AL West race heats up in Lone Star State

AL West race heats up in Lone Star State

With roughly two and a half weeks left in the season, it's now or never for some teams. Every game is vital this time of year as teams are fighting for one of the coveted spots in the playoffs.

Here's a quick rundown of how Wednesday's games impacted this year's playoff races:

Rangers stay hot

Napoli's three-run jack

Texas won the first two games of the American League West showdown against in-state rival Houston, but the Astros had to be feeling good about themselves with Cy Young candidate Dallas Keuchel on the mound.

However, the Rangers proved to be too much for Keuchel as Texas won 14-3, extending its AL West lead to 1 1/2 games.

"There's an energy inside the clubhouse," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "You've got to keep that going. It's fragile. It's something you don't want to drop."

The Rangers pounced all over Keuchel from the very beginning, erupting for six runs in the first.

Mike Napoli's three-run homer broke the game open, but it was Prince Fielder that made sure the game was out of reach.

Fielder went 3-for-5 with five RBIs and a pair of homers.

Fielder's long solo home run

As for Keuchel, his worst performance of the season came at a very inopportune time. Keuchel surrendered 11 hits (three homers) and nine earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings. The start also snapped the left-handers streak of 40 consecutive starts of six or more innings.

"I was trying to be aggressive to their aggressiveness and they took that battle right there," Keuchel said. "I was battling. I felt pretty good, slider, two-seam just wasn't meant to be. I'll be looking to rebound against them a couple starts from now."

Twins fall in extras

Kinsler's go-ahead RBI single

The Twins appeared to be on the verge of climbing within a half game of the Astros for the second spot in the AL Wild Card race, but then it all fell apart in a 7-4 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday night.

The loss was a missed opportunity for the Twins to gain ground, but instead they fell to 1 1/2 games back.

Minnesota took the lead in the seventh, but was unable to hold on as closer Kevin Jepsen gave up a pair of runs in the ninth.

The Twins then had an opportunity to win the game in the 10th, with runners on first and second and no outs, but were unable to cash in on the opportunity.

Ultimately, the Tigers finally broke the tie against Brian Duensing in the 12th as Ian Kinsler laced a go-ahead single to right and J.D. Martinez put an exclamation point on the win with a two-run homer.

Yankees, Jays hold serve in the East

Bird's mammoth solo blast

For the second day in a row, the top of the AL East standings remained the same. The Yankees trail the Blue Jays by three games, but will have a chance to gain some ground next week as they travel to Toronto for a three-game set.

On Wednesday, Greg Bird led the Yankees to an important 3-1 victory over the Rays.

Bird gave the Yankees an early lead with an RBI double and finished the game 2-for-3 with a home run.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays had four players put together multi-hit games as the club routed the Braves, 9-1.

Worth noting
The Cubs beat the Pirates, 3-2, in 12 innings on Wednesday. The win brought the Cubs within three games of the Pirates for the first Wild Card spot.

The Pirates also trail the Cardinals by four games in the NL Central.

The Royals fell, 5-1, to the Indians. Although Kansas City still leads the AL Central by a comfortable nine games, the Royals have lost seven of 9 -- not exactly the way a team wants to enter the postseason.

• The Nationals slugged their way to a 12-2 win over the Phillies, while the Mets lost on back-to-back days for the first time since Aug. 27-28.

The Mets magic number remains 10.

If the postseason began today ...

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

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

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

William Boor is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.