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09/07/11 3:30 AM ET

Road to October: Sept. 7, 2011

The Angels' drive for the American League West crown hit a sizable speed bump in the form of Felix Hernandez on Tuesday night.

After narrowing the gap to 2 1/2 games on Monday night, the Angels took two steps backward in one of the closest postseason races in the Majors.

Following a 2-1 loss to King Felix and the Mariners and the Rangers' 8-0 thumping of the Rays, the Angels fell to 3 1/2 games back of Texas in the AL West.

With the Rangers facing Rays lefty David Price on Wednesday, and the Mariners trotting out a pitcher other than the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner, the Angels will have as good a chance as ever to once again narrow the lead and keep the AL West race interesting down to the wire.

While most of the division and Wild Card battles are all but set in stone, the other competition out West got a little more interesting. The Giants were practically written off Sunday after dropping two of three and falling to seven games back of the National League West-leading D-backs, but the margin is back at six heading into Wednesday's action.

Led by rookies Eric Surkamp and Brett Pill, and getting the kind of outstanding hitting they expected all along from Carlos Beltran, the Giants rolled over the Padres, 6-4, on Tuesday night. Perhaps more importantly, they finally managed to win on a day Arizona lost, as the Rockies soundly beat the D-backs, 8-3.

Elsewhere, the Yankees maintained their 2 1/2-game lead over the Red Sox with a late-night, weather-delayed win over the Orioles. The Red Sox routed the Blue Jays, 14-0, on Tuesday, opening an eight-game lead on the Rays for the AL Wild Card.

The Tigers continued their winning ways, beating the Indians, 10-1, to take an eight-game lead over the White Sox in the AL Central. To make matters worse for the Tribe -- sitting in third place, a half-game behind Chicago -- they're about to face Justin Verlander on Wednesday.

In the NL East, the Phillies extended their lead to 9 1/2 games with a 6-3 victory over the Braves, who still hold a commanding 7 1/2-game lead in the NL Wild Card race.

The Phillies now share the largest division lead in baseball with the NL Central-leading Brewers, whose 10 1/2-game advantage was brought back into single digits after they fell, 4-2, to the second-place Cardinals on Tuesday.

If the postseason started today

Detroit (3) at Yankees (1)
Red Sox (Wild Card) at Rangers (2)

D-backs (3) at Phillies (1)
Braves (Wild Card) at Brewers (2)

Today's key games to watch

Tigers (Verlander, 21-5) at Indians (Masterson, 11-8), 12:05 p.m. ET Preview
Verlander can become the Tigers' first 22-game winner since Mickey Lolich in 1975 as Detroit continues to cruise.

Orioles (Britton, 9-9) at Yankees (Burnett, 9-11), 1:05 p.m. ET Preview
Burnett is looking to build off his solid start against Boston his last time out.

Rangers (Holland, 13-5) at Rays (Price, 12-12), 1:10 p.m. ET Preview
Holland has been brilliant of late after midseason consistency struggles. That bodes well for the Rangers if they can make it to October.

Giants (Cain, 11-9) at Padres (Harang, 12-5), 6:35 p.m. ET Preview
The days are running out for the defending World Series champs, but at least they have one of their horses on the hill here.

Braves (Beachy, 7-2) at Phillies (Oswalt, 7-8), 7:05 p.m. ET Preview
This could be a big start for Oswalt, who's looking to solidify his position in the postseason rotation.

Red Sox (Wakefield, 6-6) at Blue Jays (Morrow, 9-10), 7:07 p.m. ET Preview
The Red Sox can inch closer to the Yankees and make history at the same time. A victory for starter Wakefield would be the 200th in the veteran knuckleballer's career.

White Sox (Danks, 6-10) at Twins (Pavano, 7-11), 8:10 p.m. ET Preview
The White Sox are hot, but so are the Tigers. Still, manager Ozzie Guillen says his team won't give up.

Brewers (Greinke, 14-5) at Cardinals (Carpenter, 8-9), 8:15 p.m. ET Preview
Milwaukee had a rare misstep on Tuesday but can lock up another road series win here.

D-backs (Saunders, 9-12) at Rockies (Millwood, 2-1), 8:40 p.m. ET Preview
Arizona's momentum was stalled with a loss in Colorado on Tuesday. Saunders will try to get it going again.

Mariners (Furbush, 3-7) at Angels (Williams, 2-0), 10:05 p.m. ET Preview
Every game is a must-win for the Angels now. Williams, who has only two big league starts under his belt since 2007, is being relied upon for a lot here.

Postseason 101

Magic numbers

To calculate a team's magic number, take the number of games it has remaining on the schedule and add one. Then subtract the difference in the loss column between the team and its closest pursuer.

Tie-breaker scenarios

If two teams are tied atop the division and both are assured of making the postseason, head-to-head record would be used to determine which team is the division champ and which falls to the Wild Card.

If two teams are tied atop the division and share the Wild Card lead with another club, the ties will be broken in the following fashion:
• The teams tied atop the division will play, with the winner taking the division.
• The losing team will then play the remaining Wild Card contender, with the winner making the playoffs.

If three clubs are tied atop a division or Wild Card standings, each club would be designated in one of three slots, "A," "B," or "C." Clubs get to choose their designation based on head-to-head records. Tiebreaking games would then proceed like this:
• Club A hosts Club B on Thursday, Sept. 29
• The winner of the first game hosts Club C on Friday, Sept. 30, with the winner declared champion.

2011 Postseason schedule

American League Division Series: Sept. 30 - Oct. 6
National League Division Series: Oct. 1-7
American League Championship Series: Oct. 8-16
National League Championship Series: Oct. 9-17
World Series: Oct. 19-27
Full postseason schedule

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.