Path to the Postseason: Sept. 5, 2012

Path to the Postseason: Sept. 5, 2012

 Path to the Postseason: Sept. 5, 2012
All of a sudden, it's a 27-game season in the American League East.

Though many pundits conceded the division to the Yankees a couple months ago, the Orioles climbed their way into a dead heat with New York following a 12-0 victory over Toronto on Tuesday.

Of course, it's the Tampa Bay Rays that the Yankees are concerned with right now, after they beat New York for the second straight night. The Rays have won four in a row and sit just 1 1/2 games back.

Is there panic in Yankee-land? Not for captain Derek Jeter.

"Nothing changes, we play everybody," Jeter said. "How many games do we have left? If we win all of them, we're good, right? If that's the case, you don't have to worry about anyone else."

In the AL Central, the Tigers perplexing stretch of poor play against sub-.500 teams continued on Tuesday. They lost three to Kansas City last week and dropped their second in a row to Cleveland, 3-2.

Oddly enough, those two series sandwiched a sweep of the first-place White Sox, who couldn't expand their lead because of an 18-9 drubbing at the hands of the Twins.

"It is what it is tonight," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "I'm not even looking at this as a sign of anything. It's just one of those games. Put it behind you and play tomorrow."

In the AL West, the Angels made a statement that they won't go down without a fight by notching their second straight win over the A's, who are in a three-way tie for the Wild Card lead. The Angels now sit 3 1/2 back of Oakland.

The Cardinals picked up some breathing room in the race for the No. 2 Wild Card spot in the NL with a victory and a Dodgers loss. A Pirates win over Houston kept them within 2 1/2 games of St. Louis for that decisive second Wild Card slot.

After a long night of baseball, the NL West remained status quo as both the Giants and Dodgers lost in 11 innings. Aaron Hill's five-hit night propelled the D-backs past San Francisco, snapping the Giants' three-game winning streak.

Today's key games to watch (all times ET)

Mets (Dickey, 17-4) at Cardinals (Wainwright, 13-11, 3.90), 1:45 p.m. Preview >
The Cards go for the sweep, but they face a tough challenge in Mets ace R.A. Dickey, who is looking for his 18th win.

Twins (Walters, 2-2) at White Sox (Peavy, 9-10), 2:10 p.m. Preview >
The White Sox are hanging on to the top spot in the AL Central and they look to expand on their one-game lead Wednesday against the Twins.

Angels (Haren, 9-10) at A's (McCarthy, 8-5), 3:35 p.m. Preview >
A sweep of the A's would go a long way for the Angels, both in the standings and in terms of making a statement that they are back in the race.

Indians (Jimenez, 9-14) at Tigers (Fister, 7-8), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
The Tigers hope to end their recent struggles against sub-.500 teams with a win that could tie them for the division lead.

Astros (Abad, 0-2) at Pirates (Correia, 9-8), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
The slipping Pirates need a big outing from Kevin Correia as they trail the Cardinals by 2 1/2 games for the final Wild Card spot.

Orioles (M. Gonzalez, 6-3) at Blue Jays (Morrow, 8-5), 7:07 p.m. Preview >
With a chance to jump into sole possession of first place on Wednesday, the O's send Miguel Gonzalez to the hill, fresh off his dominance of the Yankees.

Yankees (Kuroda, 12-10) at Rays (Moore, 10-8), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
The Rays are closing fast on the division lead, trailing the Yanks by 1 1/2 games in the AL East. Hiroki Kuroda gets the ball for New York.

Rockies (White, 2-7) at Braves (Minor, 7-10), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Recently, the Braves just can't seem to pull away in their quest for the first Wild Card spot, as they send Mike Minor to the mound Wednesday.

Padres (Richard, 12-12) at Dodgers (Harang, 9-8), 10:10 p.m. Preview >
Aaron Harang faces his former team in the series' rubber match -- a crucial game for the Dodgers, who fell to 1 1/2 games back of the Wild Card with a loss Tuesday.

D-backs (Cahill, 9-11) at Giants (Bumgarner, 14-9) 10:15 p.m. Preview >
The Giants' lead in the West sits at 4 1/2 games over Los Angeles as they look to take the series from the D-backs and essentially end Arizona's playoff chances.

Postseason 101

Magic numbers
To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining and add one. Then subtract the difference in the number of losses between that team and its closest pursuer.

Tiebreaker scenarios
A tiebreaker game will be played to determine a division winner, even if the tied clubs are assured of participating in the postseason. If a division championship tiebreaker is necessary, the head-to-head record between the clubs will determine home-field advantage. If the head-to-head record is tied, then division record will be the next tiebreaker.

If two clubs are tied for the two Wild Card berths, home-field advantage will be determined by the head-to-head record between the clubs. If the head-to-head record is tied, then division record will be the next tiebreaker.

2012 Postseason Schedule
Wild Card playoff games: Oct. 5
Division Series: Oct. 6-12
American League Championship Series: Oct. 13-21
National League Championship Series: Oct. 14-22
World Series: Oct. 24-Nov. 1

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