Postseason Picture for Thursday, Sept. 11

Postseason Picture for Thursday, Sept. 11

The back-and-forth party otherwise known as the American League Central kept on going Wednesday night, and the Royals were the ones blowing out the candles this time. James Shields twirled a gem and Kansas City beat the Tigers, 3-0, to exit Comerica Park with a series loss but a momentum gain. They took a one-game lead in the division as the Pulse of the Postseason continues to beat.

The Angels (90-55) won again to improve upon the best record in baseball and continue what has become a confident sashay into October, but the A's dropped a tight one in the late innings to the White Sox in Chicago and the Mariners lost for a second straight night to the Astros, so neither gained any ground. Meanwhile, in the National League, the Giants kept pace with the Dodgers in the West and the Pirates kept their spot in the Wild Card race secure and kept the victorious Brewers at bay by beating the Phillies.

IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...

American League

Wild Card: Tigers at A's

Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Royals at Orioles

National League

Wild Card: Pirates at Giants

Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers

Postseason picture

Kansas City strode into Detroit to with a two-game lead in the AL Central to begin the week, and things got all tied up when they lost the first two of the series, but there's a reason they traded Wil Myers to get ace Shields, and that was proved once again Wednesday when they needed the veteran right-hander the most. Shields shut out Detroit on two hits through seven innings and the dependable Kansas City bullpen did the rest.

Out West, the Wild Card-leading A's had a chance to pad their lead, but they couldn't hold a late 1-0 lead to the White Sox and fell, 2-1, to lose that series, two games to one. It was yet another speed bump for a team that is not playing its best baseball in September.

"Just got to keep grinding," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "There's not much else you can do. They've put in a lot of work. They're trying. They're prepared. At times, we're just a little tight because of the fact that we're not scoring runs."

The Mariners haven't scored many runs in the last two losses against Houston, either, and now they're a half-game behind Detroit for the second slot in the Wild Card chase. Things should get interesting on Friday when the A's come to Seattle for three games in Safeco Field.

Down the coast, the Giants have been playing inspired baseball of late, winning two in a row to stay 2 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. On Wednesday night, they blanked the D-backs, 5-0, while Los Angeles shut out the Padres, 4-0.

And while the Orioles and Angels and Nationals still looked mighty fine on the way to division titles, some intrigue popped up Wednesday night. The Mets, for example, won their fourth straight game and crept to within 5 1/2 games of a Wild Card spot. The Marlins are only 4 1/2 back.

Then again, they'll have to pass Pittsburgh, which won again and kept its 1 1/2-game advantage on the Brewers and Braves. The Pirates conquered the Phillies, 6-3, in Philadelphia and are 3 1/2 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and feeling good about themselves.

"It's what we've been doing ever since Chicago," said outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who hit an inside-the-park home run. "We've been swinging the bat well, pitching well. We just got to keep it up."

TODAY'S KEY GAMES TO WATCH (all times ET)

Athletics (Kazmir, 14-7) at White Sox (Sale, 11-3), 2:10 p.m. Preview

A day after losing a heartbreaker, the A's have to go up against one of the toughest lefties in the business. Oakland would appreciate a huge effort from Scott Kazmir, who's been pretty good himself this season.

Pirates (Liriano, 4-10) at Phillies (Burnett, 8-15), 7:05 p.m. Preview

Pittsburgh will be looking to keep the mojo rolling in this series finale across the state against a familiar face in A.J. Burnett, who pitched for the Pirates last year.

Nationals (Roark, 12-10) at Mets (Colon, 13-11), 7:10 p.m. Preview

The Mets acquired Bartolo Colon to give them a veteran presence in the rotation and to win games. With an outside shot at the postseason suddenly materializing during a winning streak, this would be the perfect time for New York to get Colon's best.

Marlins (Eovaldi, 6-10) at Brewers (Fiers, 5-2), 8:10 p.m. Preview

The Brewers have played a bit better this week and need to hold serve at home here. Mike Fiers has been terrific for them since joining the starting rotation in August.

Watch the races on MLB.TV

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.

AL East: Orioles 8 over Blue Jays and Yankees

AL Central: Royals 17 over Tigers

AL West: Angels 9 over A's

AL Wild Card 1: A's 16 over Tigers

AL Wild Card 2: Tigers 17 over Mariners

NL East: Nationals 10 over Braves

NL Central: Cardinals 14 over Pirates

NL West: Dodgers 15 over Giants

NL Wild Card 1: Giants 14 over Pirates

NL Wild Card 2: Pirates 16 over Braves and Brewers

Standings

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.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB and read his MLBlog, Youneverknow. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.