9/1/2013 2:04 A.M. ET
Pulse of the Postseason: Sept. 1, 2013
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
One month down, another big one to go before October, the month that's bigger than all the rest. And after August's final act on Saturday, it looks like we're in for some bigtime fun in September.
The last day of August included waiver trades, pitching gems, hitting feats and a few walk-off wins. By the end of the day, the team that was the toast of August entered the final month with a flourish, with the Dodgers claiming their L.A.-record 23rd victory of the month.
Throw in an American League East shuffle, movement in the National League Central and AL Wild Card races, and an AL Central race really starting to widen, and -- whew -- the prelude to September certainly set a frantic tone.
The Pulse of the Postseason is pounding through Labor Day Weekend, and Saturday provided a solid sendoff for August, from beginning to end.
While a couple of the day's early games were headed into the late innings, news hit of Twins icon Justin Morneau being acquired by the Pirates for outfielder Alex Presley and a player to be named later or cash. While Morneau had been part of the Twins organization since they drafted him at age 18, rumors had swirled about the resurgent first baseman and clubhouse leader being ripe for the picking. On Saturday, the Pirates picked.
Within moments of the news hitting, it was clear Morneau is respected on both sides of the trade.
I'm going to miss 33. He's been a great influence on me, and I wish him nothing but the best! The Pirates are getting a professional.- Trevor Plouffe (@TPlouffe24) August 31, 2013
Mark Melancon (@Mark_Melancon_) August 31, 2013
While Morneau started making his way to Pittsburgh, a couple of early games were making waves in the standings.
The Royals, needing a surge heading into September to keep their hopes alive, allowed three Toronto runs in the eighth -- including two on eight straight balls by Aaron Crow, which were followed by Kansas City manager Ned Yost's ejection in a 4-2 loss.
In the Bronx, the bullpen door stayed shut even with all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera available for action. That's because Ivan Nova shut down the Orioles and gave Mo a day off, finishing his first career shutout by going through the heart of the Baltimore order in the ninth inning of a 2-0 Yankees victory that pushed the Yanks past the O's in the AL East standings into third.
Upon the arrival of the first evening games, Central issues were being played out in Detroit and Pittsburgh, while Boston's Jake Peavy started against his former White Sox teammates, a 7-2 victory for the AL East leaders.
In Pittsburgh, a five-run third inning electrified the crowd at PNC Park, and that wound up being the difference in a 7-1 win that gives the Pirates a one-game edge over the Cardinals. The arrival of Morneau, wearing No. 36, in the middle of the sixth just minutes after that huge inning brought just as many hugs and high-fives and smiles in the Pirates dugout as all those runs did.
"There's a lot of emotion and adrenaline I hadn't had in a while," said Morneau. "I'm excited by this opportunity, of doing something every day to help this team win, to do whatever it takes to get in the playoffs."
In Detroit, two Omar Infante homers seemed to put Detroit in control, but a two-run inside-the-park homer by Carlos Santana in the eighth with Austin Jackson crashing hard against the wall made it tight again. But Jackson responded with a two-run triple in the bottom half, and the Tigers are definitely in control after a 10-5 victory -- 8 1/2 games over the Indians and 10 1/2 over the Royals.
Meanwhile, the NL East became that much more of the Braves' world with Atlanta walking off for a 2-1 win -- B.J. Upton providing his first homer since June 15 and adding the walk-off hit for his fourth RBI. With the Nationals taking an 11-3 home loss against the Mets, the Braves' division lead is up to 15 games, while the Nationals dropped to 7 1/2 out in the Wild Card race.
Heading out west, the Reds-Rockies matchup again turned into a slugfest, with Brandon Phillips delivering the biggest punches and ending up just a single shy of the cycle in an 8-3 victory at Coors Field. That win drew Cincinnati to within 2 1/2 of the Cardinals for the top Wild Card spot.
Meanwhile, AL West-leading Texas eeked out a win -- its 20th of August -- over the Morneau-less Twins when a Leonys Martin walk-off hit gave the Rangers a 2-1 victory, but Texas saw shortstop Elvis Andrus leave with a stiff lower back.
By the time the Rays-A's showdown in Oakland was into the late innings, the A's knew they'd have to win to keep pace in the division -- and to retain the top spot in the Wild Card race. After some chills in the ninth, the A's came out on top with another one-run win, assuring they'll be on top of the Wild Card standings after the weekend is over.
Finally, in the waning hours of August, the Dodgers took a bow with a comeback win over the Padres, a 2-1 victory that capped an amazing August. Yasiel Puig cut down an early scoring attemp and Mark Ellis knocked in the game-winner with a pinch-hit single as L.A. maintained its season-high 10 1/2-game lead in the NL West, with the D-backs walk-off winners over the Giants.
Not to be outdone by the Pirates, the Dodgers picked up their own veteran in a waiver deal, bringing in veteran infielder Michael Young from the Phillies.
Again, whew. If this is how September is coming in, just imagine how it might go out.
Sunday's key games to watch (all times ET)
Orioles (Chen, 7-7) at Yankees (Pettitte, 10-9), 1:05 p.m. ET Preview >
Suddenly, the Orioles have more work to do in September, and it begins with averting a sweep the Yankees would dearly love to complete.
Royals (Shields, 9-8) at Blue Jays (Happ, 3-4), 1:07 p.m. ET Preview >
Big Game James Shields has been earning his reputation all year as the Royals' new ace. This is his stiffest test.
Indians (Salazar, 1-2) at Tigers (Verlander, 12-10), 1:08 p.m. ET Preview >
The Tigers have won 15 games against the Indians this season heading into the 19th and final meeting.
White Sox (Rienzo, 1-0) at Red Sox (Doubront, 10-6), 1:35 p.m. ET Preview >
The Red Sox, winners of six of their last seven, now have a 4 1/2-game lead in the AL East, their biggest lead since July 12.
Cardinals (Kelly, 6-3) at Pirates (TBD), 1:35 p.m. ET Preview >
The Pirates are 7-2 at home vs. the Cardinals this year and have won nine of the last 10 there dating back to August 2012.
Twins (Correia, 8-10) at Rangers (Blackley, 2-1), 3:05 p.m. ET Preview >
The Rangers are trying to keep some distance between themselves and Oakland before the A's visit on Monday.
Rays (TBD) at A's (Griffin, 11-9), 4:05 p.m. ET Preview >
The A's go for the sweep against the Rays, who have four one-run losses in the last seven days.
Reds (Leake, 11-5) at Rockies (Chatwood, 7-4), 4:10 p.m. ET Preview >
A series victory in Colorado would be key for the Reds heading into a home series against the Cardinals.
Giants (Petit, 1-0) at D-backs (Corbin, 13-4), 4:10 p.m. Preview >
ET The D-backs are still hanging in the Wild Card race, but barely.
Padres (Ross, 3-7) at Dodgers (Greinke, 13-3), 4:10 p.m. ET Preview >
August is history, in so many ways. What's in store in September for the Dodgers?
Marlins (Eovaldi, 2-5) at Braves (Wood, 3-2), 5 p.m. ET Preview >
The Braves have won six straight, and the string of opponents doesn't get tougher for a while.
Mets (Niese, 6-6) at Nationals (Ohlendorf, 3-0), 8:05 p.m. ET Preview >
A repeat of the 2012 magic for the Nationals is slipping away by the day.
If the postseason started today ...
Wild Card: Rays at A's
Division Series: Wild Card at Red Sox | Rangers at Tigers
Wild Card: Reds at Cardinals
Division Series: Wild Card at Braves | Pirates 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
Wild Card playoff games: Oct. 1
World Series begins: Oct. 23
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.