Postseason Picture for Thursday, Sept. 25
The Tigers are roaring back into the postseason. The Dodgers are the best of the National League West. The Nationals will have home-field advantage in the NL Division Series. The rest of the contenders for October baseball that haven't already punched their tickets still have some work to do. That was the summary of another wild Wednesday in the middle of the 2014 pennant race.
Earlier in the Major League slate on Wednesday, the Tigers beat the White Sox, 6-1, and when the Mariners lost to the Blue Jays, 1-0, Detroit had clinched a playoff berth. Once the Cardinals lost to the Cubs, 3-1, the Nationals, whose game against the Mets was postponed because of the weather, earned home-field advantage in the NLDS. The Pirates, however, were not able to gain on the Cardinals because they lost to the Braves, 6-2.
And the last game of the night provided some clinching drama, too. The Dodgers rode the dominant pitching of ace Clayton Kershaw to a 9-1 victory over the Giants, and the win sealed the Dodgers' second consecutive NL West title. The Dodgers still have a chance to beat out the Nationals for the best record in the NL and home field throughout the playoffs, but that will be determined over the next four days.
IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY ...
Wild Card: A's at Royals
Division Series: Wild Card at Angels | Tigers at Orioles
Wild Card: Giants at Pirates
Division Series: Wild Card at Nationals | Cardinals at Dodgers
First things first: The Tigers beat a great pitcher in White Sox ace Chris Sale, and that was enough to seal a postseason berth for the team for the fourth consecutive year. The Tigers have a two-game lead over Kansas City in the AL Central, and their magic number is three, so they can clinch as soon as Friday.
"We're in," Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We have an opportunity to win a World Series regardless of what happens here on out. But the goal is to win the Central. To have that assurance, to know that you're going to be in the playoffs, yeah, that's big. But that's not the goal right now.
"We still have four games left to try to win the Central, and that's what we're going to try to do."
The Dodgers don't have to try to win the NL West anymore. They accomplished that Wednesday by beating the Giants. Kershaw, a slam-dunk NL Cy Young Award repeat winner and a huge favorite to win the NL MVP Award, struck out 11 batters in eight innings to conclude a regular season for the ages in which he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 198 1/3 innings. That got him a well-deserved champagne bath.
Meanwhile, the NL Central continues to be intriguing. The Cardinals and Pirates lost on Wednesday, so time is running out for Pittsburgh to catch St. Louis in the division standings, but it's still possible. That's why Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he's urging his charges to keep the focus in house.
"We just worry about ourselves," Matheny said. "We've done a real nice job of that. I could kind of feel the wind get kicked out of us a couple times when we're looking up there at the scoreboard the last couple nights. That's why I'm resolved not to do that anymore. We can't do anything about it."
TODAY'S KEY GAMES TO WATCH (all times ET)
Mets (Dillon Gee, 7-8) at Nationals (Blake Treinen, 2-3), 1:05 p.m., Game 1 Preview
The Nationals will play two games today and two more on Friday, and if they win all of them, they'll wrap up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It would behoove them to start well here.
Mariners (Tom Wilhelmsen, 3-2) at Blue Jays (Daniel Norris, 0-0), 4:07 p.m. Preview
Wilhelmsen gets the ball on a "bullpen day" for the reeling Mariners, who need to win every game the rest of the way and get some help from Kansas City and Oakland to have a chance at the postseason.
Orioles (Kevin Gausman, 7-7) at Yankees (Hiroki Kuroda, 11-9), 7:05 p.m. Preview
The Orioles are comfortably in the playoffs, but this game is all about one man: Derek Jeter. It's his last game at Yankee Stadium, so expect the waterworks to come early and often from the crowd … and maybe No. 2 himself.
Mets (Zack Wheeler, 11-10) at Nationals (Gio Gonzalez, 9-10), 7:05 p.m., Game 2 Preview
Washington is focusing on home field, and it can make a huge statement in that direction by winning this game on top of Game 1.
Twins (Trevor May, 3-5) at Tigers (Max Scherzer, 17-5), 7:08 p.m. Preview
Detroit has a magic number of three in the AL Central and can cut down that number with a good effort from its ace, Scherzer.
Pirates (Edinson Volquez, 12-7) at Braves (David Hale, 4-4), 7:10 p.m. Preview
The Pirates still haven't given up on the division, and they're looking for a solid effort from Volquez to keep the pressure on idle St. Louis.
Athletics (Jason Hammel, 10-11) at Rangers (Colby Lewis, 10-14), 8:05 p.m. Preview
Oakland can't win the AL West, but it can get home field for the Wild Card Game by winning out. That begins here.
Royals (James Shields, 14-8) at White Sox (Jose Quintana, 9-10), 8:10 p.m. Preview
The Royals, like the A's, would like to host the Wild Card Game. They're on the road for this pivotal game, but at least they have "Big Game" James on the hill.
Padres (Andrew Cashner, 5-7) at Giants (Yusmeiro Petit, 5-5), 10:15 p.m. Preview
The Giants were knocked out of the NL West race on Wednesday night, but they are still alive for home field in the Wild Card Game. They have a tough assignment in Cashner, however.
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 three over Royals
AL West: Angels clinched
AL Wild Card 1: Royals (own tiebreaker over Oakland)
AL Wild Card 2: A's
NL East: Nationals clinched
NL Central: Cardinals three over Pirates
NL West: Dodgers clinched
NL Wild Card 1: Pirates four over Giants
NL Wild Card 2: Giants one 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.