Phil Rogers' MLB power rankings

Red Sox's lineup powers Boston to top

1. Red Sox (3): Return of Clay Buchholz looks like best pitching addition any team has made. But the biggest reason to like the Red Sox is the lineup that combines brains and brawn.

2. A's (7): This year, they're not flying under the radar as the playoffs approach. They won five of six over the Rangers the last two weeks.

3. Tigers (2): It has been a quiet September for Miguel Cabrera, but he's still the hitter managers will fear the most in October.

4. Dodgers (1): The juggernaut has slowed down in September. All eyes are on Matt Kemp, whose return should make it easier to rest Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig before October.

5. Cardinals (8): Sweep over Pirates a key for Mike Matheny's team, which wants to avoid a second year in a row in the wild-card elimination game.

6. Pirates (6): Very impressive in sweeping the Rangers in Arlington. Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau were smart additions.

7. Braves (5): Human nature has taken over as Fredi Gonzalez's team has been in the most comfortable position in the majors since the All-Star break. It had a 15-game lead on the Nationals on Sept. 3.

8. Reds (9): Looking like a road wild-card team after losing back-to-back series against the Brewers and Cubs. A collapse could put the Nationals into the mix.

9. Nationals (14): Made up 31/2 games in the wild-card race last week, but they are operating with almost no margin for error. Jayson Werth could creep into MVP consideration if Nats can rally into the playoffs.

10. Indians (16): A very dangerous team now that Ubaldo Jimenez seems to have figured out how to pound the strike zone. Jason Kipnis is the best hitter in a lineup that looks better with Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera gaining confidence by the day.

11. Rangers (4): A slide out of the playoffs could force GM Jon Daniels to consider a managerial change. But the problem that must be fixed is the black hole at the bottom of a lineup that isn't nearly what it was in the two trips to the World Series.

12. Rays (10): The very average lineup has been exposed during a 7-14 stretch in which they lost 91/2 games in the standings to the Red Sox. During those 21 games, the Rays averaged 2.95 runs.

13. Yankees (11): Never a good time to lose six of seven to the Red Sox. Trade for Brendan Ryan shows that GM Brian Cashman hasn't lost hope, but it's hard to picture a miracle finish with Derek Jeter gone for the season.

14. Angels (15): Where was this kind of play in April? Even without Albert Pujols, they've become a team nobody wants to play.

15. Orioles (13): Losing five of seven to the Yankees has left them at the back of the wild-card pack.

16. Royals (17): Losing two of three in Detroit cost them some momentum after a 13-5 run reawakened wild-card hope.

17. Diamondbacks (12): Paul Goldschmidt's home run Sunday was his first since Aug. 20. His MVP case is unraveling.

18. Giants (19): Hunter Pence is making the biggest salary drive in the majors. He's hitting .421 with nine homers, 25 RBIs and a 1.457 OPS in September.

19. Phillies (24): Off to a 16-13 start since Ryne Sandberg took over for Charlie Manuel. You'd think that should assure Sandberg of permanent gig, but GM Ruben Amaro is keeping his options open.

20. Blue Jays (22): No player looks better in spring training and has less impact on his team than Jose Reyes. He's a classic tease.

21. Brewers (20): Why not make players serving PED suspensions, like Ryan Braun, serve as bullpen catchers? It feels like Braun is getting off easy by keeping his distance from a disappointing team.

22. Mets (18): Daisuke Matsuzaka has turned in back-to-back strong starts after a disappointing start as he auditions for a 2014 contract.

23. Rockies (21): Todd Helton's final homestand gives Colorado fans a reason to talk about something other than Peyton Manning.

24. Padres (28): Solid last month.

25. Twins (25): Rally to beat the Rays on Sunday shows the team still has a pulse under Ron Gardenhire, whose future is a hot topic in Minnesota.

26. Mariners (23): Swept by the Astros at Safeco Field. Ouch.

27. Cubs (27): Back-to-back strong starts from Scott Baker could lead to a deal that keeps him in Chicago for 2014. A 5.09 second-half ERA has dropped Jeff Samardzija's profile.

28. Marlins (29): Jose Fernandez could be a unanimous Rookie of the Year pick.

29. White Sox (26): Chris Sale's Cy Young case is looking watered down after he got pounded by the Indians after a 4-hour, 23-minute rain delay Sunday.

30. Astros (30): Four-game winning streak last week included sweep at Seattle. Young arms are clicking, and even the bullpen has been better with the addition of September guys.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers

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