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MLB Playoff Race Update: The Yankees gain ground on Toronto

And Jon Lester wins number 200.

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Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

With time running out in the regular season, the races around the league are coming down to the wire. That does include the American League wildcard, in which the Red Sox are stuck in a tight race, but also the rest of the league as well. For those interested in that league-wide picture, we’ll be providing a daily update the rest of the season on the state of races around baseball.

American League East

The Rays started a big series this week, at least from the Red Sox’ perspective as Tampa Bay took on the Blue Jays for the first game in a three-game set. Although Toronto jumped out early in the series opener, Tampa Bay scored three in the fifth and then one run in each inning after that to close out a win in Shane Baz’s major-league debut. The Red Sox, as we know, were off on Monday so they lost a half-game in the division race. Tampa now leads by seven games with a magic number of five.

American League Central

The White Sox are just looking to clinch this division, which they should be able to do at some point this week if they play decently enough. They couldn’t do that on Monday against a sneaky solid Tigers team, who were able to claw out a one-run win over Chicago to start their series. Meanwhile, second-place Cleveland had a doubleheader on Monday, and they did some of the hard work for the White Sox, losing both game one and game two of their twin bill. So even with the loss, Chicago gained a little distance and now leads the division by 11.5 games with a magic number of two. They could clinch as soon as Tuesday night.

American League West

As with the East, there is still some chance that Houston will not win the West, but it’s very unlikely. The Astros took care of business in a big way on Monday against the Angels, running away with a 10-0 romp for an easy win. Oakland, meanwhile, had a big showdown with the third-place Mariners, and Seattle jumped out to an early lead and was able to hold on for a close one-run victory. Houston now leads the division by seven games and has a magic number of six.

American League Wildcard

We know the Red Sox were off while Seattle won and both Oakland and Toronto lost. That just leaves the Yankees, who were coming off a disappointing weekend. They were able to right the ship in another close game, just barely holding on for a one-run win over the Rangers. With the dust settled, Boston still holds the top spot, leading the Blue Jays by 1.5 games. Meanwhile, New York trails Toronto by just a half-game while Oakland is two back and Seattle is three back.

National League East

The more compelling division races are on the National League side, and that includes the East where the Braves still held a relatively thin margin over the Phillies to start the day on Monday. They did their job last night, taking on one of the worst teams in the NL out in Arizona and running away with an easy win over the Diamondbacks. Philadelphia, on the other hand, did not get the job done. They were also taking on one of the league’s worst, them playing the Orioles in an interleague matchup. However, their offense was totally shut down by John Means and company in a shutout loss. Atlanta increased their lead to three games and their magic number sits at 11.

National League Central

Like most of the divisions in the American League, the NL Central was all but wrapped up, but St. Louis had a chance to maybe make things a little more interesting by taking on the first-place Brewers this week. They did the job in the first game, with old friend Jon Lester picking up career win number 200 and the Cardinals getting their ninth in a row in a 5-2 win over Milwaukee. With the victory, the Brewers still lead by 10.5 games, and their magic number stays at three.

National League West

While both the Dodgers and Giants are already good as far as their postseason spot goes, the race for the division is still huge to avoid the Wildcard Game. However, both teams were off on Monday, so the race stayed static. The Giants lead L.A. by a game.

National League Wildcard

So, we know St. Louis won while the Phillies lost and the Dodgers were off. The Padres were also off on Monday, just leaving the Reds. Cincinnati did what they were supposed to on Monday, taking care of the Pirates behind a two-homer day from Joey Votto. With all of that, the Dodgers still hold the top spot by a whopping 15.5 games, while St. Louis sits tight in the second spot. The Reds stayed in their position three games behind the Cards while the Padres now sit four games back and the Phillies are 4.5 games out.