2:53 PM AKDT, September 11, 2012
1. Nationals (3): While the spotlight has been on the highly debated Stephen Strasburg decision, Davey Johnson's lineup came together in late August and rolls toward the first playoff baseball Washington has seen since 1933. Bryce Harper and friends hit 30 home runs in an 11-game stretch, including 15 in four games against the Cubs. And, oh, yes, they're making the right call on Strasburg.
2. Rays (4): Took care of business at home against the Rangers and Yankees.
3. Rangers (2): Playoff rotation is shaping up as Derek Holland, Ryan Dempster, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison, the question being how to line them up. It's too soon to take the AL West title for granted, however, given how the A's are playing.
4. Reds (1): Probably predictable that they would go flat with such a big lead in the NL Central. But the questions about Aroldis Chapman's shoulder and shortstop Zack Cozart's strained oblique are troubling.
5. Braves (9): Will his brief benching serve as a wakeup call to Dan Uggla? The Braves need him to come out of a long funk.
6. Orioles (6): Leadoff man Nick Markakis (.363 on-base percentage) suffered a broken thumb when hit by a CC Sabathia pitch. He'll be badly missed, with the best hope being a return for the playoffs. Getting there will depend on Mark Reynolds, Adam Jones and Chris Davis continuing to hit home runs.
7. Athletics (5): It wouldn't have been a surprise if they felt sorry for themselves after losing Brandon McCarthy to a fractured skull. Instead they swept a series at Seattle, with starters A.J. Griffin, Brett Anderson and Tommy Milone allowing four runs while striking out 21 and walking one.
8. Angels (12): This is pretty much how Arte Moreno, Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia drew it up. C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke have led the improvement since Aug. 20, when they were 62-60.
9. Yankees (7): The loss of Mark Teixeira could be huge.
11. White Sox (11): First team in the majors to have five hitters with 20-plus homers: Adam Dunn, A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo. Jose Quintana's win over the Tigers was impressive.
11. Giants (8): Extended lead in the NL West to a season-best 51/2 games Friday but have to work for everything with a majors-low in home runs.
12. Tigers (10): Having trouble scoring runs and winning one-run games (0-8 in those games from Aug. 24 through Monday). They hit .153 with runners in scoring position in those eight one-run losses, including 2-for-11 by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
13. Cardinals (13): Holding the second wild-card spot for another three weeks will be challenging with their recent inability to pull away from the sliding Dodgers and Pirates.
14. Dodgers (14): Matt Kemp's shoulder still isn't right after he banged it on the outfield wall at Colorado on Aug. 28.
15. Brewers (15): Will they regret trading Zack Greinke rather than holding on to him for a wild-card run? Ron Roenicke has his team playing as well as it has all season.
16. Phillies (17): Like the Brewers, they're back in the picture for the NL's second wild card spot.
17. Diamondbacks (19): Jason Kubel was an excellent offseason addition. They've badly missed injured right-hander Daniel Hudson, who was a key to their 2011 playoff run.
18. Pirates (16): With something to play for, they just got swept by the Cubs. The amazing thing is they still can make a playoff run. Perhaps no franchise in the majors is entering a more critical stretch than the one trying to avoid its 20th consecutive losing season.
19. Blue Jays (23): Casey Janssen has done fine as the closer.
20. Padres (22): Needless to say, they're glad they didn't trade away Chase Headley. You'd think Bud Black has taken himself off the hot seat with the team's good play late in the season.
21. Mariners (20): Just as King Felix was joining the Cy Young discussion, he has allowed 20 hits in 12 innings in his last two starts.
22. Royals (21): Jeremy Guthrie is making himself a lot of glue, as Dennis Eckersley would say.
23. Mets (18): Some are arguing that they should trade David Wright, not sign him to a huge contract extension. So far the club hasn't backed up stated plans to pursue long deals with R.A. Dickey and Wright.
24. Marlins (26): Mark Buehrle just keeps rolling out quality starts. He's the one thing about the franchise that has been as good as advertised this season.
25. Rockies (24): Rookie catcher Wilin Rosario is a slugger who has a lot of work to do behind the plate. He has 19 passed balls.
26. Red Sox (25): Now what?
27. Indians (28): Here's hoping Chris Perez didn't get in too much trouble for voicing his frustration. Honesty is always the best policy, right?
28. Twins (27): Looks like Ron Gardenhire is coming back, but new blood may be coming on the coaching staff, with former Twins right fielder Tom Brunansky a possible addition for 2013.
29. Cubs (29): Chris Volstad is making a late run to avoid being non-tendered.
30. Astros (30): They're the Cubs without Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Jeff Samardzija.