Tribe nears berth; Cubs hold on in NL Central; M's make big leap
By Chad Thornburg
The Indians are on the verge of becoming the third team to claim a postseason spot, which they can do as early as Thursday. With its 21st consecutive victory Wednesday, the Tribe got one step closer to clinching a playoff spot and lowered its magic number to four to claim the American League Central.
Here's where we stand heading into today:
National League Central
The Cubs maintained their hold on the division with a 17-5 rout of the Mets at Wrigley Field. The Brewers kept pace with Chicago by defeating the Pirates, 8-2, in Milwaukee, staying 2 1/2 games back. The Cardinals, meanwhile, dropped into third place with a 6-0 loss to the Reds. The Cards trail the Cubs by three games and are a half-game behind the Brewers.
St. Louis and Milwaukee have head-to-head meetings with Chicago remaining to gain ground within the division. The Cubs host the Cardinals for three games this weekend, then visit St. Louis from Sept. 25-28, and the Brewers host the Cubs in a four-game series beginning Sept. 21. This year's NL Central crown could come down to the final series of the regular season, when the Brewers and Cardinals clash in St. Louis while the Cubs host the last-place Reds.
AL Wild Card
There wasn't much movement at the top of the AL Wild Card race Wednesday as both teams at the top of the standings -- the Yankees and Twins -- won their matchups. The Angels remain within striking distance, just two games behind the Twins after a 9-1 win over the AL West-leading Astros. The Orioles (4 1/2 games back) and Mariners (3 1/2 back) also won, maintaining their pace behind Minnesota.
Seattle made the biggest leap in the Wild Card standings, valuing from sixth to fourth with an 8-1 win over fellow Wild Card contender Texas. The Rangers and Royals each fell to four games back with losses to the Mariners and White Sox, respectively.
"There's obviously that urgency that has set in," Seattle catcher Mike Zunino said. "We're running out of time, so we want to come together and play as well as we can. Guys have been doing that, our pitching has been great, and we've been able to back those guys up."
The Yankees improved their standing in the AL East by beating the Rays while the Red Sox fell to the A's. Playing road games in their home city because Hurricane Irma relocated this series to Citi Field, the Yankees took two of three against the Rays, including Wednesday's 3-2 win. The win also was notable for coming against Tampa Bay, a division opponent who also is contending in the AL Wild Card race (five games back), where the Yankees hold a three-game lead over the Twins for the top spot.
For the first time since Aug. 24-25, the Dodgers won back-to-back games. Los Angeles beat the Giants, 4-1, on Wednesday, one day after snapping an 11-game losing streak. Despite their recent struggles, the Dodgers clinched a playoff berth Tuesday and still own the best record in baseball at 94-52.
They have, however, lost their significant lead for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as their losing skid coincided with the Indians' historic winning streak. The Tribe enter Thursday trailing by just four games.
NL Wild Card
The D-backs extended their lead for the NL's top Wild Card spot to four games with an 8-2 win over the Rockies at Chase Field. Arizona's win also clinched a season-series (10-8) win over Colorado. Should the Rockies and D-backs finish tied in the standings, the first tiebreaker would be determined by head-to-head record.
If the postseason began today...
AMERICAN LEAGUE Wild Card: Twins at Yankees Division Series: Wild Card at Indians, Red Sox at Astros
NATIONAL LEAGUE Wild Card: Rockies at D-backs Division Series: Wild Card at Dodgers, Cubs at Nationals
2017 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE AL Wild Card Game (1-game playoff): Oct. 3 NL Wild Card Game (1-game playoff): Oct. 4 AL Division Series begins (best-of-5, 2-2-1 format): Oct. 5 NL Division Series begins (best-of-5, 2-2-1 format): Oct. 6 AL Championship Series begins (best-of-7, 2-3-2 format): Oct. 13 NL Championship Series begins (best-of-7, 2-3-2 format): Oct. 14 World Series begins (best-of-7, 2-3-2 format): Oct. 24
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.