MLB Playoffs 2012: Athletics, Rangers Battle For AL West, Orioles, Yankees Vie For AL East

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ORIOLES
Baltimore Orioles' Nate McLouth, from left, J.J. Hardy and Robert Andino high-five teammates after a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Baltimore, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012. Baltimore won 4-3. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) | AP

-- Here's how the pennant races look with one day to go:

_ LAST TEAM IN: St. Louis clinched baseball's final postseason berth Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to San Francisco. The defending World Series champions were beaten by Cincinnati 3-1, but wrapped up the second NL wild card hours later when the Giants won 4-3 at Dodger Stadium. St. Louis will start Kyle Lohse (16-3) at Atlanta on Friday in the new one-game playoff.

_ WILD-WEST SHOWDOWN: Travis Blackley pitched the Athletics past Texas 3-1 to forge a first-place tie with the Rangers in the AL West. The teams meet again Wednesday afternoon in Oakland, a one-game showdown for the division title. The loser settles for a wild card.

The surprising A's grabbed a share of first place for the first time since March 29, erasing the last piece of what had been a 13-game deficit in the division race on June 30.

_ BIG RALLY: The Yankees needed a clutch comeback to maintain their one-game lead in the AL East over Baltimore. Not long after the Orioles won 1-0 at Tampa Bay, Raul Ibanez rallied New York past Boston 4-3 with a pinch-hit homer that tied the score in the ninth inning and then an RBI single in the 12th.

The Yankees had been 0-58 when trailing after eight innings this season. Now, they can clinch their 13th division crown in 17 years with a victory Wednesday night or a Baltimore loss. If the teams end up even, they play a one-game tiebreaker Thursday in Baltimore for the AL East title. The loser would get a wild card.

_ CLOSE TO THE CROWN: Miguel Cabrera went 2 for 3 with a pair of singles and two RBIs before leaving Detroit's 4-2 loss at Kansas City in the fifth inning. Cabrera leads the American League in batting average (.331), homers (44) and RBIs (139). The Triple Crown was last achieved by Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Angels rookie Mike Trout is second in batting average at .324. Texas slugger Josh Hamilton is one home run behind Cabrera and also ranks second in RBIs with 128.

_ HOME COOKING: The Nationals and Reds are tied for the best record in the majors (97-64) heading into the final day of the regular season. Washington can clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason with a victory over Philadelphia or a Reds loss in St. Louis. Cincinnati needs a win and a Nationals loss because Washington won the season series.

_ NEXT UP: Midseason acquisition Ryan Dempster (7-3) pitches for the Rangers at Oakland in their last chance to nail down a third consecutive AL West championship. A.J. Griffin (7-1) starts for the rookie-laden Athletics, hoping to become the fifth team to finish in first place after trailing by at least 13 games.

_ CHASE CHATTER: "I think they realized how special this is. You can't take these for granted. We were talking about it being kind of subdued and it was, but they're still proud. And had every right to be." – Cardinals rookie manager Mike Matheny on his team's late-night celebration in the clubhouse after clinching a playoff spot when the Dodgers lost to San Francisco.

_ IF THE POSTSEASON STARTED TODAY:

AL wild-card playoff: Baltimore vs. Oakland/Texas.

NL wild-card playoff: St. Louis at Atlanta.

AL division series: New York vs. wild-card winner; Oakland/Texas at Detroit.

NL division series: Washington vs. St. Louis-Atlanta winner; Cincinnati at San Francisco.

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