Pulse: The only thing settled is that nothing is settled
Near-sure things get a bit surer; NL Central going to the wire; AL Wild Card still wild
We know the Dodgers, Braves, Red Sox, Tigers and A's are getting close to qualifying for October. We know the National League Central is going down to the wire. We know the American League Wild Card forecast is about as foggy as a summer morning over San Francisco Bay.
And after Tuesday night's games throughout a packed Major League Baseball slate, we have at least one more certainty as the Pulse of the Postseason pumps along:
We still haven't seen a single clinch.
Nope, the Braves couldn't take two from the Nationals and book their ticket to the playoffs, even though the two teams met in a split doubleheader. In fact, Atlanta couldn't even win one of the games, and now must wait until at least Thursday with its magic number still at four.
Sure, the Dodgers trimmed their magic number to two by beating the D-backs in Arizona, which means they have young Stephen Fife going on Wednesday night for a potential clincher, but they're not officially there yet.
The Red Sox might have lost to the Orioles on Tuesday, but they're still in the driver's seat in the AL East and can trim their magic number to a deuce if they bounce back against Baltimore on Wednesday and Tampa Bay loses.
Elsewhere, the Cardinals pulled a game ahead of the Pirates and the Reds got a game closer when St. Louis and Cincinnati rolled and Pittsburgh reeled at home against San Diego.
The Tigers and A's both won on their way to division titles that could be decided by the end of the week.
And while the Yankees and Royals lost ground in the crowded AL Wild Card field, the Rangers pulled even with the Rays at the top of those standings and the Indians and Orioles kept their momentum going.
Got all that?
Fans are surely scouring the standings every hour, if not every minute. The teams involved, though? Not so much.
"I don't even know who won or lost tonight," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I can't [worry about that]. It doesn't matter. We have to take care of business. It doesn't matter if you don't."
The Nationals took care of business in dramatic fashion in Tuesday's twin bill, somehow coming back to beat Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning of Game 1 and then getting a gem from starter Dan Haren in Game 2. Washington outfielder Denard Span extended his MLB-best hitting streak to 28 games, halfway to Joe DiMaggio's record. Washington might still be 4 1/2 games out of the Wild Card mix, but it's not totally out.
Unbelievable day! We took care of business. We gotta keep it going tho- Denard Span (@thisisdspan) September 18, 2013
In the other Wild Card picture, the Rangers finally got some good vibes and some offense going … quickly. Like, as quickly as you can get it.
Texas cruised to victory over Tampa Bay, and now both teams are deadlocked for the AL Wild Card lead. It was a very welcome day at the yard for the Rangers considering that their morning was spent reading speculation about manager Ron Washington's job security and dwelling on the fact that they had lost seven games in a row at just about the worst time in the season for that to happen.
"Obviously, it's just one win and the end of our losing streak," closer Joe Nathan said. "But the most important thing is, everybody in this clubhouse knows that if we get things right, we can win some games. Hopefully, this is a step so we can close out the season on a good note, win some games and see where the chips fall after 162 games."
The Indians stayed a half-game behind the Rangers and Rays by beating the Royals, and the O's crept to within two games by beating the Red Sox, 3-2, courtesy of two milestones.
One was a looooong ball.
The other was a long shot, with the Orioles snapping closer Koji Uehara's string of 37 batters retired when Danny Valencia led off the ninth with a triple and Baltimore came all the way back to keep things interesting in Charm City.
Huge win. Missed on a huge opportunity in the 8th but we kept battling. The pitching was awesome tonight. Keep grinding.- Adam Jones (@SimplyAJ10) September 18, 2013
Several teams on October autopilot steered a bit closer to champagne, with the Tigers beating the Mariners again and suddenly remembering that they have a pretty good hitter in the middle of the order who might just get hot when they need it the most.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers did what they had to do, pounding the D-backs on the strength of Zack Greinke's 15th win and setting up a possible first clincher on Wednesday. They also welcomed back Matt Kemp, who got four hits -- including two doubles -- and three RBIs, serving notice that he could be a real force in the postseason.
Boston and Oakland can get closer to booking playoff travel when they play again on Wednesday, and in the NL Central, the battle goes on.
On Tuesday the Pirates lost some ground, the Cardinals pulled ahead and the Reds quietly moved up a game thanks to a big night from slugger Jay Bruce and a great game from starter Mike Leake against the Astros.
The Reds could play big-time spoiler now, and they like it that way.
"We're ready to go," Leake said. "It's just a matter of us playing sound baseball and playing the way that we're capable of."
That will start again on Wednesday as the Pulse of the Postseason beats on.
The A's will kick things off against the Angels in a home matinee, and a few hours later, the Braves will try to stem the tide of the Nationals, who are starting the rejuvenated Ross Ohlendorf in the biggest game of his career.
The Pirates will be looking to get back on track against the Padres. Charlie Morton will take the hill at home while the Cardinals hand the ball to their ace, Adam Wainwright, in Denver to try to add to their fresh division lead.
The Red Sox play the Orioles in an AL East matchup that could get Boston a day closer to clinching, although for Wild Card purposes, no two games will be bigger than the next ones between Tampa Bay and Texas, and Cleveland and Kansas City.
"We're not done," Indians outfielder Nick Swisher said. "We're going to keep pushing. We're going to do everything we can, because we want this, and we want it bad."
That sentiment will be shared by most contenders, such as the Tigers, who will throw Justin Verlander at the Mariners on Wednesday; the Reds, who desperately need to keep winning in Houston; the Dodgers, who opted for Fife to give ace Clayton Kershaw a few extra days of pre-October rest; and the Yankees and Royals, still clinging to postseason hopes but needing to play better in a hurry.
"We're playing terrible, and it's not good. It's a bad time to be doing it," Yankees starter Andy Pettitte said after Tuesday night's loss to the Blue Jays put them 3 1/2 games out of the Wild Card chase.
"We put ourselves in a horrible position. Obviously, we can't have too many more losses."
Wednesday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Angels (Vargas, 8-7) at Athletics (Griffin, 14-9), 3:35 p.m. Preview >
Braves (Wood, 3-3) at Nationals (Ohlendorf, 4-0), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Padres (Ross, 3-8) at Pirates (Morton, 7-4), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Yankees (Hughes, 4-13) at Blue Jays (Happ, 4-6), 7:07 p.m. Preview >
Mariners (Iwakuma, 12-6) at Tigers (Verlander, 13-11), 7:08 p.m. Preview >
Orioles (Chen, 7-7) at Red Sox (Peavy, 11-5), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Rangers (Holland, 9-9) at Rays (Archer, 9-7), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Reds (Reynolds, 1-2) at Astros (Peacock, 5-5), 8:10 p.m. Preview >
Indians (Salazar, 1-2) at Royals (Chen, 7-3), 8:10 p.m. Preview >
Cardinals (Wainwright, 16-9) at Rockies (Chatwood, 7-4), 8:40 p.m. Preview >
Dodgers (Fife, 4-3) at D-backs (McCarthy, 4-9), 10:10 p.m. Preview >
If the postseason started today ...
Wild Card: Rangers at Rays
Division Series: Wild Card at Red Sox | Tigers at A's
Wild Card: Reds at Pirates/Cardinals
Division Series: Wild Card at Braves | Pirates/Cardinals at Dodgers
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.
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.
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