The Road to October: Sept. 21, 2011

The Road to October: Sept. 21, 2011

The Road to October: Sept. 21, 2011
With another day of games in the books, a few teams got that much closer to some coveted playoff berths.

Separating themselves even further from the Rays after a 5-0 win Tuesday, the Yankees can clinch a playoff spot by beating Tampa Bay in either half of their split doubleheader Wednesday.

New York scored all the runs they would need in the second inning against starter Wade Davis, thanks to a dominant start from Ivan Nova, who tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Curtis Granderson delivered the big blow in the big inning, a bases-clearing double that sent the Yankees toward a win that decreased their magic number to clinch a playoff berth to two.

"He was the one guy that kept getting the big hits for us," manager Joe Girardi said of Granderson. "You look up and we've got five runs, and he's got four RBIs for us and big hits all over the place for us."


Even with the loss, the Rays managed to stay two games back of the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card after Boston lost 7-5 to the last place Orioles.

A shaky eighth inning from Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon plated three runs for Baltimore after a bases loaded double by Robert Andino.

"We've got to bounce back from the whole month, not just this loss, just the whole month," said Josh Reddick."And we just don't seem to be doing it."

A team that did gain ground in the AL Wild Card race: the Angels.

Now only 3 1/2 back of Boston, the Halos still have a pulse after belting out 15 hits against the Blue Jays in a 10-6 victory.

Led by Mark Trumbo, who hit his 29th home run of the season and had four RBIs, the team also got some help from former Blue Jay Vernon Wells, who had two RBIs, including a solo home run.

"We've got to win games," Wells said. "However we do it -- whoever starts it or finishes it -- we've just got to win. We've got to hit with runners on. When we don't come through in RBI situations, we find ourselves on the losing end of ballgames."

However, the Angels were still unable to pick up any ground on Texas, who beat the A's, 7-2, and maintained a five-game lead in the AL West.

Already holding the AL Central crown and trailing the Yanks by 4 1/2 games for the AL's No. 1 seed, the Tigers were shellacked by the Royals,10-2, as Brad Penny gave up seven runs on 10 hits in just four innings of work.

Texas drew even with Detroit for the second-best record in the AL, but the Tigers remained the potential No. 2 seed because they won the season series against the Rangers, 6-3.

Meanwhile, much was the same in the National League Wild Card race, with the St. Louis Cardinals staying in the same spot they were at Monday, 2 1/2 back of the Braves.

Down, 6-5, going into the bottom of the seventh, the Redbirds unloaded for six runs in an 11-6 win over the Mets.

"We're throwing the ball well and scoring runs, and it's a lot of fun," second baseman Ryan Theriot said. "That's kind of the recipe for winning baseball games, and you have to ride the highs and win as many as you can. Hopefully, we'll have a shot here in a week. We'll see. We'll just keep winning ballgames."

The Braves beat the Marlins, 4-0. Home runs by Alex Gonzalez and Freddy Freeman led the way, along with seven solid innings from Randall Delgado, who got his first Major League win.

While the Cardinals and Braves kept pace with each other, the Giants ran into Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The L.A. ace outdueled Tim Lincecum to tally his 20th win of the season and push San Francisco 4 1/2 games back in the Wild Card.

While the Giants still may be breathing in that race, little air is left in the possibly of them winning the NL West even after Arizona lost, 5-3, to the Pirates. San Francisco is still 5 1/2 games back in that race.

Because of the D-backs' loss, Milwaukee picked up another game on them for the No. 2 seed with a 5-1 win over the Cubs and now hold a two game lead.

"We're just staying calm," center fielder Nyjer Morgan said. "It's still a fun, easygoing clubhouse. We're just worried about what we can take care of that day. Obviously, we know what's going on."

Philadelphia, which clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs Monday, lost both games in a double-header against the Nationals.

If the postseason started today

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Rangers (3) at Yankees (1)
Red Sox (Wild Card) at Tigers (2)

NATIONAL LEAGUE
D-backs (3) at Phillies (1)
Braves (Wild Card) at Brewers (2)

Today's key games to watch

Rays (James Shields, 15-11) at Yankees (Phil Hughes, 5-5), 1:07 p.m., Rays (Jeremy Hellickson, 13-10) at Yankees (C.C. Sabathia, 19-8) 7:05 p.m.Preview
The Yankees can clinch a playoff berth if they win either game of the doubleheader. New York can clinch the AL East if the Red Sox lose and the Bombers take both games from the Rays.

Tigers (Max Scherzer, 14-9) at Royals (Felipe Paulino, 3-6), 8:10 p.m. Preview
The Tigers will set up their postseason roster with an outside shot at the top seed in the American League.

