race. They've done even that well despite the collapses of their late-game relief tandem from the first half, as Brad Boxberger and Archie Bradley have given up 29 runs in their 32⅓ IP in the second half. Both also rank in the bottom four ERAs among the 167 MLB pitchers with 15 or more appearances since the break. -- Kahrl


12. Colorado Rockies

Record: 78-64
Week 22 ranking: 14

It's time for the annual reminder that the Rockies have never won a division title. Yet, with just three weeks remaining in the regular season, Colorado entered Monday atop the NL West. Of course, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are right on their heels, setting up what should be a remarkable division race. Ten of Colorado's next 13 games are against either the Diamondbacks or Dodgers, starting on Monday when the D-backs visit Coors Field to open a pivotal four-game series. -- Paul Casella, ESPN Stats & Information


13. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 78-64
Week 22 ranking: 12

Over his first 60 games, Kevin Kiermaier struggled to break out on offense, hitting just .179 over 234 at-bats, which ranked 283rd of 285 hitters with at least 200 ABs. Kiermaier got a day off from hitting on Aug. 19, and the next day he notched his second three-hit game of the season. Something must have clicked for Kiermaier that day, as his .393 batting average since Aug. 20 is fourth-best in baseball. -- McCarthy


14. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 74-68
Week 22 ranking: 13

The Phillies are hitting .237 this season. Only three teams have made the postseason with a team batting average that low: the 1972 Tigers (.237), 1968 Tigers (.235) and 1906 White Sox (.230). But there are still offensive bright spots worth pointing out. One is Rhys Hoskins and his 28 home runs. He didn't maintain his 9.4 at-bats per home run rate from 2017, but that was to be expected. But he's still on the verge of becoming the first Phillies player with a 30-homer season at age 25 or younger since Pat Burrell hit 37 in 2002. -- Langs


15. Seattle Mariners

Record: 79-64
Week 22 ranking: 15

On July 5, the Mariners defeated the Angels to improve to a season-high 24 games over .500. They were just 1½ games behind the Astros in the AL West and held a 7½-game lead over the Athletics for the final wild-card spot. Since that day, however, Seattle is just 24-32. Only three AL teams -- the Royals, Tigers and Orioles -- have a worse record over that span. -- Casella


16. Washington Nationals

Record: 71-72
Week 22 ranking: 16

What an odd season it has been for Bryce Harper. He ranks 100th of 150 qualified players in batting average at .251. But his .391 OBP ranks 11th, which makes sense since he's one of the bigger bats in Washington's lineup. Adding to Harper's odd slashline, he's slugging .508, which ranks 23rd overall. Perhaps some of this can be explained by his .286 BABIP, which ranks 106th. -- Langs


17. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 71-71
Week 22 ranking: 18

Trevor Williams is breaking out in a big way for the Pirates. Since July, no other pitcher has as many scoreless starts of at least two innings pitched. Unfortunately, his second-half dominance has been wasted on a Pirates squad that hasn't been within six games of a wild-card spot since Aug. 19. -- Wildstein


18. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 71-72
Week 22 ranking: 17

As many expected, Shohei Ohtani has turned in one of the most unique seasons of all time. Things came to a head on Wednesday, when he presumably became the first player in major league history to receive a Tommy John recommendation in the afternoon and record a multihomer game that night. It remains to be seen if and when he will undergo that procedure and what impact it will have on his hitting next season, but it doesn't seem as if it will slow him down in September. -- Casella


19. San Francisco Giants

Record: 68-76
Week 22 ranking: 19

Madison Bumgarner's ERA is up to 3.30 after his last start, but he has been hovering around that 3.00 mark. If he makes 20 starts this season and finishes with an ERA of 3.00 or below, he'd join yet another group of elite Giants pitchers. Since earned runs became an official stat in both leagues in 1913, there are just three Giants pitchers with five or more seasons of 20 or more starts and an ERA of 3.00 or below: Juan Marichal (8), Gaylord Perry (5) and Carl Hubbell (5). Bumgarner has four such seasons, the last coming in 2016. -- Langs


20. Minnesota Twins

Record: 65-77
Week 22 ranking: 20

The Twins are looking to the future, so it may not be a surprise that they shut down Byron Buxton, who just finished a lost season at Triple-A Rochester (coincidentally keeping his service time clock paused). However, should Buxton revert back to his productive 2017 form, the Twins will reap the benefits from an extra year of contractual control due to the decision. -- Wildstein


