By JOHN DORN
The September race in the National League Central is about as good as you'll find in pro sports -- and it's only getting better.
With the Cardinals three games in front of the Pirates entering play on Wednesday, Pittsburgh's bout with third-place Chicago -- the teams make up three of the top-four in the National League -- nearly had the importance of a postseason game.
Chicago trailed Pittsburgh by four games for the top National League Wild Card spot, and with Jake Arrieta on the mound seeking his 20th win, the pressure was on at PNC Park to keep pace. And they did.
Arrieta went through eight innings allowing just one earned run -- lowering his ERA to 1.96 -- but exited with the score tied at two runs a piece. That's how things would stay until the top of the 12th, some four hours after the game began, when two singles, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly put Chicago on top.
The Cubs, tied for the third-best record in the league, trailing only the two teams they chase in the Central, stand three behind Pittsburgh for the first Wild Card. The Pirates fall back to four games behind the Cardinals for the ever-important division title, which guarantees entry into the NLDS.
We're still far off, but a Cubs-Pirates one-game Wild Card matchup seems likely at this point. And if Wednesday night's game was an indicator of how that one would play out, then we'll be in for a doozy.
Cubs 3, Pirates 2
Around the League
WSH 12, PHI 2
The Nats definitely have some ground to make up, and they're working on it with little time remaining. They beat up on the worst team in the MLB once again, pummeling Philly by double-digits.
MIA 6, NYM 0
One bright side for the Mets: They don't have to play the Marlins until next year. The pesky spoilers that have burned them in years past did so again this week, taking two of three at Citi Field, cutting the Mets' division lead to 7.5 games.
NYY 3, TB 1
Able to salvage a series victory, the Yankees got Luis Severino his fourth win of the season, as Tampa ace Chris Archer fell to 12-12 on the season.
TOR 9, ATL 1
A win in Atlanta kept the Blue Jays three games ahead of the Yankees for first in the AL East. The scoring got underway quickly for Toronto -- as it often does -- with a pair of doubles in the first inning. After 3.2 innings, Shelby Miller was out of the game and on the hook for his 15th loss. His ERA now sits at 3.00.
TEX 14, HOU 3
Suddenly, the Rangers are one of the hottest teams in the league. With a convincing victory over the Astros again, Texas is now 1.5 games in front for the division lead, and Houston is now just 1.5 games in front of the Minnesota Twins for the last AL Wild Card spot.
DET 7, MIN 4
The Twins had the chance to move to within a half-game of the Astros in the Wild Card race, but didn't take advantage. It lasted 12 innings, but Minnesota broke first, allowing three runs in the top of the 12th to give Detroit a road win.
STL 5, MIL 4
Suddenly feeling the heat in the Central, the Cardinals did themselves a favor by beating the Brewers and moving back to four games over Pittsburgh. Tommy Pham and Matt Carpenter took care of the scoring for St. Louis, all with home runs.
LAD 2, COL 0
With the Giants far in the rear view mirror, the Dodgers now have NLDS home-field advantage to worry about. With a win and a Mets loss, they move back into the driver's seat, but just by a half-game.
CLE 5, KC 1
CWS 9, OAK 4
SD 4, ARI 3
SEA 3, LAA 1
SF 5, CIN 3
BOS 10, BAL 1
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