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Path to the Postseason: Sept. 19, 2012

Path to the Postseason: Sept. 19, 2012

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Path to the Postseason: Sept. 19, 2012
The big winners in baseball on Tuesday? The Cardinals, the Brewers, the Angels and the Orioles and -- most of all -- Mother Nature.

Three pivotal games on the East Coast were washed out on Tuesday night. As a result, a pair of doubleheaders (Dodgers-Nationals and Blue Jays-Yankees) are slated for Wednesday, while the Phillies and Mets will make up their game on Thursday night.

With the Dodgers off, the Cardinals were able to extend their lead to 1 1/2 games in the race for the second Wild Card spot in the National League thanks to a 4-1 win over Houston. Kyle Lohse tossed seven shutout innings for the defending champs.

"We can't take anything off," Lohse said after the game. "I think we saw last year what can happen when you play every game as hard as you can. We have to concentrate on that day, and I felt like we did a good job of that today."

The Brewers kept pace with a 6-0 victory over the Pirates, who are fading fast at 3 1/2 games back. Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo worked 6 2/3 shutout frames, continuing the strong finish to the 2012 season for both him and the team.

Wells Fargo

"The No. 1 goal was to get back to .500 and go from there," Gallardo said. "Everybody in here is not going to give up until the last game of the year."

The American League Central remained status quo, with both the White Sox (three games up) and Tigers winning Tuesday. Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-4 with two homers and six RBIs against AL Wild Card-leading Oakland, putting him within striking distance of the first Triple Crown in 45 years.

In the late games, the Angels rode ace Jered Weaver to an 11-3 win over Texas. They remain three games out of the Wild Card though, after Baltimore's dramatic 18-inning victory in Seattle.

Taylor Teagarden's RBI single in the top of the 18th capped the O's 14th extra-innings win of the season. They trailed in the ninth, but rallied to win it, 4-2.

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

Blue Jays (Alvarez, 9-12) at Yankees (Pettitte, 3-3), 1:05 p.m. (Game 1) Preview >
Andy Pettitte's return was delayed a day because of rain, but he won't have to wait long. He gets the ball in the first of two from the Bronx.

Blue Jays (Romero, 8-14) at Yankees (Phelps, 4-4), 7:05 p.m. (Game 2) Preview >
In the second game of the doubleheader, David Phelps gets the ball for the Yankees, looking to overtake the Orioles for the AL East lead.

Dodgers (Harang, 9-9) at Nationals (Zimmermann, 10-8), 4:05 p.m. (Game 1) Preview >
Aaron Harang starts the first game for the Dodgers, who are looking to close the gap in the NL Wild Card race. Washington, meanwhile, is closing in on a division crown.

Dodgers (Beckett, 6-13) at Nationals (Lannan, 3-0), Game 2 Preview >
The pitching matchup originally scheduled for Wednesday takes place in the nightcap, as Josh Beckett and John Lannan take the ball in D.C.

A's (Anderson, 4-1) at Tigers (Verlander, 14-8), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Tigers ace Justin Verlander toes the slab with his club in need of victories, three games back in the AL Central. Oakland is currently in possession of the top Wild Card spot in the AL.

Brewers (Estrada, 3-6) at Pirates (McPherson, 0-0), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
The Pirates are fading, and the Brewers are surging. Milwaukee has fought its way to within 2 1/2 games of the Cardinals, while Pittsburgh sits 3 1/2 back after losing of nine out of 11.

Braves (Medlen, 8-1) at Marlins (Johnson, 8-12), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
The Braves are sitting comfortably atop the NL Wild Card standings as they send Kris Medlen, arguably one of the best second-half arms this season, to the mound for the rubber match.

Red Sox (Matsuzaka, 1-5) at Rays (Archer, 0-3), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
The Rays are fading fast in the AL Wild Card race. They've lost four straight to drop to six back of the Orioles. Boston will send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the hill.

Phillies (Hamels, 15-6) at Mets (Harvey, 3-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Four games back of the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card spot, the Phillies send Cole Hamels to the mound Wednesday at Citi Field, where he's just 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA lifetime.

Reds (Leake, 8-9) at Cubs (Rusin, 1-2), 8:05 p.m. Preview >
Inching ever closer to their second NL Central crown in three years, the Reds, who have a magic number of four, face the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the second of a three-game set.

White Sox (Sale, 17-6) at Royals (Chen, 10-12), 8:10 p.m. Preview >
White Sox ace Chris Sale gets the ball in the second of three for the South Siders in Kansas City. A win and a Tigers loss would boost their division lead to a season-high four games.

Astros (Harrell, 10-9) at Cardinals (Lynn, 15-7), 8:15 p.m. Preview >
St. Louis is trying to hold off about half of the National League for the No. 2 Wild Card spot right now. The Cards send Lance Lynn to the mound against the Astros' Lucas Harrell, who looks to play spoiler.

Padres (Volquez, 10-10) at D-backs (Cahill, 11-11), 9:40 p.m. Preview >
The D-backs are still alive in the NL Wild Card race, but at 4 1/2 games back, they'll have to jump five teams to earn that spot.

Rangers (Holland, 10-6) at Angels (Wilson, 12-9), 10:05 p.m. Preview >
Texas remains three games up on Oakland in the AL West, while the Angels are inching closer to the second Wild Card spot, just three games back of Baltimore.

Orioles (Saunders, 8-12) at Mariners (Hernandez, 13-8), 10:10 p.m. Preview >
Fresh off an 18-inning win Tuesday, the O's face Mariners ace Felix Hernandez with a chance to grab first place in the AL East. They are even with the Yankees entering Wednesday.

Rockies (Chatwood, 4-4) at Giants (Cain, 14-5), 10:15 p.m. Preview >
The Giants' 8 1/2-game lead in the NL West is their largest in nine years. They send Matt Cain to the hill against the Rockies with a magic number of seven.

If the postseason started today ...

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wild Card: Orioles or Yankees at A's
Division Series: Orioles or 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.

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