Road to the Postseason: Sept. 20

Dodgers' magic number to clinch NL West at 2; Cubs win 7th in row

Road to the Postseason: Sept. 20

Only three division crowns remain unclaimed as the 2017 regular season nears its end. The National League West is likely the next postseason domino to fall. The Dodgers lost their third straight game Tuesday, against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, but they still saw their magic number for a fifth consecutive division title drop to two with Arizona's loss in San Diego.

Here's a look at how the rest of Tuesday's action impacted the playoff picture:

American League Wild Card
Only the Rangers managed to capitalize on the Twins losing to the Yankees for a second straight night. Texas beat fellow playoff-hopeful Seattle to improve to 3 1/2 games behind Minnesota for the AL's second Wild Card spot.

The Rangers were the only AL Wild Card-contending team to rise in the standings with the Angels, Mariners, Royals and Rays all losing. The Angels, lingering just outside the postseason picture, stayed 1 1/2 games back with a loss to the AL-leading Indians.

The Rays are fading toward elimination after a loss to the Cubs. They've now dropped eight of their last 11 contests.

"We need lots of things to go our way," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "And some other teams need some things to go really, really sour, quickly for them. It's long odds, there's no doubt."

Home-field advantage
The Indians (94-57) gained ground on the Dodgers in the race for home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Cleveland's 6-3 win over the Angels and the Dodgers' loss to the Phillies pulled the Tribe within two games of L.A. for the best record in baseball.

The Dodgers seemingly have the easier schedule to close out the regular season, with eight of their remaining 11 contests coming against the Phillies, Giants and Padres -- all eliminated teams with losing records. The Indians, meanwhile, must play eight of their final 11 games against teams contending for an AL Wild Card spot in the Angels, Mariners and Twins.

NL Central
The Cubs beat the Rays, 2-1, earning their seventh consecutive victory. It was Joe Maddon's return to Tropicana Field, the ballpark he called home for nine seasons as the Rays manager from 2006-14. The win lowered the Cubs' magic number to clinch the NL Central to nine over the Brewers, who won at Pittsburgh, 1-0. Milwaukee trails Chicago by 3 1/2 games.

The third-place Cardinals also won, defeating the Reds, 8-7, at Great American Ball Park as they cling to waning playoff hopes. St. Louis is six games behind the Cubs with an elimination number of seven.

"We're not out of it," Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said. "People may talk about how we're done, but we don't believe that."

NL Wild Card
Even if the Brewers can't catch the Cubs in the division, they're still in play for a playoff spot. With a win and the Rockies' loss to the Giants, Milwaukee only trails Colorado by one game for the NL's second Wild Card spot. The Cardinals are also in contention, 3 1/2 games behind the Rockies.

Arizona, which holds the top spot, lost to the Padres but remains 4 1/2 games ahead of the Rockies for home-field advantage in the one-game playoff.

AL East
The Red Sox remained three games in front of the Yankees as both AL East contenders won. For the second straight night, Boston defeated the Orioles in 11 innings at Camden Yards, lowering its magic number to clinch a playoff berth to two. The Yankees bested the Twins, 5-2, in New York, keeping pace with Boston in the division and stretching their lead over Minnesota for the top Wild Card spot to six games.

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

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.