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Pulse of the Postseason: Sept. 5, 2013

We're getting used to this situation in the American League West. We are so used to it that we can pretty much bank on the fact that if we need a daily dose of pennant-race drama, we can be sure to get it by watching the Oakland A's play the Texas Rangers.

That was the takeaway from Wednesday's action around the Major Leagues as the Pulse of the Postseason continued to echo.

Two days after Oakland had tied up the division and a day after the Rangers went back ahead by one game, the A's knocked Yu Darvish around, starter Jarrod Parker added to a long streak without a loss and Oakland had deadlocked the West once more.

So ... remember how this division went down to the last day of the season last year? Remember how the A's stormed back to win it on that final day? Remember Oakland putting up a five-game fight against Detroit? That might all happen again, unless, of course, the Rangers have anything to say about it.

"You can look at this series any way you want, but we lost two of three and now we're even," Texas second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We have 23 games left, and we have to win one more than them. There is not much to make of this series other than they beat us two out of three."

By the way, the two teams play three more games against each other from Sept. 13-15 in Texas.

But the Bay Area was not the only place around the Majors where emotions were running high and October was on the line.

In Cincinnati, the Reds were desperately trying to climb up from third place in the tight National League Central, and another game against the visiting second-place St. Louis Cardinals was a perfect opportunity, especially with the first-place Pirates en route to a loss in Milwaukee.

It took extra-long, as in extra, extra, extra-innings long, but the Cardinals prevailed, 5-4, in 16 innings, putting them within a game of the Pirates and 2 1/2 up on Cincinnati.

The main reason for the win in a game that featured a combined 16 pitchers, 45 players and what is now the requisite Billy Hamilton stolen base?

That would be Matt Adams, and Matt Adams again.

Adams put the Cardinals up by a run with a solo homer in the 14th, and when the Reds tied it again in the bottom of that inning, Adams waited two more frames to hit another solo shot to win it.

That was an undeniable stunner, but the Cards also experienced an undeniable bummer when one of their best players, first baseman Allen Craig, left the game early with a sprained foot.

Momentum also took a back seat to simple September reality for a few of the highest-flying clubs in the bigs Wednesday.

The Dodgers' winning streak ended at six against the Rockies, and the Braves lost to the Mets, although Los Angeles and Atlanta are so far ahead in their divisions that Wednesday will probably register as a mere blip in the 162-game radar.

The Tigers, who are in first place in the AL Central, got hammered, 20-4, by the Red Sox, who are in first place in the AL East.

David Ortiz notched his 2,000th career hit and Boston outfielder Shane Victorino was more than happy to provide that highlight, among others, to his Twitter followers afterward -- emoticons and all.

The Pirates missed out in their first chance to clinch their first winning season since 1992. They will have to wait at least two more days to try for victory No. 82.

Meanwhile, the Wild Card wannabes were slugging it out in earnest on another important night.

The Rays kept pace by winning in Anaheim; Cleveland beat Baltimore to improve its chances; the Nationals edged the Phillies to stay alive; the D-backs topped the Blue Jays; and the Yankees beat the White Sox once again to stay in it.

The Yankees, the unlikely underdogs, are now only two games out of the Wild Card mix and feeling pretty good as the roster gets healthier and a four-game series with the Red Sox looms.

"It could do a lot to determine where we're going to be at," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of that showdown. "I think it's important that we concentrate on one game at a time and not look too far ahead."

Thursday's key games to watch (all times ET)

Mariners (Saunders, 11-13) at Royals (Guthrie, 13-10), 2:10 p.m. Preview >
Seattle won Wednesday, a blow for Kansas City's Wild Card hopes. Guthrie will try to right the Royals' ship Thursday.

Red Sox (Peavy, 11-5) at Yankees (Nova, 8-4), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Who better to take the ball for the Yankees in this huge series opener than the recently crowned AL Pitcher of the Month for August?

White Sox (Quintana, 7-5) at Orioles (Gonzalez, 8-7), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Gonzalez has been up and down lately. The Orioles desperately need him to be up in this one after they lost Wednesday.

Cardinals (Lynn, 13-9) at Reds (Cingrani, 6-3), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
We will see how both rosters respond after 16 innings Wednesday night, but if things break right for St. Louis on Thursday, they could get within a half-game of the division lead.

Astros (Peacock, 3-5) at Athletics (Gray, 2-2), 10:05 p.m. Preview >
The A's will try to take Wednesday's home momentum and beat a team they have to beat to keep the pressure on Texas.

Rays (Price, 8-6) at Angels (Williams, 5-10), 10:05 p.m. Preview >
Price needs to be the ace he is in this one against an Angels team that has struggled to find itself all year.

D-backs (Cahill, 5-10) at Giants (Vogelsong, 3-4), 10:15 p.m. Preview >
The D-backs need a huge effort from Cahill as they remain mathematically in the mix.

If the postseason started today ...

Wild Card: Rays at A's/Rangers
Division Series: Wild Card at Red Sox | A's/Rangers at Tigers

Wild Card: Reds at Cardinals
Division Series: Wild Card at Braves | Pirates at Dodgers

Postseason 101

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.

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 »

2013 postseason schedule
NL Wild Card Game: Oct. 1
AL Wild Card Game: Oct. 2
NL Division Series begins: Oct. 3
AL Division Series begins: Oct. 4
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 11
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 12
World Series begins: Oct. 23

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.
Read More: Matt Adams, Jarrod Parker, David Ortiz