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Pulse of the Postseason: Sept. 7, 2013

Baseball can be a cruel game. Just ask Yusmeiro Petit, or just ask the team he beat on Friday night.

Petit, of course, is the Giants right-hander who lost a perfect game with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning. And the D-backs, who got the perfecto-erasing single from Eric Chavez, were closed out by Petit in a one-hitter one batter later, slipping further back in the National League Wild Card standings.

Arizona may have prevented history thanks to Chavez's sinking line drive that Giants right fielder Hunter Pence just couldn't quite get to. But the D-backs desperately need wins. More losses against sub-.500 teams, and Arizona will be history.

That was the game that stood out among many, as the Pulse of the Postseason pounded on. One nine-inning masterpiece nearly gained immortality, while other teams jockeyed for position to gain a slice of their own come October.

There was a lot of #clutch going around on Friday.

In Cincinnati, the Reds are showing night after night that they are not ready to surrender anything in the crowded NL Central. All they did Friday was beat the sizzling Dodgers, 3-2, with a three-up, three-down, three-strikeout effort from closer Aroldis Chapman to seal it.

Chapman, who was pitching in his fourth straight game, threw three pitches to phenom Yasiel Puig, and they were clocked at 99 mph, 101 and 102. Ten of his 13 pitches broke 100 mph. Now the Reds are only two games behind Pittsburgh for first place in the division and are sitting pretty for a Wild Card berth in the meantime.

"I think this is a big series," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "This is the time of year when it's tough to win games. When we were in that great streak, we won these kind of games."

The Dodgers learned Friday that outfielder Matt Kemp's rehab from an ankle sprain has been stalled by a hamstring issue, and now starter Chris Capuano has a groin problem.

But the Detroit Tigers were looking awfully healthy on Friday, pulverizing the Wild Card-contending Kansas City Royals to the tune of a 16-2 victory that included 26 hits and Anibal Sanchez's 13th win of the season. Detroit maintained its 6 1/2-game lead in the AL Central and left the Royals with a deficit of 4 1/2 games in the Wild Card race.

Speaking of the Wild Card race, the Yankees, whose fortunes in that very category had looked so promising a few days ago, took another one on the chin courtesy of their archrivals.

New York had an 8-3 lead over Boston heading into the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium, only to witness a bullpen implosion en route to a 12-8 loss.

One big hit ...

... led to another save, and the Red Sox continued to pull away in the AL East.

The Cardinals had to be feeling the same way after beating the first-place Pirates and pulling to within a game of Pittsburgh in the NL Central, which seems to get more dramatic by the day.

St. Louis got contributions from all over the lineup and a solid start from Joe Kelly to win, 12-8. It is a half-game back and can go up on Saturday.

In other proceedings, the A's re-took the lead in the see-saw AL West, beating Houston while the Rangers lost to the Angels.

Wild Card contender Tampa Bay continued to struggle, losing in Seattle, as both Baltimore and Cleveland made up ground. The Orioles got a shutout from Scott Feldman and Chris Davis' 48th homer, while the Indians had a huge effort from starter Scott Kazmir and a grand slam from Nick Swisher.

Now the O's and the Tribe are two back of Tampa Bay, and things just continue to get wackier by the day on the path to the playoffs.

Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks had five of his team's 26 hits on Friday, but he knows -- just like every other guy with something to play for this time of year -- that every day is different in September.

"Whether you win by 20 or by one it counts the same," Dirks said. "We've got to come out [Saturday] and try to do the same thing."

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

Red Sox (Lackey, 8-12) at Yankees (Huff, 2-0), 1:05 p.m. Preview >
This series has been intense and figures to continue. Lackey has been pitching better than his record indicates.

White Sox (Santiago, 4-8) at Orioles (Chen, 7-7), 1:05 p.m. Preview >
Chen will try to keep the Orioles' mojo going. They've won two in a row to creep within two of the Wild Card lead.

Dodgers (Greinke, 14-3) at Reds (Latos, 14-5), 1:05 p.m. Preview >
Here's one of the best "ace-offs" of the week and maybe the month. The Reds have the momentum after Friday's win.

Astros (Oberholtzer, 4-1) at Athletics (Straily, 8-7), 4:05 p.m. Preview >
Straily has cemented himself in the Oakland rotation and will have to be good to outpitch Oberholtzer, an intriguing rookie who has performed well of late.

Mets (Niese, 6-6) at Indians (Kluber, 5-4), 6:05 p.m. Preview >
Kluber comes off a month-long stint on the disabled list because of a sprained finger, and he's thrown right into the pennant-race fire.

Braves (Wood, 3-3) at Phillies (Kendrick, 10-12), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
The Braves have not been sharp of late and need a few wins to get everything clicking again, although they're still miles ahead in the NL East.

Tigers (Verlander, 12-10) at Royals (Duffy, 2-0), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Verlander has been looking more like Verlander in his last few starts. He wouldn't mind getting half of the run support the Tigers rang up on Friday.

Nationals (Roark, 4-0) at Marlins (Eovaldi, 3-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Washington remains a few games over .500. Roark makes his first big league start after looking good in the bullpen.

Pirates (Locke, 9-4) at Cardinals (Wainwright, 15-9), 7:15 p.m. Preview >
Locke took some time in the Minors to regroup and will face a tough assignment here on the road against a perennial Cy Young contender. Lose, and the Cardinals are back in first place.

D-backs (McCarthy, 3-9) at Giants (Cain, 8-8), 9:05 p.m. Preview >
We'll see how Cain responds a night after his teammate, Petit, almost threw a perfect game. The D-backs need a huge one from McCarthy to stay alive for another night.

Rangers (Holland, 9-7) at Angels (Richards, 5-6), 9:05 p.m. Preview >
Texas lost a game and their AL West lead on Friday. Holland has been one of their best starters this year and will be counted on to get the momentum back.

Rays (Archer, 8-6) at Mariners (Paxton, 0-0), 9:05 p.m. Preview >
Archer needs to rebound from a dismal start in his last outing. Left-hander Paxton is making his Major League debut at Safeco Field.

If the postseason started today ...

Wild Card: Rays at Rangers
Division Series: Wild Card at Red Sox | A's 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 begin: Oct. 3
AL Division Series begin: 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.