Flew shots: Jays, Cardinals soar on walk-off HRs
September is upon us, and with each game comes rising stakes for postseason hopefuls. Opportunities to climb in the standings are dwindling by the day as teams fade and shine in the postseason picture.
Below is a breakdown of how Tuesday's games helped determine the teams that will compete for this year's World Series crown:
Division leaders walk off
A pair of first-place teams punctuated their leads in dramatic fashion on Tuesday as both the Blue Jays and the Cardinals won on walk-off homers.
The Blue Jays snapped Cleveland's six-game winning streak on the bat of Ryan Goins, whose two-run homer in the 10th inning propelled Toronto to a 5-3 victory at Rogers Centre. The win preserved the Jays' 1 1/2 game lead over the Yankees in the American League East as New York bested the Red Sox, 3-1, at Fenway Park.
In St. Louis, the Cardinals rallied with two outs in the ninth inning against Washington, and Brandon Moss delivered the finishing blow, a three-run walk-off homer that secured an 8-5 win. The Cardinals improved to a Major League-best 86-46, extending their lead in the National League Central to six games over the Pirates.
The Nats took a 4-0 lead in the game, and their inability to hold on prevented them from gaining a game on the Mets, who lost to 14-8 to the Phillies. Washington is still 6 1/2 games behind New York in the NL East.
Dodgers maintain control of NL West
The Dodgers and Giants once again were in the spotlight as they continued a three-game set with major postseason implications.
With two of the best pitchers in baseball -- Los Angeles' Zack Greinke and San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner -- on the mound, runs were at a premium in this one as the Dodgers narrowly edged past the Giants for a 2-1 win.
The loss dropped San Francisco (69-63) back to 5 1/2 games behind the Dodgers (74-57) in the NL West. The Giants also fell further behind the Cubs (6 1/2 games) in their pursuit of a Wild Card spot. LA and San Francisco wrap up the series Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, and have one more scheduled regular-season meeting, a four-game set at AT&T Park from Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
Rangers cling to Wild Card spot
The Rangers avoided losing their hold on the second AL Wild Card spot with an 8-6 win over the Padres, fending off the surging Twins for at least one more day.
Texas plated four runs in the seventh inning to defeat San Diego at Petco Park, improving to 69-62 on the year, while the Twins rallied for an 8-6 win of their own against the White Sox at Target Field.
The Twins, having won nine of their past 11 games, have been quickly climbing amid a crowded Wild Card race, and they now trail the Rangers by just a half-game. At 68-63, the Twins are two wins shy of matching their highest total in any of the previous four seasons (70 last year).
Orioles continue to fade
With an 11-2 loss to the Rays on Tuesday, the Orioles continued to fall out of contention in the AL Wild Card race.
Baltimore (63-69) has lost 12 of its past 13 games, bookending six-game losing skids around one win in Kansas City while scoring just 35 runs in that span. Prior to that stretch, the O's were just a half-game out from the second Wild Card spot. Now they're looking at a six-game deficit.
And the road ahead won't get an easier for Baltimore as their remaining opponents -- the Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees, Royals, Red Sox and Nationals -- have a combined .533 winning percentage.
Other things to know
• The Cubs, losers of five of their previous six games, picked up a much-needed win. Chicago remains in control of the second NL Wild Card spot with a 6 1/2 lead on the Giants. The Cubs, 75-56, have already surpassed their 2014 win total of 73.
• The Pirates' loss to the Brewers gives them a losing record against every team within their division this season. Pittsburgh is 21-30 against NL Central teams and 58-21 against everyone else.
And unfortunately for the Bucs, there's a whole lot more divisional play left on the calendar as they're in the midst of a stretch of 17 consecutive games against NL Central opponents -- seven vs. Milwaukee, four vs. Chicago, three vs. St. Louis and three vs. Cincinnati. Twenty-five of Pittsburgh's remaining 32 matchups are within its division.
If the postseason began today ...
Wild Card: Rangers at Yankees
Division Series: Wild Card at Royals, Astros at Blue Jays
Wild Card: Cubs at Pirates
Division Series: Wild Card at Cardinals, Mets at Dodgers
2015 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
AL Wild Card Game: Oct. 6
NL Wild Card Game: Oct. 7
AL Division Series begin: Oct. 8
NL Division Series begin: Oct. 9
NL Championship Series begin: Oct. 16
AL Championship Series begin: Oct. 17
World Series begins: Oct. 27