The Pirates are closing in on a postseason berth while the October-bound Cardinals try to sew up the National League Central. The Royals are right there in a tough American League Central race, and the A's are still on target for an AL Wild Card berth. The Giants still have a chance in the National League West and look great for a Wild Card slot. And the Orioles have had such a good year that they can get things accomplished even when they lose.
That was the story Monday as the final week of the regular season began and the pennant races got 24 more hours of clarification, even if plenty remains up in the air. St. Louis' magic number to win the NL Central was reduced to four when Adam Wainwright won his 20th game of the year, and the Pirates eked out a 1-0 decision over the Braves to cut their magic number to clinch a Wild Card spot to two.
In the Central, the Royals lost the completion of a suspended game but bounced back to beat the Indians in the second game and now trail the Tigers by a game in the division standings. Out West, the Giants outlasted the Dodgers in 13 innings to cut Los Angeles' division lead to 3 1/2 games. And in the AL East, the Orioles, who'd already clinched the division, wrapped up home-field advantage in their AL Division Series even though they were blanked, 5-0, by the Yankees, simply because Detroit lost to the White Sox.
IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...
Wild Card: Royals at A's
Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Tigers at Orioles
Wild Card: Giants at Pirates
Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers
TODAY'S KEY GAMES TO WATCH (all times ET)
Royals (Ventura, 13-10) at Indians (Salazar, 6-7), 7:05 p.m.
The Indians aren't going down without a fight, so this game is huge for the Tribe to win at home. The Royals are right in the thick of the division race, making this one a can't-miss for baseball fans.
Mariners (Hernandez, 14-5) at Blue Jays (Dickey, 13-12), 7:07 p.m.
Seattle has lost three in a row at a time when it needs to win as much as possible. In other words, no better time to have King Felix on the mound.
White Sox (Carroll, 5-10) at Tigers (Price, 3-4), 7:08 p.m.
Starter David Price, the jewel of the Trade Deadline, would go a long way toward making the Tigers ecstatic about acquiring him by winning this key game as the AL Central gets tighter by the day.
Pirates (Cole, 10-5) at Braves (Wood, 11-10), 7:10 p.m.
As if Gerrit Cole needed more incentive to win, the Pirates can clinch a playoff spot by taking this one over the Braves if the Brewers fall to the Reds and their ace, Johnny Cueto.
Cardinals (Miller, 10-9) at Cubs (Hendricks, 7-2), 8:05 p.m.
St. Louis can get one or two games closer to a division title by taking care of business in Wrigley Field.
Giants (Bumgarner, 18-9) at Dodgers (Greinke, 15-8), 10:10 p.m.
San Francisco could cut the Dodgers' division lead to 2 1/2 games by winning this, and they have their best pitcher on the mound. They'll need a good game from Madison Bumgarner, too, because he's going up against 15-game winner Zack Greinke in the day's best pitching duel.
To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining and add one. Then subtract the difference in the number of losses between that team and its closest pursuer.
AL East: Orioles clinched
AL Central: Tigers six over Royals
AL West: Angels clinched
AL Wild Card 1: A's six over Royals
AL Wild Card 2: Royals five over Mariners
NL East: Nationals clinched
NL Central: Cardinals four over Pirates
NL West: Dodgers three over Giants
NL Wild Card 1: Pirates six over Giants
NL Wild Card 2: Giants two over Brewers