Braves can become next to clinch postseason berth

By John Schlegel / 9/20/2013 11:56 A.M. ET

When the Pulse of the Postseason picks up again Friday, two teams -- the Dodgers and Red Sox -- have secured their spots in the tournament, and the Braves are the next team in line to possibly earn the right to play in October.
There is a showdown between division foes and a pair of Wild Card tussles on the slate as well, so there's plenty more September stretch-run fun in store.
Atlanta will open a weekend series at Wrigley Field against the Cubs needing just one more victory to clinch a tie for the NL East title, hoping to join the Dodgers and Red Sox, who clinched postseason spots Thursday. The Red Sox can clinch the AL East title with a win over the Blue Jays tonight.
A Braves win Friday combined with a Nationals loss to the Marlins later in the day would clinch the division outright for the Braves. The Cardinals also could clinch at least a tie for a spot if they win at Milwaukee and the red-hot Nationals lose.
Then again, the Nationals also happen to be the hottest of the contending teams, having won 11 of their past 13 games, and they have ace Jordan Zimmermann going for his 19th win of the season against the Marlins.
"It feels good, but then again, I'll trade all those wins in for a spot in the playoffs," Zimmermann said.
Detroit's Max Scherzer will be making a fifth attempt for his 20th win, and the Tigers have an AL Central title in their sights this weekend, taking a magic number of four over the Indians into their opener against the White Sox.
The A's are just as close to a second straight AL West title and continue their series against the Twins with a postseason spot in their grasp during their final home series of the season.
And then there are the races that aren't that close to a conclusion, and there will be a trio of weekend matchups that will make a difference.
The NL Central showdown at PNC Park between the host Pirates and the Reds -- Nos. 1 and 2 in the NL Wild Card race -- will feature a marquee pitching matchup, with Bucs lefty Francisco Liriano meeting right-hander Mat Latos. Pittsburgh is ahead by a game heading into what will be the first of six meetings in the last nine games between the two Central clubs.
And it'll be a pair of AL Wild Card showdowns, one in Tampa Bay and one in Kansas City. The Orioles enter their series against the Rays three games behind the shared lead for the two postseason spots, and the Royals take on the Rangers with a gap of three games separating them from their first postseason appearance since 1985.
"This is definitely what they wanted when they threw in another Wild Card," Orioles slugger Chris Davis said. "But we just have to go out there every day and focus on the nine innings in front of us."
The Indians again will have the potential to jump into the Wild Card spot as they host the Astros again, and the Yankees will try to stay in the hunt as they start up with the last team standing in 2012, the Giants.