Road to the Postseason: Sept. 21

Red Sox fifth to earn playoff spot; Indians eyeing home field

Road to the Postseason: Sept. 21

The Red Sox became the latest team to secure a playoff berth on Wednesday, joining the Nationals, Indians, Astros and Dodgers. Boston's 9-0 win over the Orioles combined with the Angels' loss to the American League-leading Indians clinched a second straight trip to the postseason for the Red Sox.

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

Home-field advantage
The Indians are on the verge of catching the Dodgers for the best record in baseball. The Tribe's 6-5 win over the Angels and the Dodgers' 7-5 loss to the Phillies moved Cleveland to one game back of L.A. for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Nationals also gained on the Dodgers, scoring six runs in the eighth inning of a 7-3 win over the Braves at Turner Field. Washington trails by 3 1/2 games for home field in the National League playoffs.

The Dodgers won their lone series against the Indians, 2-1, at Progressive Field in June, so if those clubs finished tied for the best record in the Majors, home field would go to L.A. in a potential World Series matchup. In the NL, the Nationals hold the tiebreaker over the Dodgers by virtue of winning the season series, 4-2.

NL Central
The Brewers also missed an opportunity to improve their standing within the NL Central as the Cubs' seven-game winning streak ended with an 8-1 loss to the Rays. Milwaukee remained 3 1/2 games back of the Cubs, whose magic number to clinch the division title is eight. The Brewers will take on the Cubs in a crucial four-game series starting on Thursday at Miller Park. The Cardinals remain in the mix, but trail Chicago by five games.

NL West
The Dodgers will have to wait until at least Friday to clinch their fifth consecutive NL West title. L.A.'s loss to the Phillies and the D-backs' come-from-behind win over the Padres kept the Dodgers' magic number at two. Arizona is off on Thursday, so the best the Dodgers can do until Friday is lower that number to one with a win in the series finale at Citizens Bank Park.

NL Wild Card
It was a productive day for the Cardinals as they gained significant ground in the NL Wild Card race with a win and losses by the Rockies and Brewers. St. Louis cruised to a 9-2 victory over the Reds at Great American Ball Park, moving 2 1/2 games behind Colorado for the second Wild Card.

"I'm awful excited about how we just played," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

The Rockies were shut out by the Giants and nearly lost their one-game hold on the NL's second Wild Card spot, but the Brewers couldn't capitalize, losing to the Pirates on a walk-off home run by Adam Frazier at PNC Park. Colorado won the season series vs. Milwaukee, so should those clubs finished tied for the second Wild Card spot, the one-game tiebreaker would be played at Coors Field on Oct. 2.

The D-backs, meanwhile, beat the Padres, 13-7, and improved to 5 1/2 games ahead of the Rockies for home field in the NL Wild Card Game.

AL East
Backed by a dominant performance from Chris Sale, who became the first AL pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999 to reach 300 strikeouts in a season, the Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Orioles at Camden Yards. Boston's magic number to clinch is now eight over the Yankees, who have also won three straight. New York trails by three games in the division.

"I'm not worried about anybody else doing anything for us. We know what we have to do," Sale said. "We're just worried about our business, worried about what we have to do in going out there to win games. I don't know what the [magic] number is, I don't know who needs to do what. I know if we keep winning games, we're going to put ourselves in a good position, and that's really all that matters to us."

AL Wild Card
The Twins' third straight loss to the Yankees strengthened New York's hold on the AL's top Wild Card spot and opened the door for other teams chasing Minnesota for the second Wild Card. Fortunately for the Twins, the Angels have also lost three in a row and remained 1 1/2 games back.

The Rangers beat the Mariners for their third consecutive win and are now just 2 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card. Seattle fell to four games back with their fifth straight loss.

The Royals (3 1/2 games back) and the Rays (four games) each improved their standing behind the Twins with wins over the Blue Jays and Cubs, respectively.

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 based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.