21. New York Mets

Record: 65-77
Week 22 ranking: 21

The question of whether David Wright will play again at the major league level grows more pressing by the day. But there are facts we know: Wright's last major league game was May 27, 2016, against the Dodgers. He went 1-for-4 with a solo home run. Since then, the injuries that have landed him on the DL have been termed "herniated disc in neck," "cervical disc herniation" and "persistent shoulder and lower back issues." He's the Mets' all-time leader in hits (1,777), runs (949), doubles (390) and RBIs (970). His last home run, also on May 27, 2016, put him 10 shy of tying Darryl Strawberry's franchise high of 252. -- Langs


22. Texas Rangers

Record: 61-82
Week 22 ranking: 22

In the same week that the Rangers moved Bartolo Colon to the bullpen to open up more starts for their young arms, veteran hitter Adrián Beltré finally has started to find his swing. He had his first multihomer game in more than a year on Saturday, capping a stretch in which he hit four homers in four days. His 24-year-old teammate, Joey Gallo, also went yard last week to reach the 35-homer plateau for the second consecutive year. The only other active players with multiple 35-homer seasons before turning 25 are Albert Pujols, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout and Manny Machado. -- Casella


23. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 65-78
Week 22 ranking: 23

A Blue Jays rookie was called up at the beginning of September and immediately started making an impact with extra-base hits. Fans could reasonably hope that was Vlad Guerrero Jr., but he didn't get the call. Instead, Rowdy Tellez has torn the cover off the ball since his call-up. On Friday, Tellez tied the record for most extra-base hits in a player's first three games while becoming the first AL rookie with six doubles over a three-game span since Joe DiMaggio in 1936. -- McCarthy


24. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 61-83
Week 22 ranking: 24

Of all the teams for the Reds to remain unbeaten against this season, would you have guessed the Dodgers? The Reds start a three-game home series vs. Los Angeles this week, a team they're 4-0 against so far, and a team that both Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett have OPSs north of 1.000 against in their careers. -- Wildstein


25. Detroit Tigers

Record: 59-84
Week 22 ranking: 25

It's not surprising that the Tigers are one of 10 teams without a complete game this season. However, it is noteworthy that the Tigers have never gone an entire season without a complete game in franchise history, dating back to 1901. The Tigers have had five starting pitchers go at least eight innings in a game, tied with the Royals for the most of any team. -- Nitzberg


26. San Diego Padres

Record: 57-88
Week 22 ranking: 26

The Francisco Mejia era with the Padres began with a bang. Mejia's first start with the Padres came on Thursday and he hit a home run in each of his first two plate appearances. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Mejia is the first Padres rookie to homer in his first two plate appearances in his first start with the team, and the third Padres rookie with a multihomer game in his first start with the team. -- Nitzberg


27. Chicago White Sox

Record: 56-87
Week 22 ranking: 27

Just when you might have thought the White Sox might make a late-season move up to third in the AL Central, they've been mired in a losing streak on top of losing pitching phenom Michael Kopech for all of next season to his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Just like that, 2019 is already shaping up as another bittersweet season promising little more than more incremental progress on their full rebuild. -- Kahrl


28. Miami Marlins

Record: 56-86
Week 22 ranking: 28

It's only two starts, but Sandy Alcántara is already showing why he was a centerpiece in the Marcell Ozuna trade last December. Alcántara, who turned 23 on Friday, tossed seven scoreless innings against the Phillies last week and has allowed just one run in 12 innings over his first two career starts. He's scheduled to make his next appearance Thursday against the Mets at Citi Field. -- Casella


29. Kansas City Royals

Record: 47-95
Week 22 ranking: 29

The Royals have to be encouraged by what they're seeing from young starters Jakob Junis, Brad Keller and Jorge Lopez down the stretch. After Junis and Keller posted quality starts at Cleveland this past week, both have allowed two or fewer earned runs in six straight starts. On Saturday, Lopez topped their feats by taking a perfect game against the Twins into the ninth inning. -- Nitzberg

30. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 41-102
Week 22 ranking: 30

Since his acquisition from the Brewers, Jonathan Villar has produced for the Orioles, ranking among the team leaders in runs (20), home runs (6), RBIs (19), walks (12) and stolen bases (12) in that time. Villar has outperformed his counterpart in the trade, Jonathan Schoop, setting up the Orioles with a promising second baseman for next season. -- McCarthy