MLB Postseason Picture: Athletics keep rolling, take over lead in AL wild card

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

It’s September, so the baseball games matter a little more. That’s why every day between now and the start of the postseason we’ll keep you updated on baseball’s postseason picture.

A new leader has emerged in the American League wild-card race.

The Oakland Athletics, by virtue of their third straight victory against the Houston Astros, have leapfrogged the Tampa Bay Rays into sole possession of the top wild-card position.

After being blown out by Houston 15-0 in the series opener, it looked like their four-game series would expedite the Astros coronation in the AL West rather than help the A’s gain ground in the wild-card race. The resilient A’s had other plans, scoring 21 runs on Tuesday before holding on to win two tight battles to close the series.

It showed that the A’s will once again be a difficult team to deal with down the stretch and into the postseason should they be fortunate enough to make it. The Rays are half a game behind them. The Cleveland Indians are a full game back.

Here’s a look at the full postseason picture heading into the weekend.

Magic Number Countdown

YANKEES: It was a good news, bad news day on the injury front. On the field, it was all good news as the Yankees swept a doubleheader against the Tigers and the Rays lost to the Rangers. New York’s magic number to clinch the AL East is now five.

ASTROS: Their magic number to clinch the AL West is still eight.

BRAVES: A 9-5 loss in Philadelphia coupled with the Nationals 12-6 win against the Twins keeps their magic number to clinch the NL East at eight.

THE REST: The Minnesota Twins magic number to clinch the AL Central is 13, which is the same as the St. Louis Cardinals magic number to clinch the NL Central.

ALREADY CLINCHED: The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched their seventh straight NL West title on Sept. 10.

Key Races

NL CENTRAL: The St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers were all winners. St. Louis maintains its four-game lead over both division foes heading into weekend series against Milwaukee.

NL WILD CARD: The Cubs and Brewers remain tied for the second wild card. The New York Mets are two games back after completing a sweep of the fading but not to be counted out Arizona Diamondbacks. The Philadelphia Phillies are also two games back.

AL CENTRAL: The Indians were off on Thursday, but still gained half a game on the Twins. Minnesota’s lead is 3.5 games.

The Oakland Athletics are proving they'll be a difficult team to deal with down the stretch. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Games to Watch

• Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland Indians — The weekend’s biggest series is taking place in Cleveland. The Twins have withstood several second-half runs by the Indians to maintain control of the AL Central. Now they’ll have to do it again in a head-to-head matchup. By Sunday night, Minnesota’s lead could be anywhere from half a game to 6.5 games.

• Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets (7:10 p.m. ET) — The Dodgers have plenty to play for with postseason home-field advantage still up for grabs. As do the Mets, who remain in the thick of the NL wild card. Mainly, though, we're here for the Noah Syndergaard-Wilson Ramos drama.

Elimination Watch

• It’s all over for the Colorado Rockies, who go from wild-card game winners last season to a certain last-place finish in the NL West. The Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates are right behind them with elimination number of two and three respectively.

• Teams whose postseason dreams are already over: Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Angels.

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