MLB Postseason Picture: Braves clinch postseason berth for second straight season

Mark TownsendYahoo 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.

The Atlanta Braves are headed back to the postseason.

The NL East leaders officially clinched their second straight playoff berth with Saturday’s bittersweet 10-1 win against the second-place Washington Nationals. We say bittersweet because they also lost utilityman Charlie Culberson to injury after he was struck in the face by a 91 mph pitch.

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The Braves join the Los Angeles Dodgers, who wrapped up the NL West title on Tuesday, as the only two teams to lock up a playoff berth.

It’s only a matter of time until Atlanta secures back-to-back NL East titles as well. Saturday’s win extended their division lead to 10.5 games, while lowering their magic number to four.

Here’s a look at the complete postseason picture heading into Sunday:

Magic Number Countdown

YANKEES: A 13-3 win against the Blue Jays dropped their magic number to clinch the AL East to four.

ASTROS: They took care of business as well, beating the Royals 6-1. Their magic number to clinch the AL West is six.

TWINS: Minnesota chopped four games off the magic number by sweeping a doubleheader in Cleveland. Their magic number to clinch the AL Central is nine.

CARDINALS: Their magic number to clinch the NL Central is 12.

Key Races

NL WILD CARD: Every team battling for the NL’s second wild card won except for the Phillies. The Cubs are one game ahead of the Brewers, three games ahead of the Mets, and 3.5 games up on Philadelphia. The D-backs are hanging around at 4.5 games back.

The Nationals grip on the top wild card is loosening a bit. They’re only 1.5 up on Chicago for home-field advantage in the NL wild-card game.

NL CENTRAL: The Cubs and Brewers also gained ground in the division race thanks to Milwaukee’s 5-2 win against the Cardinals. St. Louis has a three-game lead over the Cubs and a four-game edge on the Brewers.

AL WILD CARD: The A’s and Rays both won again. That means the A’s still hold the top wild card by half a game over the Rays. With two losses Saturday, the Indians fall to 2.5 games behind the Rays for the second wild card.

AL CENTRAL: The Twins are 5.5 games up on the Indians. If they complete the weekend sweep on Sunday, the division might be on lock.

The Atlanta Braves are postseason bound again. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Braves are postseason bound again. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Games to Watch

• Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs (2:20 p.m. ET) — The Cubs and Pirates haven’t gotten along all season. Six hit batters in Saturday’s game won’t help matters. We’ll keep an eye on that and a Cubs offense that’s scored 17 and 14 runs respectively the last two games. Can they outscore the Chicago Bears again on Sunday?

• Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets (7:05 p.m. ET) — “Sunday Night Baseball” has another good one this week. The Mets will go for a much-needed series win as they attempt to hang on in the NL wild-card race, while the Dodgers continue seeking home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Walker Buehler vs. Zack Wheeler is a dandy pitching matchup as well.

Elimination Watch

• The Pittsburgh Pirates were sent packing on Saturday, becoming the third National League team to be eliminated. Two more will soon follow as the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres elimination number dropped to three.

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

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