Road to the Postseason: Sept. 18

Dodgers' magic number at 4; Cubs retain Central lead with sweep of Cards

Road to the Postseason: Sept. 18

There was partying going on in Houston as the Astros closed out a series sweep against the Mariners on Sunday, 7-1, and claimed the American League West title that they've been cruising toward for most of the season.

Gear up for stretch run

The Dodgers' four-game winning streak came to an end in a 7-1 loss to the Nationals on Sunday night, which kept Los Angeles' magic number at four to clinch the National League West.

Here's where we stand heading into Monday:

Home-field advantage
The Dodgers' loss Sunday, coupled with the Cleveland Indians' 3-2 win over the Royals, allowed the AL Central-champion Indians to improve their season record to 93-57, which sliced a game off the Dodgers' lead for home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Dodgers remain 3 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland with a record of 96-53.

"This is one of the stepping stones we wanted to get to," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said as his team celebrated the AL Central title after Sunday's game. "But we all know this isn't the end goal."

Indians raise division flag

American League Wild Card
The Twins gained a game on the Angels when Minnesota beat Toronto, 13-7, on Sunday, while the Angels lost to the Rangers, 4-2. The Twins now have a two-game cushion over the Angels for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Mariners are 4 1/2 games behind Minnesota after losing their third straight, and Kansas City and Texas are a half-game behind Seattle, with Baltimore 5 1/2 games behind the Twins.

Mauer belts a grand slam

National League Central
The Cubs kept their timely late-season surge going, winning their sixth consecutive game Sunday with a 4-3 tally over one of the teams chasing them, the St. Louis Cardinals. After Sunday, Chicago was a season-best 17 games over the .500 mark and retained its four-game lead in the division over second-place Milwaukee.

"We're just going one at a time, one game at a time, especially where we're at," Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber said. "We're taking it day by day, pitch by pitch."

The Cardinals aren't out of it yet. They still can make up ground in the division with four games left against the Cubs and three vs. the Brewers. Next weekend in Milwaukee is setting up for some drama, however, with the Brewers getting ready to host the Cubs at Miller Park in what could be a pivotal four-game series.

Schwarber's solo homer

NL Wild Card
Both NL Wild Card-leading teams lost Sunday. The Rockies were nipped by the Padres, 4-3, and the Giants knocked off the D-backs, 7-2. Arizona still holds a comfortable advantage for the top NL Wild Card slot with a five-game lead over Colorado. The Rockies lost a game to the Brewers on Sunday when Milwaukee beat the Marlins, 10-3, and moved within 2 1/2 games of Colorado for the second Wild Card berth.

Brewers' eight-run inning

AL East
The AL East race remained unchanged by Sunday's results as the first-place Red Sox lost to the Rays, 3-2, and the Yankees lost to the Orioles, 6-4. The Red Sox remain three games ahead of the Yankees in the division.

If the postseason began today...

Wild Card: Twins at Yankees
Division Series: Wild Card at Indians, Red Sox at Astros

Wild Card: Rockies at D-backs
Division Series: Wild Card at Dodgers, Cubs at Nationals

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

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.