NL races in full swing on MLB.TV

Giants, Dodgers clash with first place out West in the balance

NL races in full swing on MLB.TV

Postseason races are heating up, especially in the National League, with several key games on tap today that will have an impact on the playoff picture.

The Dodgers and Giants begin a crucial three-game series in Los Angeles with first place in the NL West on the line.

The Mets will look to close the gap on the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card when they meet in St. Louis tonight for the start of a three-game series. The Cards lead the Marlins by 1 1/2 games and are ahead of the Mets by 4 1/2 games.

The Pirates are also in the thick of the NL Wild Card race, and Pittsburgh trails St. Louis by 3 1/2 games. That's the same margin the Astros face in their quest to catch the Orioles for the second American League Wild Card. The Pirates and Astros clash tonight in the second of a three-game Interleague series at PNC Park.

Speaking of the Orioles, they are playing an Interleague series against the Nationals, who lead the NL East by eight games over the Marlins.

And the best place to catch all the action is on MLB.TV.

MLB.TV Premium has returned with the same features as last year, and is only $49.99 for the rest of the season. This package has the best value and provides access to more than 400 devices and a free subscription to the MLB.com At Bat Premium app (a $19.99 value). It offers the best picture quality ever -- a new 60 frames per second -- for supported devices. Monthly signups for MLB.TV Premium are now underway as well for $24.99.

The new MLB.TV Single Team package is also available as a $39.99 yearly subscription. You can watch a single team's live out-of-market games in full HD.

Here's what to watch for today in the Majors (all times ET):

NL West contenders open key series: SF@LAD, 10:10 p.m.
The Dodgers lead the Giants by one game in the NL West heading into this key three-game series. The Giants have won six of 10 games against the Dodgers this year, though the rivals have not met since June 12.

The Giants give the ball to ace Madison Bumgarner. The lefty is yet to find success against the Dodgers this year, going 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against Los Angeles. San Francisco has lost each of Bumgarner's last four starts on the road.

Kenta Maeda toes the rubber for the Dodgers. Maeda was sharp in his only other start against the Giants, tossing seven innings of one-run ball in a win on April 17.

The Dodgers and Giants will meet nine times over the final six weeks of the regular season, and MLB.com columnist Phil Rogers broke down the matchups.

Maeda earns the win

Stat that matters: Giants outfielder Angel Pagan is riding an 18-game hitting steak, the longest active streak in MLB.

Wild Card contenders: HOU@PIT, 7:05 p.m.
The Astros are expected to deploy Cuban slugger Yulieski Gurriel for his first start in the field in the big leagues. Gurriel, dealing with a tight right hamstring, made his Major League debut as the designated hitter on Sunday in Baltimore and singled in his first at-bat.

Joe Musgrove gets the ball for the Astros, who have won four in a row. The Pirates will counter with Ivan Nova, who is 2-0 with a 4.41 ERA in three starts since being acquired from the Yankees. Nova was 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA in 21 games (15 starts) with New York before the trade.

Stat that matters: Houston's Carlos Correa has 83 RBIs as a shortstop this season, three shy of Miguel Tejada's club record for a shortstop (86 in 2009).

Gurriel's first big league hit

Mets look to close gap on Cardinals: NYM@STL, 8:15 p.m.
The Mets have an opportunity to get right back in the thick of the NL Wild Card race with this three-game series against the Cardinals.

Left-hander Jonathon Niese starts for the Mets, who won their last two games to move back to .500 at 62-62. Another lefty, Jaime Garcia, takes the mound for the Cardinals, who are 28-33 at home this year. Garcia pitched against the Mets on July 26, giving up two earned runs over five innings in a loss.

Stat that matters: Cardinals infielder Jedd Gyorko has 13 homers in the second half, including two against the Mets.

Garcia strikes out Cespedes

Beltway Series continues: WSH@BAL, 7:05 p.m.
Rookie Reynaldo Lopez starts for the first-place Nationals as the Beltway Series continues in Baltimore. Lopez is looking for continued success in his third big league start, as he's allowed two earned runs with 13 strikeouts over 14 innings in his first two outings. Of course, both of those starts were against the Braves, and the homer-happy Orioles present a much stiffer challenge.

Kevin Gausman gets the ball for the O's, who are holding onto the second AL Wild Card and are two games behind the Blue Jays and Red Sox in the AL East. Gausman will try to turn things around after posting a 5.40 ERA over his last five starts.

This matchup is also an MLB Network Showcase and MLB Plus game.

Stat that matters: Orioles outfielder Mark Trumbo leads the Majors with 38 home runs and each of his last seven hits have been homers.

Trumbo's 38th tater

MLB.TV Premium subscribers get the Mosaic View -- split screen or quad, available on PC or Mac only. That always comes in handy, especially when scoreboard-watching looms. MLB.TV Premium and MLB.TV Single Team subscribers both enjoy HD and both will get real-time highlights and player stats automatically loaded moments after they occur (only for the game you are watching with MLB.TV Single Team, and for all games with MLB.TV Premium).

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.