Postseason Picture for Wednesday, Sept. 24

Postseason Picture for Wednesday, Sept. 24

Led by main man Andrew McCutchen and their budding Mr. September, right-hander Gerrit Cole, the Pirates are back in the high life. Having made it to the postseason for the first time in 21 years in 2013, Pittsburgh clinched a return trip on Tuesday night, beating Atlanta as the Brewers were getting shut down in Cincinnati by Johnny Cueto. Subdued by the Cubs in Chicago, the Cardinals watched their National League Central lead shrink to 1 1/2 games over the surging Bucs, winners of 15 of their past 18 games.

The Brewers are on the brink of elimination, the Giants one win or Milwaukee loss from wrapping up an NL Wild Card spot after absorbing a loss in Los Angeles that reduced the Dodgers' magic number to one in the West. The historic rivalry added a new chapter when Yasiel Puig charged the mound, emptying the dugouts and bullpens, after getting hit by a Madison Bumgarner pitch. Justin Turner homered twice and Matt Kemp, on his 30th birthday, unloaded a two-run blast for the Dodgers, whose win was their 90th, two shy of NL East champion Washington.

The White Sox spoiled David Price's gem with three ninth-inning runs in Detroit, but the Tigers won it on Miguel Cabrera's walk-off RBI single to remain a game ahead of the Royals in the American League Central race. Price had a three-hit shutout entering the ninth when five hits and three runs tied it for Chicago. Kansas City put away the Indians, who fell 4 1/2 games behind the Royals in the Wild Card chase. Not even the great Felix Hernandez could halt the Mariners' slide in a 10-2 loss in Toronto. King Felix was charged with eight runs across 4 2/3 innings as Seattle fell three games behind the Royals and Athletics, beaten by the Angels, for the second Wild Card spot with only five games left.

IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...

American League

Wild Card: A's at Royals

Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Tigers at Orioles

National League

Wild Card: Giants at Pirates

Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers

Postseason picture

McCutchen, winner of the NL's 2013 Most Valuable Player Award, continued to make a case for a repeat, reaching base all four times (double, single, two walks) and scoring two of the runs in a 3-2 victory in Atlanta. Starling Marte knocked in the decisive run and Travis Snider homered in support of Cole, who retired the last 17 men he faced to move to 11-5 for the season and 8-1 in September.

"That's Pirates baseball," Cole said. "We don't go away. Gritty, hard ... frustrating at times. At the low points, we talked about how much sweeter it will be at the finish. And it is."

The Pirates can thank Cubs catcher Welington Castillo for creeping a game closer to the Redbirds in the Central. Castro hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Shelby Miller and closed the 4-3 show with a walk-off single in the 10th off Pat Neshek.

Baseballs were flying out of Dodger Stadium early in a duel of elite pitchers. Turner and Kemp went deep against Bumgarner in the first inning for a 3-0 Dodgers lead, but Bumgarner got the Giants back in it in the third with a two-run blast, his fourth of the season, off Zack Greinke, who won his 16th against eight losses. The Giants lost center fielder and leadoff man Angel Pagan for the season to surgery on his back. San Francisco was 56-35 with Pagan in the lineup, having lost him earlier for 44 games with inflammation in the back.

After a long climb into Wild Card contention, the Mariners have lost four in a row and 11 of the past 15. A big blow in the Blue Jays' rout Tuesday night in Toronto came from Canadian native Dalton Pompey, a speedster who made his first Major League home run memorable against King Felix. Pompey, a 21-year-old switch-hitting outfielder who had 43 steals at three Minor League levels this season, was a 16th-round pick by Toronto in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.

"It's tough," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We're not playing well right now and a lot of things are going wrong. But we're still alive. So we'll wake up and come out here and try to win a ballgame tomorrow."

The Yankees' slender postseason hopes were dealt a blow in a 5-4 loss to the AL East champion Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Baltimore's 94 wins are the club's most since 1997. The Beltways' other division champions, the Nationals, continued their winning ways at home against the Mets.

First-inning homers off Mike Fiers by Todd Frazier (No. 28) and Devin Mesoraco (No. 25) were all Cueto needed in a 3-1 victory over the Brewers, who got a homer from Carlos Gomez and only three other hits. Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth for his 34th save as Cueto moved to 19-9, shaving his ERA to 2.29.

The Angels dropped the A's into a tie with the Royals despite an electric 12-strikeout performance by Sonny Gray, Oakland's young right-hander. Erick Aybar manufactured a run with his legs and Gordon Beckham homered for the only runs in a 2-0- decision claimed by lefty Wade LeBlanc with help from the dependable bullpen.

"Good teams find ways to win," Angels leadoff catalyst Kole Calhoun said. "Gray was really good, but the story of the game was Wade LeBlanc. That was an awesome game he pitched."

The Dodgers go for the NL West clincher against the Giants, highlighting Wednesday's schedule, while the Tigers and Royals continue their duel and the Pirates keep tracking the Cardinals in the sizzling Central Division races.

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

White Sox (Sale, 12-4) at Tigers (Verlander, (14-12), 1:08 p.m. Preview

A duel of this magnitude is enthralling at any point in the season but especially now with the Tigers trying to hold off the Royals in the AL Central race.

Angels (Santiago, 5-9) at Athletics (Lester, 16-10), 3:35 p.m. Preview

The A's are sending out one of the game's best, Jon Lester, against a fellow lefty in Hector Santiago, who has been struggling to stay in the strike zone -- and the game (nine outs total past two starts).

Mariners (Walker, 2-2) at Blue Jays (Buehrle, 12-10), 7:07 p.m. Preview

Taijuan Walker, the kid with the golden arm, is pitching for a postseason Wild Card berth. Mark Buehrle, the wily veteran, needs six innings to reach 200 for a 14th consecutive season.

Royals (Vargas, 11-10) at Indians (Bauer, 5-8), 7:10 p.m. Preview

In another game with postseason implications, Jason Vargas is due to get back on track after a recent downturn (0-3, 9.00 ERA past three outings), while Trevor Bauer tries to put his high-octane stuff in the right spots.

Pirates (Locke, 7-5) at Braves (Teheran, 13-13), 7:10 p.m. Preview

Pittsburgh wants to keep the pressure on the Cards in the NL Central, while Atlanta wonders what happened to a season of such promise.

Brewers (Lohse, 12-9) at Reds (Corcino, 0-1), 7:10 p.m. Preview

The Brew Crew is one loss or one Giants win away from elimination. Lohse is back in a nice groove after recovering from ankle issues.

Cardinals (Lackey, 14-9) at Cubs (Arrieta, 9-5), 8:05 p.m. Preview

Arrieta is coming off his third no-hitter flirtation of the season, a one-hit shutout of the Reds. Lackey is trying to enhance his reputation as a big-game pitcher and keep the Cards at the top of the Central.

Giants (Hudson, 9-12) at Dodgers (Kershaw, 20-3), 10:10 p.m. Preview

This is a rematch of the finale in San Francisco last Sunday taken by the Dodgers, who are 22-4 when Clayton Kershaw pitches. Tim Hudson is struggling to get the ball down in the zone.

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 clinched

AL Central: Tigers five over Royals

AL West: Angels clinched

AL Wild Card 1: A's six over Royals, and Royals six over the A's

AL Wild Card 2: A's/Royals three over Mariners

NL East: Nationals clinched

NL Central: Cardinals four over Pirates

NL West: Dodgers one over Giants

NL Wild Card 1: Pirates five over Giants

NL Wild Card 2: Giants one over 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.

Tiebreaker rules

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