Royals roll on and lower magic number to 18

Royals roll on and lower magic number to 18

Thursday was light on baseball with just 12 teams in play, but the six-game slate still packed plenty of playoff implications. Each of the games featured a club vying for a playoff spot, three division leaders among them.

MLB standings

Here's a look at some key moments from Thursday's games that helped shape the playoff picture:

Royals inching closer to American League Central crown
Kansas City clinched a winning record this season by defeating the Tigers, 15-7, at Kauffman Stadium, totaling 20 hits and improving to 82-51 on the year.

The Royals are now unbeaten in their last eight series (7-0-1). They extended their lead in the division to 13 games over the Twins, and are on pace to win 100 games for the second time in franchise history. The only other time the Royals have reached that mark was in 1977, when they went 102-60.

With the win, Kansas City's magic number to clinch the AL Central is now down to 18, which is the lowest number for any division leader.  

K. Morales' two-run double

Pittsburgh plagued by division woes
The Pirates' own division continues to be a thorn in their side as the Bucs dropped yet another NL Central matchup, falling to the Brewers, 5-3.

Pittsburgh has now lost four in a row for the first time since mid-May, and has yet to beat the Brewers in the second half, losing all six meetings. The loss also snapped a streak of 11 consecutive victories with starter Francisco Liriano on the mound.

The Pirates still hold a four-game lead over the Cubs for the National League's top Wild Card spot, but they're just 21-32 within the division and have a losing record against every NL Central club. Twenty-five of their 32 remaining games are against division opponents, and first up is a pivotal three-game series with the first-place Cardinals, whom the Pirates trail by 6 1/2 games.

"One of the things we need to be mindful of -- and I share this with the guys -- is that past performance doesn't need to predict future performance," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Past performance needs to be used as information for present success. This can happen from time to time … I went through it in Colorado, with our road record. We couldn't win on the road - until all of a sudden we did."

Morse's first triple of the year

Offensive outburst fuels Nationals' win
The Nationals continued to cling to their postseason hopes, dominating the Braves with a 15-1 victory in Washington. The win cut their deficit in the NL East to six games behind the Mets.

Washington also closed to within seven games of the Cubs in the NL Wild Card race. The Giants remain in the mix but their 11-3 loss to the Rockies on Thursday has them just a half-game ahead of the Nationals. San Francisco (69-65) has dropped six straight games, allowing Washington to gain ground in the standings.

The Nats' schedule is in their favor as 23 of their final 29 games are against teams with a losing record. The other six matchups are against the Mets. Washington is 44-36 against teams with a sub-.500 record and 6-7 vs. New York.

Nationals' five-run 2nd inning

Other things to know
• The Twins lost, 6-4, to the White Sox but still came away with a series win. Minnesota sits just outside the second AL Wild Card spot, 1 1/2 games behind the Rangers.

"You've got to think if we go out and win every series, we're going to like where we are at the end of the year, so that's really the focus," starter Kyle Gibson said. "Today, yeah, it stinks. It's a game we could have possibly won but we won the series, beat a good team in the White Sox and I think it still carries some momentum onto the road."

Statcast: Rosario's grand slam

• The Dodgers lost the opener in San Diego, but with the Giants' loss, still held onto their 6 1/2-game lead in the NL West. MLB.com's No. 2 overall prospect, Corey Seager, made his Major League debut, batting 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

Prior to the 10-7 defeat in San Diego, LA's pitching staff had allowed just 16 total runs over the last nine games.

Seager's first career hit

If the postseason began today ...

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wild Card: Rangers at Yankees
Division Series: Wild Card at Royals, Astros at Blue Jays 

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Wild Card: Cubs at Pirates
Division Series: Wild Card at Cardinals, Mets at Dodgers

2015 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
AL Wild Card Game: Oct. 6
NL Wild Card Game: Oct. 7
AL Division Series begin: Oct. 8
NL Division Series begin: Oct. 9
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 16
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 17
World Series begins: Oct. 27