Path to the Postseason: Sept. 18, 2012

Path to the Postseason: Sept. 18, 2012

The White Sox made an emphatic statement in the American League Central on Monday with a win over the Tigers, and a pair of teams crept closer to the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race.

Monday's action began with an afternoon showdown between the White Sox and Tigers -- a makeup of a rainout last Thursday. The Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but couldn't hold it as the White Sox rallied for a 5-4 victory.

Wells Fargo

The White Sox now sit three games ahead of Detroit, a position that allows them to focus solely on themselves -- no scoreboard watching necessary -- going forward.

"Be sure you worry about yourself and not worry about anything else," manager Robin Ventura said. "There's nothing you can do about [the Tigers]."

The Phillies pulled to within 3 1/2 games in the NL Wild Card, thanks to a gem from Cliff Lee, who outdueled the Mets' Cy Young candidate, R.A. Dickey.

"We've got three or four teams ahead of us that we've got to catch and pass," Lee said after he allowed one run and struck out 10 in eight innings. "It's definitely not where we want to be, but we've still got a chance. Considering how we played the first half, we're pretty lucky to be where we are right now, to be honest with you."

In other games of note, the Braves beat the Marlins to further tighten their grip on the top NL Wild Card spot, and the Rays dropped to five back in the AL Wild Card race with their 5-2 loss to Boston.

Tampa Bay's deficit reached five when the Orioles thumped the Mariners, 10-4, in Seattle. Nate McLouth and Matt Wieters each homered to pull them within half a game of the Yankees in the AL East.

Strangely, it was the Pirates and Cubs finishing the night up in Chicago, thanks to a rain delay that lasted three hours and 37 minutes. Kevin Correia threw seven two-hit frames to pull the Bucs to within 2 1/2 games of St. Louis in the Wild Card race.

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

Dodgers (Harang, 9-9) at Nationals (Zimmermann, 10-8), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
The Dodgers continue to fight for their lives in the NL Wild Card race, while the Nationals are hoping to inch closer to their first NL East crown.

Brewers (Gallardo, 15-8) at Pirates (Burnett, 15-7), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
With both teams trailing St. Louis by 2 1/2 games in the NL Wild Card race, the Brewers and Pirates enter a critical three-game set in Pittsburgh.

A's (Griffin, 6-0) at Tigers (Scherzer, 16-6), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
The Tigers and A's are going in opposite directions these days. Oakland sits atop the Wild Card, while the Tigers are holding on for dear life in the AL Central.

Blue Jays (Romero, 8-14) at Yankees (Pettitte, 3-3), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Andy Pettitte makes his return in the Bronx as the Yankees look to expand their lead in the AL East. A healthy Pettitte would be a vital piece in a rotation that needs depth.

Braves (Maholm, 12-10) at Marlins (Eovaldi, 4-12), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Atlanta appears destined for the first Wild Card spot in the National League, as it sends Paul Maholm to the hill for the second of three in Miami.

Red Sox (Doubront, 10-9) at Rays (Hellickson, 8-10), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
The Rays are still alive in the AL Wild Card hunt, as Jeremy Hellickson pitches against Boston. They are in the midst of 15 straight games against division rivals.

Phillies (Cloyd, 1-1) at Mets (Harvey, 3-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
At 3 1/2 games back in the race for the No. 2 Wild Card in the NL, the Phillies need to make a move soon, and they hope it starts this week in New York.

Reds (Bailey, 11-9) at Cubs (Germano, 2-7), 8:05 p.m. Preview >
At this point, the Reds are fighting for the No. 1 spot in the NL, which could be huge in the NLDS. They'd be facing a team coming off a Wild Card game that likely just used its ace.

White Sox (Floyd, 9-10) at Royals (Hochevar, 8-13), 8:10 p.m. Preview >
The White Sox have been in first place since July 24, but they have yet to hold a lead of four games or more this season. That could change Tuesday with a win and a Tigers loss.

Astros (Abad, 0-4) at Cardinals (Lohse, 14-3), 8:15 p.m. Preview >
Kyle Lohse has quietly put up one of the best seasons in the National League. He gets the ball as the Cardinals look to put some separation between themselves and the rest of the Wild Card contenders.

Padres (Stults, 6-2) at D-backs (Kennedy, 13-11), 9:40 p.m. Preview >
The Padres and D-backs would each need to mount historic comebacks to reach the Wild Card game, but that said, they are still alive as they start a three-game set Tuesday.

Orioles (Chen, 12-9) at Mariners (Ramirez, 1-2), 10:10 p.m. Preview >
Baltimore could take over sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since June 6 with a win and a Yankees loss Tuesday.

Rockies (Francis, 5-5) at Giants (Lincecum, 9-14), 10:15 p.m. Preview >
The Giants are in cruise control these days, and an NL West title seems imminent. They send Tim Lincecum to the hill Tuesday, looking for his fifth straight 10-win season.

If the postseason started today ...

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

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

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

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