MLB Postseason Picture: Nobody flinched in the tight NL Central race

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.

Nobody flinched in the NL Central on Monday night. The most interesting division in baseball is at it again — with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers all in in the hunt for a division title.

All three teams won Monday night during a short slate of games. Three of the other division leaders had the night off, but two still managed to whittle down their magic numbers a bit. Two other teams were mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

Here’s where everything sits headed into Tuesday’s games, including a couple games to watch and who’s next on the chopping block.

Magic Number Countdown

YANKEES: The Yankees were off Monday, as was the team chasing them, the Rays. The magic number remains at three, meaning the earliest they could clinch is Wednesday.

BRAVES: The Braves also had a night off, but the Nationals lost, so Atlanta’s magic number is down to three.

ASTROS: The Astros didn’t play, but got some help from the Royals, who beat the second-place A’s. That sliced Houston’s magic number down to four.

TWINS: The Twins beat the White Sox on Monday night, peeling away one more on their magic number countdown. Now it’s at eight.

St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Harrison Bader (48) and left fielder Marcell Ozuna (23) and right fielder Dexter Fowler (25) celebrate after the Cardinals defeated the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium. (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Key Races

NL CENTRAL: The only division that’s truly up for grabs proved why that is. The first-place Cardinals beat the Nationals 4-2, the second-place Cubs beat the Reds 8-2 and the third-place Brewers beat the Padres 5-1. St. Louis maintains its two-game lead with the Cubs two games back and the Brewers three back.

NL WILD CARD: All those NL Central wins did mean a loss for the Nationals, keepers of the top NL wild card. This race is also closer now, with Washington’s lead just a half-game. The Cubs own the second spot with the Brewers one game behind. Further down the list, the Phillies and Mets are both five games back.

AL WILD CARD: With the Rays and Indians both off, the A’s were not able to pad their lead for the top spot. They blew a ninth-inning lead and lost 6-5 to the Royals. Oakland’s lead is now one game over the Rays for the top spot and 1.5 over the Indians.

Games to Watch

Angels at Yankees (6:35 p.m. ET) — Sure, the Yankees are close to clinching, but this is extra intriguing because Yankees ace Luis Severino is set to make his first start of the season. What he’ll be able to do is the Yankees’ big October question.

Phillies at Braves (7:20 p.m. ET) — The Phillies are hanging on by a thread in the NL wild-card race and the Braves are getting closer to clinching. How much fight do the Phillies have left?

Elimination Watch

• Say goodbye to the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres, both of whom were mathematically eliminated Monday night. Next up is the San Francisco Giants with an elimination number of three. The defending champion Boston Red Sox are next on the AL side with an elimination number of four.

• 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, Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates.

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Mike Oz is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @mikeoz

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