IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...
Wild Card: Mariners at A's
Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Royals at Orioles
Wild Card: Pirates at Giants
Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers
• Postseason picture
The AL Central has been one of the more intriguing divisions for the last few months, and it lived up to that billing on Monday, when the second-place Tigers opened up a crucial three-game series against the first-place Royals with a 9-5 win. With the victory, the math became easy: Detroit can tie up the Central with a win on Tuesday.
In the NL Central, the Cardinals held serve and their 4 1/2-game lead with a 5-0 win over the Reds, and the Pirates won their fourth straight game to continue to solidify their position in the Wild Card's second spot, especially after Milwaukee lost to Miami for its third consecutive defeat.
"To try and pay attention to it would be chaotic," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We need to play our best ball, we need to focus on the game we're playing. If we play our best ball for the 19 remaining games, we'll get in."
Out West, the Mariners were in the middle of their tight game against the Astros when they had to notice up on the out-of-town scoreboard that the A's had lost to the White Sox in the 12th inning in the Windy City. Seattle responded with a 4-1 win over Houston and now sits a mere one game behind Oakland for the first spot in the AL Wild Card race while the Tigers are only a half-game behind the Mariners for the second slot.
The AL West division race looks more and more like a done deal with each Angels game these days. On Monday, they were relentless again, pounding the Indians, 12-3, to win their fifth in a row and improve the best record in MLB to 88-55.
Jered Weaver notched his 16th win to lead the AL in that category and the Angels got home runs from Albert Pujols, David Freese, Kole Calhoun and Howie Kendrick.
And the AL East and NL East saw much of the same again, with the Orioles and Nationals keeping up the winning ways and building on their sizable division leads. Baltimore now has 10 games on the second-place Yankees, and Washington, which beat Atlanta on Monday, has eight games on the Braves.
"It would be nice to win the division knowing that we can beat the Braves more than winning the division knowing that we can't beat the Braves," Nats reliever Craig Stammen said. "This proves we can play good baseball against a good team, and [it can] prepare us for a playoff-type atmosphere if we get to that point."
TODAY'S KEY GAMES TO WATCH (all times ET)
Braves (Santana, 14-7) at Nationals (Zimmermann, 10-5), 7:05 p.m. Preview
The Braves probably would be in a lot more trouble if they didn't sign Ervin Santana during Spring Training. They need him now more than they have all year.
Pirates (Volquez, 11-7) at Phillies (Buchanan, 6-7), 7:05 p.m. Preview
Edinson Volquez has been a pleasant surprise for Pittsburgh this year. The Pirates can keep their recent momentum rolling with a big start from the right-hander.
Royals (Vargas, 11-7) at Tigers (Scherzer, 15-5), 7:08 p.m. Preview
The Tigers can move back into a tie for the lead in the AL Central with a win here, and they have their best starter on the mound in Max Scherzer.
Cardinals (Wacha, 5-5) at Reds (Leake, 10-11), 7:10 p.m. Preview
The Reds are falling out of it, but the Cardinals are not, and they're very eager to see how Wacha is rebounding from shoulder woes, because they'd like for the young righty to be where he was at this stage last year.
Marlins (Koehler, 9-9) at Brewers (Garza, 7-8), 8:10 p.m. Preview
Milwaukee can't afford to lose many games the rest of the way, and they certainly can't afford to lose at home. They'll lean on a playoff-tested starter in Matt Garza.
A's (Lester, 13-10) at White Sox (Danks, 9-10), 8:10 p.m. Preview
The A's have been taking some heat for trading away their cleanup hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, to get Jon Lester. The southpaw can quiet some of that noise with a good start in a huge road game.
Astros (McHugh, 8-9) at Mariners (Elias, 10-12), 10:10 p.m. Preview
The Mariners are back home and need to take advantage of it as they try to keep or improve their position in the Wild Card race.
• Watch the races on MLB.TV
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 11 over Yankees
AL Central: Royals 19 over Tigers
AL West: Angels 12 over A's
AL Wild Card 1: A's 18 over Mariners
AL Wild Card 2: Mariners 19 over Tigers
NL East: Nationals 12 over Braves
NL Central: Cardinals 15 over Pirates
NL West: Dodgers 16 over Giants
NL Wild Card 1: Giants 17 over Pirates
NL Wild Card 2: Pirates 19 over Braves and Brewers
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