And now there are only four. After two rounds of postseason series in which we, alas, didn’t have a single dual-elimination game — and only two series that weren’t sweeps — there are only three more series for us to watch: the National League Championship Series, the American League Championship Series and the World Series. We have only the big ones left.
There are four teams still standing. And eventually, there will be only one.
With these clubs remaining, it seemed a good time to fit one last Power Rankings before the players and teams themselves settle it once and for all. Here’s a look at the four teams still alive.
1. Phillies (entering postseason: 5)
Last year, when the Phillies barely snuck into the playoffs, their defeat of the defending champion Braves felt like a massive upset, the barbarians storming the gates. Even though this year’s Atlanta team was even better than last year’s … it didn’t really feel like that, did it? This Phillies team has vibes, an electrifying combination of folk heroes, likely Hall of Famers and guys who just know how to capture the moment and etch their name in Philadelphia sports history. The Phillies — and, not for nothing, their fans — felt in control of that whole NLDS from the start, putting the supposedly dominant Braves back on their heels before they knew what hit them. Now the Phils have home-field advantage against a team that’s an even less likely NLCS participant than the 2022 Phillies. Good luck, D-backs: Citizens Bank Park sure feels like Thunderdome right now.
2. Astros (entering postseason: 6)
There was plenty of new blood this postseason — and the Rangers and D-backs are making sure there’s new blood in the League Championship Series — but the Astros remain, as constant as anything as the sport has seen in a long time. This is their seventh consecutive ALCS, a run of success even the Yankees dynasty of the late ‘90s and early aughts was never able to match. But don’t forget that the ALCS is rarely the end of it: They’ve won four of the past six ALCS and then went on to win two of those World Series. While they’re on this historical run, they’re of course now vying to pull off something that hasn’t been done this century: Win back-to-back World Series. They’re in an outstanding position to make it happen; the decision not to pitch Justin Verlander on short rest in Game 4 against the Twins is already paying off, as he’s set to pitch Game 1. That’s certainly familiar: Justin Verlander, in an Astros uniform, trying to lead his team to the World Series again.
3. Rangers (entering postseason: 8)
Oftentimes, the Division Series takes a chunk out of teams. A player gets hurt, or a starter gets lit up, or someone gets himself in a slump he can’t get out of. Your League Championship Series roster can sometimes look lesser than your Division Series roster did. The Rangers, gleefully, find them in the exact opposite position. Winning the Wild Card Series and the ALDS bought them enough time to return starters Max Scherzer and Jon Gray to the rotation, bringing them that much closer to being the postseason team they were trying to build at the Trade Deadline. Suddenly, a Scherzer/Gray/Jordan Montgomery/Nathan Eovaldi rotation looks like the best any team has rolled out there this postseason. And, oh, you might have noticed: The Rangers can hit the ball a little bit. (The Orioles sure noticed.) The Rangers have been up-and-down all season, a hit-or-miss team that occasionally looks lost and occasionally looks like the best team in baseball. They have never looked more complete — as close to the way they were supposed to look — than they do right now.
4. D-backs (entering postseason: 11)
On Sept. 14 of this year — exactly one month ago — it sure looked like the D-backs had run out of gas. Sure, they were still tied for the final Wild Card spot. But they were reeling. They’d just gotten swept by a Mets team that had been begging for the season to be over, the Giants had just passed them for second place in the NL West and they were facing eight straight games against the Cubs, Giants and Yankees. It would have been fine if the D-backs had folded; sure, fans would have been disappointed, but after three straight losing seasons, simply competing for the postseason that late into September had to be considered a victory. Then the D-backs went out and won five games in a row and six of seven, essentially punching their postseason ticket. Now, they’ve won five playoff games in a row and are four wins away from their first World Series appearance since that legendary 2001 epic against the Yankees. They are not the favorites, out of these four teams, to win the World Series. But that sure hasn’t stopped them so far.