Postseason Picture: Oct. 2

Postseason Picture: Oct. 2

The Major League Baseball postseason starts Wednesday with the Division Series on TBS, and so far the Twins, Rangers, Rays, Yankees, Phillies and Reds have clinched berths. The final two entries could come Saturday if the Giants and Braves both win afternoon games.

The Phillies will open one National League Division Series at home on Wednesday, and unless one of the West teams overtakes Atlanta for the Wild Card, that will be against the Reds. The other NLDS will start on Thursday, teams TBA.

The Twins will open one American League Division Series at home on Wednesday, against either the Rays or Yankees -- whichever club is declared Wild Card. The AL East champion will host Game 1 against Texas in the other ALDS that day.

The regular-season schedule ends Sunday, and there still is a chance for a tiebreaker or two. Could it be any other way? Drama in both leagues, heroes and goats in both leagues about to be determined as well. Here is the latest look at prospective matchups and scenarios:

American League: The Royals are living up to their last-weekend spoiler rep, taking the first two from the Rays. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox were rained out, so New York comes into Saturday with a half-game lead and will play a split doubleheader at Fenway Park (4:10 and 9:05 p.m. ET). If the co-leaders finish with identical records on Sunday, Tampa Bay, by virtue of its 10-8 head-to-head record, will be division champion and New York the Wild Card.

National League: After opening this showdown series with a victory Friday at AT&T Park, the Padres are two games behind the Giants in the NL West and have an 11-5 advantage in the season series. They play two more times, and one Giants victory would mean a division clincher. If the Padres sweep, and if Atlanta wins the Wild Card outright, there would be a one-game tiebreaker Monday at Petco Park.

Tiebreaker scenarios
If two teams are tied atop the division and both are assured of making the postseason, head-to-head record would be used to determine which team is the division champ and which falls to the Wild Card.
If two teams are tied atop the division and share the Wild Card lead with another club, the ties will be broken in the following fashion:
• The teams tied atop the division will play, with the winner taking the division.
• The losing team will then play the remaining Wild Card contender, with the winner making the playoffs.
If three clubs are tied atop a division or Wild Card standings, each club would be designated in one of three slots, "A," "B," or "C." Clubs get to choose their designation based on head-to-head records. Tiebreaking games would then proceed like this:
• Club A hosts Club B on Monday, Oct. 4
• The winner of the first game hosts Club C on Oct. 5, with the winner declared champion.

The Braves' lead over the Padres in the Wild Card race is down to a game with two to go, so Atlanta still can clinch if it beats Philadelphia on Saturday, coupled with a Padres loss.

How the Wild Card could come from the West: If the Padres sweep the Giants and the Phillies sweep the Braves, then Atlanta's final record would be 90-72 -- a game behind San Diego and San Francisco. Atlanta would be eliminated on Bobby Cox's last day as a manager. That means no tiebreaker game would be needed, and by virtue of its head-to-head tiebreaker edge, the Padres would be division champs and the Giants the Wild Card.

If Atlanta is the Wild Card and Cincinnati ends up with the same record as San Francisco or San Diego: The Braves would open Oct. 7 at either AT&T Park or PETCO Park. The best Cincinnati could do is finish with an identical record as the Giants and/or Padres, and both of those West teams won the season series from the Reds. So on Friday, the Reds' loss locked them in as a road team in the first round.

If either the Giants or Padres win the West and the other team finishes tied with the Braves for the Wild Card: Those two clubs (not the West champ) would play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday, hosted by Atlanta no matter whether it is against San Francisco or San Diego. The Braves won the season series from each.

What if the Giants, Padres and Braves all finish tied? First it would be Giants at Padres on Monday, with the winner being declared the division champion. Then a day later, the losing team would play in Atlanta to decide the Wild Card. Head-to-head is the first tiebreaker criteria, replacing coin flips, in this scenario to determine tiebreaker site.

Postseason starting times: All four Division Series and the AL Championship Series (starting Oct. 15) will be televised by TBS. The NL Championship Series (starting Oct. 16) and World Series (starting Oct. 27) will be televised by FOX. MLB has announced World Series start times, but times are TBA for earlier rounds.

Today's key games to watch

Yankees (Pettitte, 11-3) at Red Sox (Wakefield, 4-10), Game 1, 4:10 p.m. ET Preview>
Phillies (Worley, 1-1) at Braves (Hanson, 10-11), 4:10 p.m. Preview>
Padres (Stauffer, 5-5) at Giants (Zito, 9-13), 4:10 p.m. Preview>
Rays (TBD) at Royals (Davies, 8-11), 7:10 p.m. Preview>
Yankees (Burnett, 10-15) at Red Sox (Matsuzaka, 9-6), Game 2, 9:05 p.m. Preview>

If the postseason started today ...

Rangers (3) at Rays (1)
Yankees (Wild Card) at Twins (2)

Reds (3) at Phillies (1)
Braves (Wild Card) at Giants (2)

Leaders and contenders

AL East
Yankees: Idle
Lead: 0.5 over TB | Clinched berth | Next: Doubleheader @ BOS

AL Central
Twins: L, 6-3 vs. TOR
CLINCHED | Next: vs. TOR

AL West
Rangers: W, 3-2 vs. LAA
CLINCHED | Next: vs. LAA

AL Wild Card
Rays: L, 7-0 @ KC
Clinched berth | Next: @ KC


NL East
Phillies: W, 11-5 @ ATL

NL Central
Reds: L, 4-3 vs. MIL
CLINCHED | Next: vs. MIL

NL West
Giants: L, 6-4 vs. SD
Lead: 2 over SD | Next: vs. SD

NL Wild Card
Braves: L, 11-5 vs. PHI
Lead: 1 over SD | Next: vs. PHI

Top NL contenders
Padres: W, 6-4 @ SF
Deficit: 2 behind SF in West, 1 behind ATL in Wild Card | Next: @ SF

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Follow @MLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.