It's getting pretty tough for any American League teams to pull away in the division and Wild Card races because just about everyone seems to be winning.
The Yankees started Wednesday's slate of games with an 8-2 drubbing of Minnesota to give them a two-game lead over the Orioles, but the AL Wild Card leaders sliced it back to a 1 1/2-game deficit after slugging seven homers in a 12-2 rout over the Blue Jays.
The other Wild Card leader? It won, too. Oakland jumped out for five first-inning runs and knocked off the Rangers, 9-3. The A's now trail Texas by just three games in the AL West, and they play the Rangers four more times this year.
"These are the guys we're trying to catch," A's outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We're not trying to get the Wild Card, we're trying to stay in this division race."
The two teams chasing the A's for the Wild Card also won. Tampa Bay remained three back with its 4-2 win over Boston, its seventh straight victory. Then to wrap up the night, Torii Hunter's walk-off single beat Seattle and kept the Angels two games off the AL Wild Card pace.
There's a new leader in the AL Central as the Tigers came from behind for a 5-4 win over Kansas City. The White Sox's concurrent 6-4 loss to Cleveland means that for the first time since July 23 Detroit has sole possession of first place.
"We're playing pretty good baseball right now," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "We're playing hard, the way we should be."
In the National League, St. Louis' 2-0 loss to Houston gave both Milwaukee and Los Angeles a bit of life, as they each cruised to an easy victory and now both trail the Cards by 3 1/2 games in the NL Wild Card race.
"Right now, we have to win out, win every game to at least have a chance to get into the playoffs," said Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, who notched four RBIs on four hits.
Meanwhile, the Nationals -- 8-4 winners over Philadelphia -- took a one-game lead in the race for the top spot in the NL and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs because of the Reds' 8-1 loss to Milwaukee.
Thursday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Brewers (Peralta, 2-1) at Reds (Latos, 13-4), 12:35 p.m. Preview >
Reds starter Mat Latos has looked good against Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, two of Milwaukee's best hitters. The Reds are looking for the top seed, while the Brewers are hanging on for the second NL Wild Card.
Royals (Mendoza, 8-9) at Tigers (Fister, 10-9), 1:05 p.m. Preview >
The Tigers have their first lead in the AL Central since July 23, and they look to build on it Thursday when they send Doug Fister to the hill against Kansas City.
A's (Blackley, 5-3) at Rangers (Harrison, 17-10), 2:05 p.m. Preview >
The A's trail Texas by just three games in the AL West, and with four remaining against the Rangers -- one of them Thursday's series finale -- they hope to overcome that deficit.
Mariners (Iwakuma, 7-5) at Angels (Haren, 12-11), 3:35 p.m. Preview >
The Angels are in must-win mode in the AL Wild Card race, trailing the A's by two games. They send Dan Haren to the hill to complete the sweep.
D-backs (Corbin, 6-7) at Giants (Zito, 13-8), 3:45 p.m. Preview >
The Giants have an outside shot at home-field advantage in the NLDS, while the D-backs' elimination number has dwindled to two.
Nationals (Gonzalez, 20-8) at Phillies (Cloyd, 2-1), 7:05 p.m. Preview >
Washington holds a one-game edge over Cincinnati for the top seed in the National League, which guarantees home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Yankees (Nova, 12-7) at Blue Jays (Morrow, 8-7), 7:07 p.m. Preview >
Ivan Nova gets the ball for New York, which could increase its lead over the idle Orioles with a victory in Toronto. The Yanks' AL East lead currently sits at 1 1/2.
Marlins (Turner, 2-4) at Braves (Hanson, 12-9), 7:10 p.m. Preview >
Winners of four straight and one of the NL Wild Card spots, the Braves are looking to put some pressure on Washington, which leads the NL East by four games.
Rays (Shields, 15-9) at White Sox (Peavy, 11-12), 8:10 p.m. Preview >
The White Sox can regain a tie for first in the AL Central with a victory and a Tigers loss. Jake Peavy takes the hill, looking for just his second win since Aug. 1.
Dodgers (Capuano, 11-11) at Padres (Kelly, 2-2), 10:05 p.m. Preview >
The Dodgers are still alive in the NL Wild Card race, but every game is a must-win for them these days as they send Chris Capuano to the hill in San Diego.
Wild Card: A's at Orioles
Division Series: Yankees vs. Tigers | Rangers vs. Wild Card winner
Wild Card: Cardinals at Braves
Division Series: Reds vs. Giants | Nationals vs. Wild Card winner
For the 2012 postseason, the team with the better record will play the first two games on the road to start the Division Series.
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.
2012 postseason schedule
Wild Card playoff games: Oct. 5
Division Series: Oct. 6-12
AL Championship Series: Oct. 13-21
NL Championship Series: Oct. 14-22
World Series: Oct. 24-Nov. 1