Angels soar with sweep; Cards clinch spot

Angels soar with sweep; Cards clinch spot

The first of 10 postseason spots was claimed Saturday as the Cardinals clinched by virtue of a San Francisco loss, guaranteeing St. Louis at least a place in the National League's Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser.

The Cards clinching was far from the only postseason storyline circulating after Saturday's slate of games, however, as a very crowded American League Wild Card race seems to get tighter and tighter each day. Only one team has been officially eliminated from contention, while the Astros, Angels, Twins, Indians and Orioles all remain within 4 1/2 games of each other, vying for a spot opposite the Yankees in the Wild Card race.

Cardinals clinch playoff berth

Here's a deeper look into how Saturday's games helped shape the playoff picture:

Angels rise in AL Wild Card race
The Angels climbed the standings, beating the Twins twice in a split doubleheader. The wins vaulted L.A. past Minnesota and brought the club to within a game and a half of the Astros for the second AL Wild Card.

The Angels have now won three straight and seven of their last 10 games. They've dominated the Twins over the last two seasons, winning 12 of 13 matchups, including seven in a row at Target Field.

L.A.'s recent playoff push has coincided with Mike Trout's resurgence. The 24-year-old reigning AL MVP has homered three times and driven in seven runs through three games in this series, extending his career-high home run total to 39.

Albert Pujols also snapped an 0-for-25 slump with a big day at the plate. The Angels slugger was so relieved to end his 0-fer that he asked for the ball.

Elsewhere in the AL West, the two clubs still ahead of Los Angeles -- the Rangers and Astros -- both won. The Astros plated seven runs from the sixth inning on for a come-from-behind win over the A's, while the Rangers came away with a convincing 10-1 victory against Seattle.

Richards on sweeping twin bill

Cardinals clinch playoff spot
Despite dropping back-to-back games to Chicago, the Cardinals became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this year as the Giants lost, 6-0, to the D-backs. This is the fifth consecutive year St. Louis has reached the postseason, and the 12th time since 2000.

The Cards remain atop the NL Central standings, four games ahead of the Pirates, who won Saturday against the Dodgers. And Chicago isn't far behind, having won 12 of 16 to pull within one game of Pittsburgh for the NL's top Wild Card spot. Home-field advantage in the one-game playoff would be great for the Cubs as they've won 19 of their last 23 home games and are 45-28 at Wrigley Field this year.

"We want to win the division and we're showing emotion, and we're ready to fight for it," said Cubs rookie Kris Bryant, who homered Saturday. "We don't want to just settle for a Wild Card spot. We want it all."

Maddon on bullpen, race

Yankees gain a game on Toronto

The Yankees capitalized on Toronto's loss to Boston on Saturday, shutting out the crosstown rival Mets, 5-0, in Game 2 of the Subway Series.

The Yankees moved to within 3 1/2 games of the Blue Jays in the AL East, and they remain in control of the AL's top Wild Card spot. The win also ensured the Yankees would finish with a .500 or better record for a 23rd consecutive season.

Pineda's 11th win

"I think we've been playing like this for a while," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've been close to Toronto, but they've got a little bit of a lead on us -- and we've been fighting and fighting. I think, in a sense, we've been playing playoff baseball for a while."

For the Mets, their magic number to clinch the NL East remained at eight over the Nationals, who won, 5-2, over the Marlins. As it stands, the two New York clubs are in line to reach the postseason in the same year for just the fourth time since the Mets entered the league in 1962.

Syndergaard strikes out eight

Other things to know
• The Astros' comeback win over the A's was much needed, snapping a five-game losing skid. Houston is an AL-worst 5-12 this month as it has ceded the division lead to the Rangers.

• With Minnesota's loss, the Royals are the closest team to clinching a division title. Their magic number is down to four over Minnesota.

• The Orioles beat the Rays, 2-1, and are still lingering in the AL Wild Card hunt. They've won eight of their last 11 games and are 4 1/2 games back of the Astros.

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 begins: Oct. 8
NL Division Series begins: Oct. 9
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 16
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 17
World Series begins: Oct. 27

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