MLB Power Rankings: Just how good are the Twins?

We know a few things for sure. The Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers are the three best teams in baseball this season. The Atlanta Braves are a rung below, but still very much a challenger to L.A. in the National League.

What we didn’t completely know, but do now, is just what the Minnesota Twins were made of. The Twins, the most surprising of this season’s division leaders, were in a position over the weekend to almost let go of an AL Central lead they’d held since April.

The Cleveland Indians, the team most people figured would win the AL Central, were hosting the Twins for three games and trying to make a 3.5 game lead disappear. If the Indians got hot and swept the Twins? Yikes. It was lining up like one of those moments where Cinderella loses her shoe.

Only it wasn’t. The Twins won two of three, including a doubleheader sweep on Saturday that virtually put the race to bed. The Twins have a 4.5 game lead with an easy schedule ahead. And now the question becomes: How good are the Twins?

We know they can hit. They have the most homers in MLB this season. Their pitching is better than you’d think too, ranking eighth in MLB in ERA. They lost Michael Pineda to a PED suspension recently and Byron Buxton is out for the season, but there’s still enough firepower to wonder if they can beat, say, the Yankees in an ALDS matchup.

Both teams have firepower in the lineup and questions in the rotation. The Yankees are just a bigger brand name. The Twins showed resolve when they needed to. They sent a message to anybody who doubts their credentials. They can hang.

Now onto this week’s Power Rankings — where this week we’re changing up the format and looking at all 15 contenders.

Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano and the Twins have reason to celebrate after winning a weekend series against the Indians. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

THE CONTENDERS

1. Houston Astros (98-53; last week: 1)

The Astros rank second in runs scored this season and fourth in ERA. Only one other team ranks in the top five of both and they’re No. 2 this week. Yes, the Astros lost three games to the A’s last week, but it was after winning five straight and was followed by another three straight wins. Remember, these Astros win and lose in bunches, which could prove helpful or horrible come October.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (97-52; last week: 3)

The Dodgers, Astros and Yankees are still very close and this time, the Dodgers get the edge over the Yankees simply because of starting pitching. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw looked good enough against the Mets this weekend to turn the October Confidence Meter back up a few notches.

3. New York Yankees (98-53; last week: 2)

The Yankees keep taking two steps forward and then two steps back with injuries. The real test, though, will come Tuesday as Luis Severino returns to the mound and Giancarlo Stanton is expected back in the lineup. After that news, of course, Gary Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Edwin Encarnacion all got hurt. So Severino and Stanton being healthy and productive would really, really help.

4. Atlanta Braves (93-58; last week: 4)

The Braves probably don’t get credit for how consistent they’ve been this season. They haven’t been the best team in MLB, but they haven’t had the wild ups and downs that many other contenders have. They’re 43-23 since July 1 and have been cruising along in August and September.

5. Minnesota Twins (91-58; last week: 6)

How nice is the Twins’ schedule from here? They host the White Sox and Royals this week, then end the regular season on the road against the Tigers and Royals.

6. Oakland A’s (90-60; last week: 8)

The A’s have won six in a row. Three of them being wins over the Houston Astros, which was a strong showing for the AL wild-card leaders. It was a testament that despite what might seem like a rag-tag roster, the A’s can hang with anybody.

7. Tampa Bay Rays (89-62; last week: 5)

After winning six in a row, the Rays lost three of five last week. They still seem like a good bet for a wild-card spot, but they’ll be tested before then. They’re in L.A. to play the Dodgers next, then they visit the Red Sox and Yankees. If they’re playing in October, they’ll have earned it.

8. Washington Nationals (82-66; last week: 10)

Nothing is for sure in the NL wild-card hunt, but out of everyone, the Nats look to be in the best position to be in the postseason. They play the Cardinals next and still face the Phillies and Indians, so they need to stay sharp. But the Nats, with that stacked pitching staff, look like a team that could go on a run in October.

9. St. Louis Cardinals (83-66; last week: 9)

St. Louis had been chugging along until last week. They lost four of six to the Rockies and Brewers. They still have one of the best pitching staffs going right now, ranking fifth in ERA. They’ll be tested until Oct. 1, though, with games against the Nats, Cubs and D-backs.

10. Cleveland Indians (87-63; last week: 7)

The Indians are playing for the wild card now, after Saturday’s doubleheader sweep against the Twins signaled the unofficial end of their AL Central title chase. There are still hopes for a wild-card spot to end this underwhelming season on a better note.

11. Chicago Cubs (81-68; last week: 12)

It was a good week for the Cubs, punctuated with a sweep of the Pirates. They haven’t been consistent this season, but they’re talented enough to get hot and win the World Series. They’re also enough of a roller-coaster squad to come out of the weekend sweep and drop the ball. We’ll see.

12. Milwaukee Brewers (80-69; last week: 11)

After losing Christian Yelich to a season-ending injury, the Brewers haven’t lost a step. They’ve won six of seven, including two of three against the first-place Cardinals. They’re in the thick of the race, but it’s hard to imagine a deep run without Yelich. There’d better be a lot of extra Yelich jerseys for good luck.

13. New York Mets (77-72; last week: 16)

The postseason isn’t exactly looking good for the Mets, but it’s still a possibility. The good news is that they have the Rockies, Reds and Marlins for their next three series. If they can somehow sneak into the postseason after this topsy-turvy season, that’s how.

14. Philadelphia Phillies (76-72; last week: 14)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the disappointing Phillies is that they have a -7 run differential at this point in the season. After everything we heard about that lineup! You have to have pitching too.

15. Arizona Diamondbacks (76-74; last week 13)

The D-backs had a good thing going, looking like a surprise contender — until they went 1-6 last week, including a four-game sweep by the Mets. Yikes. Now, their postseason hopes are mighty slim.

EVERYBODY ELSE

16. Boston Red Sox (79-70; last week: 15)

17. Texas Rangers (74-77; last week: 17)

18. San Francisco Giants (72-78; last week: 18)

19. Los Angeles Angels (68-82; last week: 19)

20. Cincinnati Reds (70-80; last week: 21)

21. San Diego Padres (68-81; last week: 20)

22. Colorado Rockies (65-85; last week: 24)

23. Pittsburgh Pirates (65-85; last week: 22)

24. Chicago White Sox (65-84; last week: 23)

25. Seattle Mariners (62-88; last week: 25)

26. Toronto Blue Jays (59-91; last week: 26)

27. Kansas City Royals (55-95; last week: 28)

28. Miami Marlins (52-97; last week: 27)

29. Baltimore Orioles (49-100; last week: 29)

30. Detroit Tigers (44-104; last week: 30)

Over here on the “season’s over” list, the Orioles have become the second 100-loss team this season with the Marlins not far behind and the Royals having a decent shot to get there too. If there are two more 100-loss teams, it would match the 2002 season as the only other time in history there were four 100-loss teams.

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Mike Oz is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @mikeoz

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