In the NL, the Nationals got very close to clinching while the Dodgers inched nearer to that goal in the West. Los Angeles won big against Colorado while San Francisco lost to Arizona, giving the Dodgers a four-game division lead. Otherwise, all three of the NL Central contenders (St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee) did not play Monday.
IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...
Wild Card: Royals at A's
Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Tigers at Orioles
Wild Card: Pirates at Giants
Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers
• Postseason picture
The Angels haven't had it easy all year, but lately they've been making it look easy. Monday was a lot of the same. Even though Albert Pujols left the game with a hamstring cramp and starter Matt Shoemaker left after 7 2/3 innings with mild discomfort in his left side, the Angels still breezed to a huge win over a tough opponent and clinched a postseason berth.
After the game, manager Mike Scioscia said the club with the best record in baseball has its sights set much higher than a quick October appearance.
"Not to belittle any accomplishment that this team has accomplished because it's really been an incredible run, but we know where we are, we know what we need to do," Scioscia said. "These guys are focused on getting there and still keeping our eye on winning the division."
The Nationals hope to join the Angels by punching their ticket to October on Tuesday. They got closer Monday with a methodical, Stephen Strasburg-pitched 4-2 win over the Braves.
Monday's victory has the Nationals set up for a simple Tuesday task: win again and clinch the NL East. The players are looking forward to the opportunity but not looking past the next game.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Washington shortstop Ian Desmond said. "We are up against a tough pitcher [Aaron Harang] tomorrow. We get there when we get there, but right now, we'll just focus on day by day and try to play clean baseball."
Also in the East, albeit the AL East, the Orioles can get the job done Tuesday with a win as well. Baltimore lowered its own magic number to one by capturing its 90th victory of the season on Monday against the Blue Jays.
That's been expected lately, but what hasn't necessarily been expected is the drama that's going on in the AL Central and Wild Card races. Most of it has to do with the Royals, who launched one of the more dramatic wins of the year Monday night when it seemed they'd still be stuck in the slump that had hit them lately.
Fortunately for Kansas City, there was a bit of home magic going on, and a late rally punctuated by Lorenzo Cain's game-ending hit had Kauffman Stadium rocking and the Royals still rolling in the second Wild Card slot while not giving up behind Detroit in the Central.
In the NL West, the Dodgers got a bit more breathing room on the Giants with a big win over the Rockies while San Francisco dropped one to the D-backs. The NL Central stayed calm on a Monday that served as a breather for the top three teams.
"It's not the way you start, it's the way you finish," Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp said. "I've always been a big believer in that. The season is still not over so we've got to keep grinding it out."
TODAY'S KEY GAMES TO WATCH (all times ET)
Blue Jays (Hutchison, 10-11) at Orioles (Jimenez, 4-9), 7:05 p.m. Preview
Baltimore signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a lucrative contract and he hasn't lived up to it yet, but he can make up for some of it here if he pitches his team to a win to clinch the AL East.
Nationals (Roark, 13-10) at Braves (Harang, 11-10), 7:10 p.m. Preview
Tanner Roark has been a huge factor in the Nationals' rotation this year, and he can log a memorable win in this game. Washington will clinch the NL East with a victory.
White Sox (Bassitt, 0-1) at Royals (Hendriks, 1-2), 8:10 p.m. Preview
The Royals will probably prefer to get the lead early and put the pressure on the young and inexperienced White Sox starter. They need to win to stay on the heels of Detroit in the AL Central race with the games running out.
Tigers (Porcello, 15-11) at Twins (Nolasco, 5-11), 8:10 p.m. Preview
Detroit has been taking care of business lately against lesser teams. They'll rely on Rick Porcello to keep that going with the Royals not giving an inch in the AL Central.
Brewers (Peralta, 16-10) at Cardinals (Lynn, 15-9), 8:15 p.m. Preview
The Brewers enter this series five games behind St. Louis in the Central and 1 1/2 games behind Pittsburgh for the second Wild Card slot in the NL. That says it all about how important this game is.
Mariners (Elias, 10-12) at Angels (Rasmus, 3-1), 10:05 p.m. Preview
The Mariners are not out of it, but they need a win here in a bad way after looking offensively stagnant the last three games. Cory Rasmus has been excellent for the Angels and should prove tough to beat.
• 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 1 over Blue Jays
AL Central: Tigers 12 over Royals
AL West: Angels 3 over A's
AL Wild Card 1: A's 13 over Royals
AL Wild Card 2: Royals 12 over Mariners
NL East: Nationals 2 over Braves
NL Central: Cardinals 10 over Pirates
NL West: Dodgers 9 over Giants
NL Wild Card 1: Giants 11 over Pirates
NL Wild Card 2: Pirates 12 over 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