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Wild stories emerge in postseason picture

MLB.com @RichardJustice

This is as good as it gets. Isn't that the bottom line about what's happening right now? Every pitch matters for the nine teams -- yes, nine -- bunched together fighting for four Wild Card postseason berths. One bad inning could push a season to the brink. Mistakes are magnified.

Wednesday was an amazing day around the Majors. One moment it was Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte ending a game by -- are you ready for this? -- leaping above the wall to take a three-run homer away from Yoenis Cespedes and preserving Atlanta's 4-3 victory over the Mets.

This is as good as it gets. Isn't that the bottom line about what's happening right now? Every pitch matters for the nine teams -- yes, nine -- bunched together fighting for four Wild Card postseason berths. One bad inning could push a season to the brink. Mistakes are magnified.

Wednesday was an amazing day around the Majors. One moment it was Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte ending a game by -- are you ready for this? -- leaping above the wall to take a three-run homer away from Yoenis Cespedes and preserving Atlanta's 4-3 victory over the Mets.

Another was Yankees rookie Gary Sanchez crushing two more home runs, the latest in a career off to a dazzling start. Oh, by the way, he helped keep the Bronx Bombers in contention another day with an 11-5 victory over the Rays.

Video: Must C Combo: Sanchez crushes two homers

Astros catcher Jason Castro made an eye-popping play, too, in throwing out Athletics speedster Arismendy Alcantara at second base to end a critical 6-5 win for Houston.

Video: HOU@OAK: Castro's 83-mph throw nabs runner, ends game

And there was another rookie -- Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi -- drilling a three-run homer to break open a game and hand the Orioles a stinging 5-1 loss in Baltimore.

Video: BOS@BAL: Benintendi swats a three-run dinger to right

Sure, it's insane. In the final two weeks of a regular season, insane is a good thing. This is precisely what Major League owners had in mind four years ago when they added a second Wild Card berth in each league. They were hoping for something just like this, that is, the intensity and stakes of the postseason as the regular season winds down.

In the American League, six teams are within 3 1/2 games of one another in the race for the two Wild Card berths. In the National League, it's simpler: the Cardinals, Giants and Mets are all 80-72 in the fight for two NL Wild Card spots.

Let's go to our big board in the AL:

1. Blue Jays (83-69)
They lead the AL Wild Card field by one game, but that means little since the Sox will begin a seven-game homestand against the Orioles and Yankees on Friday. If the Blue Jays come out of those seven games still in the mix, they'll finish with three games at Fenway Park against the Red Sox (88-64). Boston may have clinched the AL East by then and decide to use the weekend to rest and prepare for a Division Series.

2. Orioles (82-70)
The O's have lost three straight to the Red Sox at a bad time, and four teams are within easy striking distance. Baltimore has scored five runs in the three losses, while hitting .149. Seven of the Orioles' remaining 10 games are against the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees. The O's finish the season with a six-game trip to Toronto and New York.

3. Tigers (80-70)
The Tigers' game with the Twins was rained out on Wednesday, setting up a hugely important doubleheader on Thursday. Detroit has lost eight of 13 games with a little bit of everything going wrong -- an offense scoring 3.7 runs per contest and a rotation with a 5.89 ERA. On Friday, the Tigers begin a seven-game homestand before finishing the regular season with three in Atlanta.

4. Astros (81-71)
The Astros took care of business in winning five of six on the road despite hitting .216 and scoring 23 runs. Their pitching staff saved the season with a 2.50 ERA, especially a bullpen that posted a 1.29 ERA. Houston won three one-run games on the trip and came from behind for victories three times. Now, the Astros return home for seven against the Angels and Mariners before concluding with three games in Anaheim.

5. Mariners (80-72)
The Mariners may have saved their season by stopping a 1-4 slide with a tense 2-1, 12-inning home victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday. The M's bats have gone silent at the wrong time. Seattle is batting .222 and averaging 2.3 runs over the past seven games. The Mariners go on the road for six against the Twins and Astros before finishing at home with four against the Athletics.

6. Yankees (79-72)
Having been counted out about three other times this season, the Yankees have ridden the Sanchez train back into contention. He leads the Majors with 19 home runs since Aug. 10 and has given this Yanks' youth movement an almost surreal touch. They've dug themselves a hole by dropping seven of 10, but they play seven of their final 10 against the Blue Jays and Orioles.

Now to the NL…

1. Mets (80-72)
The Mets conjured a magical 20-7 run back into contention despite a numbing number of critical injuries. They also have the easiest closing schedule, but they lost three straight home games to the Braves. New York hit .223 in the series and scored 10 runs. The patchwork rotation compiled a 5.17 ERA. And yet, the Mets are still tied with the Giants and Cardinals. The Phillies visit Citi Field for four games before a season-ending trip to Miami and Philadelphia. Suddenly, the whole thing seems tenuous.

2. Giants (80-72)
A disappointing second half would be erased if the Giants somehow get to the NL Wild Card Game. Injuries to Brandon Crawford and Johnny Cueto have made the task more difficult. But they've got a core of players that has won the World Series, plus there's an organizational confidence about the whole thing. San Francisco has four games in San Diego followed by a season-ending six-game homestand against the Rockies and Dodgers.

3. Cardinals (80-72)
Pushed to the wall, the Cardinals won four in a row before losing to the Rockies on Wednesday. This stretch epitomizes an entire season in which the Cards have been unable put a great run together. After three games at Wrigley Field beginning on Friday, they finish at home with seven against the Reds and Pirates.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U.