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Pulse of the Postseason: Aug. 31, 2013

Pulse of the Postseason: Aug. 31, 2013

Pulse of the Postseason: Aug. 31, 2013 play video for Pulse of the Postseason: Aug. 31, 2013

There's a feeling in the ballpark when a home team is in the postseason hunt -- really in the hunt. It's a feeling that has been experienced before in Pittsburgh in the past, just not quite like this, and not with this backdrop.

The sheer beauty of PNC Park in Pittsburgh on a summer evening gave way to its proper use Friday night -- as a venue to host meaningful, late-season games, like the National League Central showdown between the host Pirates and the Cardinals.

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After a 5-0 victory in the series opener Friday, it's evident the Pirates have become a bona fide contender again, now tied with St. Louis for the division lead.

"Something I envisioned is now starting to happen, and I wanted to be a part of that, be on that team that changed the culture," Pirates star Andrew McCutchen said Friday.

So it was in Pittsburgh that perhaps the postseason chase was most poignant Friday, but it certainly wasn't the only point on the map stirring the standings. From Boston to the Bronx and Oakland to L.A., games that mattered were all over the place.

With just one day remaining in August, here's a look at another day in the books, heading for October:

As Friday began, several postseason contenders made moves. The Orioles picked up slugger Michael Morse, the Cardinals grabbed reliever John Axford and the Indians added Jason Kubel, all on waiver deals with just one more day of those before postseason rosters are set Sept. 1.

There also was concern in Detroit, where the jubilation of Thursday's walk-off win over the A's was tempered slightly by reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera exiting the game in the fifth inning. But, a few hours before Friday's game, the news was good for Tigers fans, as Cabrera was back in the lineup.

The Pirates made the first big move of the evening, going up 2-0 on Garrett Jones' two-run double in the second. But Jones wasn't done, winding up a triple shy of the cycle with four RBIs. Not bad for a guy who'd had a day off Thursday to try and figure out how to get out of a 1-for-29 skid.

"Big game. Big series. Nice to be able to contribute to a win," Jones said.

Jones' performance and eight marvelous innings by Francisco Liriano led to the Pirates' fourth blanking of the Cardinals this season, leaving the NL Central all in knots, both teams at 78-56 as the Jolly Roger flies at PNC.

About the time the Pirates were shaking hands on the field and celebrating their victory, Yu Darvish was working on a piece of history, taking a no-hit bid through the sixth inning against the Twins. But minutes later, with none out in the seventh inning, Chris Herrmann broke up that bid for history with a two-run shot to right field to tie the game. That was followed by a solo shot from Justin Morneau -- and the Rangers wound up losing by that 3-2 score.

Meanwhile, in an American League East tussle with implications for both clubs, the Yankees scored five in the fifth. By the ninth inning, thousands of fans at Yankee Stadium were watching through their camera phones, recording the history of Mariano Rivera wrapping up the 8-5 victory with career save No. 647.

Many were excited. Some were more excited than others, such as the woman caught on video tweeted out by the Yankees:

The strangest turn of events of Friday's early evening came in the twilight of the third inning at Comerica Park, where Indians center fielder Michael Bourn lost a ball in the sky to help spark a four-run inning for Detroit. By the end of the seventh inning, there was a downpour, ending the game after just seven innings as the Tigers won, 7-2 -- extending their lead over the second-place Indians in the Central race to 7 1/2 games. Yet, by the end of the game, the Tigers were again worried about Cabrera, who left with abdominal discomfort.

Elsewhere, the AL East-leading Red Sox and NL East-leading Braves kept their leads intact, Boston edging the White Sox 4-3 and Atlanta winning 2-1 over Miami. Also, the Royals lost at Toronto to fall to 9 1/2 back in the Central and 6 1/2 back in the Wild Card. In Colorado, the Reds lost an opportunity to help themselves in a 9-6 loss at Coors Field, leaving West Coast action to come.

In the Wild Card showdown in Oakland, an unlikely slugger delivered a big blow for the A's with Kurt Suzuki going deep in his first home game back after his boomerang trade from the Nationals. A Rays rally was answered by one from the A's, and Oakland took over the Wild Card lead by a half-game, while cutting the Rangers' lead in the AL West to two games.

In L.A., Yasiel Puig was back in the lineup after his quick exit Wednesday, and he got right to work with a hit, another hit, another hit and, well, you get the picture -- a 4-for-5 day at the plate, leading the Dodgers to a 9-2 defeat of the Padres.

That victory was a club-record 22nd of the month and wound up increasing the Dodgers' lead in the NL West to 10 1/2 games, matching their season high. That's because the D-backs already had been shut out by the Giants, 1-0, by the time things wrapped up at Dodger Stadium, wrapping up another day of the postseason chase with it.

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

Orioles (Feldman, 11-9) at Yankees (Nova, 7-4), 1:05 p.m. Preview >
Scott Feldman was the first of Baltimore's several midseason acquisitions, and this is his biggest moment with the O's.

Royals (Guthrie, 13-10) at Blue Jays (Dickey, 10-12), 1:07 p.m. Preview >
Every win is precious for the Royals, who saw their five-game winning streak come to an end Friday.

Mets (Wheeler, 6-3) at Nationals (Haren, 8-11), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
A different pitcher in the second half, Dan Haren will have to bring his veteran presence to the mound for this key start.

Cardinals (Lynn, 13-8) at Pirates (Burnett, 6-9), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
The Pirates have had the Cardinals' number this year, having won eight of 13 with four shutouts.

Indians (Kazmir, 7-6) at Tigers (Sanchez, 11-7), 7:08 p.m. Preview >
August games are hard to label as must-wins, but this sure looks like a better-win for the Indians.

White Sox (Danks, 4-10) at Red Sox (Peavy, 10-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Jake Peavy faces his former teammates, and he'll have a lot more on the line than if he were still wearing different Sox.

Marlins (Turner, 3-5) at Braves (Minor, 13-5), 7:30 p.m. Preview >
The Braves have the best record in the Majors and don't appear to be slowing down one bit.

Twins (Pelfrey, 5-10) at Rangers (Garza, 9-3), 8:05 p.m. Preview >
It's been a long time since Matt Garza debuted with the Twins in 2006. His fourth team needs him to avenge Friday's stunning loss.

Reds (Reynolds, 0-2) at Rockies (Nicasio, 8-6), 8:40 p.m. Preview >
The only way the Reds can take advantage of a Cards-Bucs series is to win their own games.

Giants (Vogelsong, 3-4) at D-backs (Cahill, 5-10), 8:10 p.m. Preview >
These teams have won the last three NL West titles, but the D-backs have slipped to seven out in the Wild Card.

Rays (Cobb, 8-2) at A's (Gray, 1-2), 9:05 p.m. Preview >
Leave it to the A's to have a rookie starter in a key, late-season game, even after last year.

Padres (Cashner, 8-8) at Dodgers (Capuano, 4-7), 9:10 p.m. Preview >
The Dodgers will be wrapping up August in record-setting fashion, regardless of the outcome.

If the postseason started today ...

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Wild Card: Rays at A's
Division Series: Wild Card at Red Sox | Rangers at Tigers

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Wild Card: Reds at Pirates/Cardinals
Division Series: Wild Card at Braves | Pirates/Cardinals at Dodgers

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 »

2013 postseason schedule
Wild Card playoff games: Oct. 1
World Series begins: Oct. 23

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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