We’re about 24 hours away from an event some of us view with hope and some of us greet with trepidation. Of course, I’m talking about the end of Major League Baseball’s regular season.
Even though we now know all the playoff participants save one, it’s still a complicated situation, given the addition of a one-game Wild Card Play-In initiated this year thanks to the creation of a second wild card team. So, as a service to the legion of Ricochet baseball fans out there, allow me to explain the various possibilities.
In the National League, the only question is whether the St. Louis Cardinals or the Los Angeles Dodgers will be the second wild card team. Heading into tonight’s action, the Cardinals lead the Dodgers by two games. If the Cardinals lose to Cincinnati tonight and tomorrow while the Dodgers take two from the Giants, the teams will be tied and there will be a one-game playoff on Thursday (in Los Angeles, due to the fact that the Dodgers have the edge in head-to-head competition), and the winner of that game will travel to Atlanta for the Wild Card Play-In game on Friday.
The American League situation is slightly more complex, but I’ll simplify. The Yankees lead the Orioles by one game and can clinch a division title tonight with a win against Boston coupled with a Baltimore loss at Tampa Bay. If, however, the Orioles win tonight while the Yankees lose, the teams will be tied, and it will all come down to what happens in those teams’ games tomorrow.
If the teams are tied at the end of play tomorrow night, there will be a one-game playoff on Thursday in Baltimore (determined by the second tie-breaker consideration—records within the division—since the teams split their regular season series) to determine who will win the division and who will be the wild card team. The wild card winner will play either the Oakland Athletics or Texas Rangers in one game on Friday, with the home park determined by which of the two teams has the better record. If they have the same record, head-to-head competition will determine the home field.
Meantime, Oakland trails Texas by one game, and the two teams play each other tonight and tomorrow; however, a tie between the two is impossible. If the Rangers win tonight, they clinch the division, and if they lose, the winner of tomorrow’s contest will win the division while the loser plays the other wild card team on Friday. Then, over the weekend, the team with the best record in each league will play the wild card winner in a five-game divisional series, with the remaining two division winners squaring off against each other.
Happily, the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals clinched division titles yesterday, while the Oakland A’s clinched a playoff berth, and the White Sox, Angels and Rays were eliminated. Otherwise, the playoff scenarios could have gotten a bit complicated.
Or you could just watch the debate.