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Pirates maintain grip on top NL Wild Card

A pair of division matchups highlighted Tuesday's lineup of games as the opportunities for teams to make a push for a postseason spot are winding down.

Here's a look at some of the developments from Tuesday's games that impacted the playoff picture:

Cubs, Pirates split doubleheader
Fans in Pittsburgh were treated to a preview of what is likely to be the National League Wild Card matchup as the Cubs and Pirates opened a four-game series with a doubleheader at PNC Park. Pittsburgh won, 5-4, in the early game, while Chicago took the evening contest, 2-1.

With the split, the Bucs remain four games ahead of the Cubs for home-field advantage in the one-game playoff. Chicago leads the season series 8-6 with five meetings remaining. While the Pirates and Cubs stayed put, the Cardinals inched ahead in the NL Central with a 3-1 win in Milwaukee. St. Louis increased its lead in the division to three games over Pittsburgh and seven games ahead of Chicago.

If the Pirates hope to keep pace this week, they'll have to do so against tough competition in the Cubs and Dodgers, including three games against Jake Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in a four-day span.

Rangers walk off in Lone Star series
One night after Prince Fielder lifted the Rangers to a 5-3 win with an eighth-inning homer, the Rangers and Astros were right back at it with another thriller.

Texas took control of the American League West with a 6-5 walk-off victory, moving into sole possession of first place for the first time this season. It's also first time the Astros have dropped to second since July 28.

"It's very exciting. We have worked our tails off to get here," said Texas starter Derek Holland. "Tonight, we hung in there and did what we had to do and capitalized when we needed it most."

The Rangers now lead the season series 10-4 entering Wednesday's finale, and if they sweep, they'll lead the division by 1 1/2 games. These clubs have one final head-to-head series remaining when the Astros host the Rangers for four games at the beginning of next week.

Royals' magic number drops into single digit
Kansas City got one step closer to winning the AL Central on Tuesday, defeating the Indians, 2-0, while Minnesota lost to Detroit. The Royals' magic number to clinch their first division title since 1985 is now down to nine, the lowest magic number among all first-place clubs.

It was a much needed victory for the Royals, who entered the game having lost eight of their last 10. The win also boosted their lead over Toronto for home-field advantage throughout the postseason to three games.

"We just needed a win to stop the bleeding," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Other things to know
• The Mets had their eight-game winning streak snapped in a 9-3 loss to the Marlins at Citi Field. The Nationals won Tuesday, keeping New York's magic number to clinch the NL East at 10.

• The Angels beat the Mariners, 4-3, and are four games back of the Rangers in the AL West. They trail the Astros by 3 1/2 games for the second Wild Card.

• Both the AL East's top teams, the Yankees and Blue Jays, lost Tuesday. Toronto remains three games ahead of New York in the division, while the Yankees have a 2 ½-game lead over the Astros for the top Wild Card spot.

If the postseason began today ...
Wild Card: Astros at Yankees
Division Series: Wild Card at Royals, Rangers at Blue Jays

Wild Card: Cubs at Pirates
Division Series: Wild Card at Cardinals, Mets at Dodgers

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 begins: Oct. 16
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 17
World Series begins: Oct. 27

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for