Rays' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 27, 2012

Rays' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 27, 2012

Rays' Path to the Postseason: Sept. 27, 2012
BOSTON -- Just before the Rays started this seven-game winning streak, manager Joe Maddon said his team needed to be like Minnesota Fats, the fictional pool player depicted in the 1961 movie "The Hustler."

The idea? Win out.

"We want to do a little of Minnesota Fats ... got to run the table," Maddon said. "We've got to believe we can do it. We have to get really hot. We have no alternative. The standings are very difficult, but we are alive and kicking."

Tampa Bay (85-70) has had nothing but wins since. The Rays swept two games from the Red Sox in their most recent series, winning 4-2 on Wednesday night at Fenway Park. The Rays are three games back in the American League Wild Card race and five behind in the American League East.

"We still got to go the fat man route, man, we got to go with the fat man right here," Maddon said after the latest win. "We've seen 'The Hustler,' Jackie Gleason, Paul Newman and the boys. We got to go with the fat man right now."

The Orioles (89-67) and the A's (88-67) occupy the two Wild Card spots, with Baltimore up a half-game on Oakland. Both teams won on Wednesday -- Baltimore over Toronto, 12-2, and Oakland over Texas, 9-3.

The Angels (86-69) are two games back and one ahead of the Rays after Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Mariners.

The American League East-leading Yankees (90-65) downed Minnesota, 8-2. Any combination of three Yankees wins and Rays losses would eliminate the Rays from contention for the division title.

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

Royals (Mendoza, 8-9) at Tigers (Fister, 10-9), 1:05 p.m. Preview >

A's (Blackley, 5-3) at Rangers (Harrison, 17-10), 2:05 p.m. Preview >

Mariners (Iwakuma, 7-5) at Angels (Haren, 12-11), 3:35 p.m. Preview >

Yankees (Nova, 12-7) at Blue Jays (Morrow, 8-7), 7:07 p.m. Preview >

Rays (Shields, 15-9) at White Sox (Peavy, 11-12), 8:10 p.m. Preview >

If the postseason started today ...

This is how the teams would match up: 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 the 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 the 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

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