It's early September and the pennant races are percolating big-time throughout Major League Baseball. The Pulse of the Postseason is beating and it'll only get stronger as the month rolls along. On Tuesday, the Royals and Tigers both rallied in the late innings for victories to keep their current place -- Kansas City leads by a half-game -- in a stirring American League Central battle. The Cardinals padded their lead in the NL Central. Meanwhile, out West, the Mariners (barely) inched closer to the A's for a Wild Card slot.
IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...
Wild Card: Tigers at A's
Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Royals at Orioles
Wild Card: Brewers at Giants
Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers
It didn't take long for craziness and drama to take over baseball as the postseason gets closer with each shortening day.
In Cleveland, the Tigers were trailing, 2-1, in the ninth inning and facing Indians closer Cody Allen. They got two runners on base before J.D. Martinez emptied them with a dramatic blast.
"It was one of those swings that feels perfect, like you couldn't have done anything better," Martinez said. "When I reached home, I was so pumped up, I wasn't sure if I had touched all the bases.
"It's September, this is win-or-go-home time. I'm so excited because I want to make the playoffs for the first time so bad."
Not too long after that in Texas, the Royals responded by breaking a late 1-1 tie in the eighth to stay a half-game up on Detroit in the division. For the second consecutive night, the bat of Kansas City catcher Salvador Perez was the difference.
Also on Tuesday, the Mariners needed a win in Oakland after dropping the opener of their three-game series on Monday, and young left-hander James Paxton came up big with a quality start. The A's made it interesting by scoring five late runs, but Mariners closer Fernando Rodney finished it off for a 6-5 win and kept Seattle within 1 1/2 games of Detroit for the second Wild Card.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers and Nationals gave us what might be a preview of the National League Championship Series, and Cy Young Award front-runner Clayton Kershaw did his thing, outdueling Doug Fister in the Dodgers' 4-1 win.
Clayton Kershaw pitches. Clayton Kershaw wins. The southpaw has started 23 games and won 17 of them with a 1.70 ERA! pic.twitter.com/36ExJCxLFS— 120 Sports (@120Sports) September 3, 2014
On Wednesday, those two teams will hook up again and the Mariners and A's will give us the pitching matchup of the day as the Pulse keeps pounding.
TODAY'S KEY GAMES TO WATCH (all times ET)
Pirates (Volquez, 11-7) at Cardinals (Miller, 8-9), 1:45 p.m. Preview
Pittsburgh can cut into the first-place Cardinals' NL Central lead in a rematch of last year's Division Series.
Nationals (Zimmermann, 10-5) at Dodgers (Frias, 0-0), 3:10 p.m. Preview
This possible preview of the NL Championship Series is September ball at its best, with the first-place clubs in the East and West facing off.
Mariners (Hernandez, 13-5) at Athletics (Lester, 13-9), 3:35 p.m. Preview
Seattle can capture the rubber game in the pivotal three-game set and stay on pace in the Wild Card race.
Reds (Axelrod, 1-0) at Orioles (Gonzalez, 7-7), 7:05 p.m. Preview
The Reds are not yet out of the NL Wild Card hunt, and this is a stout test against the team that's running away with the AL East.
Tigers (Verlander, 12-11) at Indians (Salazar, 5-6), 7:05 p.m. Preview
We'll see whether Justin Verlander can dial into his usual late-season game after a year of inconsistency. The still-alive Tribe hopes he doesn't.
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.
AL East: Orioles 17 over Yankees. Earliest clinch date: Friday, Sept. 12
AL Central: Royals 25 over Tigers. Earliest clinch date: Monday, Sept. 15
AL West: Angels 21 over A's. Earliest clinch date: Sunday, Sept. 14
AL Wild Card 1: A's 22 over Tigers. Earliest clinch date Sunday, Sept. 14
AL Wild Card 2: Tigers 24 over Mariners. Earliest clinch date: Monday, Sept. 15
NL East: Nationals 18 over Braves. Earliest clinch date: Saturday, Sept. 13
NL Central: Cardinals 23 over Brewers. Earliest clinch date: Sunday, Sept. 14
NL West: Dodgers 22 over Giants. Earliest clinch date: Monday, Sept. 15
NL Wild Card 1: Giants 23 over Brewers. Earliest clinch date: Sunday, Sept. 14
NL Wild Card 2: Brewers 23 over Braves. Earliest clinch date: Monday, Sept. 15
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