Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012

Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012

Path to the Postseason: Sept. 17, 2012
Think you've got the remaining pennant races figured out? Sunday told you to think again. And again. And maybe do some more thinking after that.

Sunday's full slate of games made the standings as interesting as ever and the implications more intriguing by the minute. For every team stepping forward, there was no reason to believe Monday wouldn't see them stepping back.

Take the White Sox. They won on Sunday and their closest pursuer in the American League Central, the Detroit Tigers, lost. That gave the White Sox the luxury of a two-game division lead. Well, on Monday, the two teams play each other in a weather-postponement makeup matchup. Things could change quickly again.

Wells Fargo

And how about the Dodgers? They had to feel pretty good on Saturday night when they beat the Cardinals to draw even for the second Wild Card spot in the National League. But on Sunday, St. Louis returned the favor to go a game up.

Meanwhile, the Brewers continued to help themselves in the aforementioned NL Wild Card race, shutting out the Mets on Sunday to stay within 2 1/2 games of St. Louis. The Pirates lost and are three games back in those standings. The Phillies lost again to fall four games out of the secondary Wild Card slot.

Over in the American League, the A's dropped a game to the Rangers by losing to the Orioles while Texas beat Seattle on Sunday, so Oakland is three out in the division. But the A's still have won eight of their past 10 and remain in one of the two Wild Card slots. The other Wild Card team is Baltimore, which trails the Yankees by only a game in the AL East.

In the AL East, the Rays lost to the Yankees to fall five games back in the division and four behind in the Wild Card race.

The big game to watch Monday is the one-day meeting between the Tigers and White Sox before both clubs resume tough regular weeks.

The Brewers take off on a pivotal 10-game road trip that will see them start off with the Pirates before heading on to face the Nationals and Cincinnati.

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

Tigers (Fister, 9-8) at White Sox (Quintana, 6-4), 2:10 p.m. Preview >
This is a huge one, and it will be a huge test for the youngster Jose Quintana, who needs to show more consistency than he has in recent starts. The Tigers need Doug Fister to show the form he displayed at this time last year.

Braves (Hudson, 14-6) at Marlins (LeBlanc, 2-4), 7:10 p.m. Preview>
Tim Hudson will be gunning for another in a long list of 15-victory seasons. Wade LeBlanc gets the ball for Miami after being flip-flopped with Nathan Eovaldi.

Red Sox (Cook, 3-10) at Rays (Cobb, 9-8), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
The Rays find themselves in a hole in the AL East and Wild Card standings and need a big effort from young Alex Cobb plus some offense against sinkerballer Aaron Cook.

Phillies (Lee, 5-7) at Mets (Dickey, 18-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
The Phillies need wins after dropping off the Wild Card pace a bit over the weekend. It will be tough against NL Cy Young Award contender R.A. Dickey.

Pirates (Correia, 10-9) at Cubs (Wood, 6-11), 8:05 p.m. Preview >
Pittsburgh got serious offense on Sunday, including two homers from Pedro Alvarez. Clint Hurdle's gang would like some more of that in the finale at Wrigley Field.

Orioles (Tillman, 7-2) at Mariners (Noesi, 2-11), 10:10 p.m. Preview >
Maybe Chris Tillman will use the motivation of pitching against his former team when he toes the slab for contending Baltimore at Safeco Field on Monday night.

Rockies (Chacin, 2-5) at Giants (Bumgarner, 14-10), 10:15 p.m. Preview >
The Giants have a comfortable lead but don't want to let up with their stellar young lefty on the mound at home.

If the postseason started today ...

Wild Card: Orioles at A's
Division Series: Yankees vs. White Sox | Rangers at Wild Card winner

Wild Card: Cardinals at Braves
Division Series: Giants vs. Reds | Nationals at Wild Card winner

Postseason Bracket »

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 games 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.

Tiebreaker rules »

2012 postseason schedule
Wild Card playoff games: Oct. 5
Division Series: Oct. 6-12
AL Championship Series: Oct. 13-21
NL Championship Series: Oct. 14-22
World Series: Oct. 24-Nov. 1

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