Braves (Lowe, 9-15) at Marlins (Vazquez, 11-11) 7:10 p.m. Preview
The Braves lead the Cardinals by 2 1/2 games in the NL Wild Card.

Orioles (Tommy Hunter, 3-3) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 13-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview
The Red Sox lead the Rays by two games in the AL Wild Card as they try and hold on for dear life.

Angels (Dan Haren 15-9) at Blue Jays (Dustin McGowan, 0-0), 7:07 p.m. Preview
The Angels trail the Rangers by five games in the AL West and the Red Sox by 3 1/2 for the AL Wild Card.

Mets (Chris Schwinden, 0-2) at Cardinals (Jaime Garcia 12-7), 8:15 p.m. Preview
The Cardinals trail the Braves by 2 1/2 games in the NL Wild Card race.

Brewers (Randy Wolf, 13-9) at Cubs (Matt Garza, 8-10), 2:20 p.m. Preview
Milwaukee's magic number is at three, yet the team would need the Cardinals to lose two days in a row to clinch the division.

Rangers (C.J. Wilson, 16-7) at Athletics (Brandon McCarthy, 9-8), 10:05 p.m. Preview
The Rangers lead the Angels by five games in AL West, with their magic number at four.

Giants (Ryan Vogelsong, 11-7) at Dodgers (Dana Eveland, 2-1), 10:10 p.m. Preview
The Giants trail the D-backs by 5 1/2 games in the NL West and 4 1/2 back in the NL Wild Card.

Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf, 1-2) at D-backs (Wade Miley, 3-2), 3:40 p.m. Preview
The D-backs lead the NL West by 5 1/2 games and trail Milwaukee by two games for the second seed in the NL.

Nationals (John Lannan, 9-13) at Phillies (Vance Worley, 11-2), 7:05 p.m. Preview
The Phillies will try to stop their two game skid.

Postseason 101

Magic numbers

To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining on the schedule and add one. Then subtract the difference in the loss column between the team and its closest pursuer.

Yankees: 2 to clinch postseason, 3 to clinch AL East

Tigers: Clinched AL Central.

Rangers: 4 to clinch a postseason berth and AL West.

Red Sox: 7 to clinch the AL Wild Card.

Phillies: Clinched NL East and home-field advantage.

Brewers: 3 to clinch postseason and NL Central.

D-backs: 3 to clinch postseason and NL West.

Braves: 6 to clinch the NL Wild Card.

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 Thursday, Sept. 29
• The winner of the first game hosts Club C on Friday, Sept. 30, with the winner declared champion.

If two division winners are tied for the highest winning percentage, the following tie-breakers will be used to determine home-field advantage in the Division Series:
• head-to-head record

• highest winner percentage in intraleague games

• Highest winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games

• If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half plus one of intraleague games during the championship season. This process will be followed game-by-game until the tie is broken.

Remaining schedules
Brewers

At Cubs (Wednesday), vs. Marlins (Friday-Sunday), vs. Pirates (Sept. 26-28)

D-backs

Vs. Pirates (Wednesday), vs. Giants (Friday-Sunday), vs. Dodgers (Sept. 26-28)

Braves

At Marlins (Wednesday), at Nationals (Friday-Sunday), vs. Phillies (Sept. 26-28)

Cardinals

Vs. Mets (Wednesday-Thursday), vs. Cubs (Friday-Sunday), at Astros (Sept. 26-28)

Giants

At Dodgers (Wednesday-Thursday), at D-backs (Friday-Sunday), vs. Rockies (Sept. 26-28)

Yankees

Vs. Rays (Wednesday-Thursday with doubleheader Wednesday), vs. Red Sox (Friday-Sunday), at Rays (Sept. 26-28)

Tigers

At Royals (Wednesday), vs. Orioles (Thursday-Sunday), vs. Indians (Sept. 26-28)

Rangers

At A's (Wednesday-Thursday), vs. Mariners (Friday-Sunday), at Angels (Sept. 26-28)

Red Sox

Vs. Orioles (Wednesday), at Yankees (Friday-Sunday), at Orioles (Sept. 26-28)

Rays

At Yankees (Wednesday-Thursday, with doubleheader Wednesday), vs. Blue Jays (Friday-Sunday), vs. Yankees (Sept. 26-28)

Angels

At Blue Jays (Wednesday-Thursday), vs. A's (Friday-Sunday), vs. Rangers (Sept. 26-28)

2011 Postseason schedule

American League Division Series: Sept. 30 - Oct. 6
National League Division Series: Oct. 1-7
American League Championship Series: Oct. 8-16
National League Championship Series: Oct. 9-17
World Series: Oct. 19-27
Full postseason schedule

Quinn Roberts is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.