It’s the last day of baseball’s regular season, and all division titles have been clinched for the better part of a week now, but the wild cards leave plenty of meaningful matchups today. Three spots are open, with some home-field advantage up for grabs in the American League, so six of today’s 15 games have postseason implications on the line. And they’re all happening at the same time: 3 p.m. Eastern. Potential chaos!
The New York Mets clinched one of the National League wild cards yesterday, which leaves the second one free for either the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals. Both have seemingly done their best to lose out on the spot, the former with the complete implosion of their bullpen, and the latter with an up-and-down September, but the Giants sit one game ahead right now, meaning they’ve at least secured a spot in a potential tiebreaker game. If San Francisco beats the Los Angeles Dodgers today, the wild card is theirs. If they lose, the Cardinals can force a tiebreaker by beating the Pirates.
That scenario pales in comparison to the gaping chasm of uncertainty that is the AL’s wild card race. The weekend began with four teams within one game of a playoff spot, but the Seattle Mariners knocked themselves out of contention with a loss last night—which is probably a good thing, as the rules for a potential four-way tie are incredibly convoluted and weird. There’s still the possibility of a three-way tie, however, which offers delightful turmoil.
The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays are now tied for the wild card, with the Detroit Tigers a game and a half behind. This means that both the Orioles and Jays control their own fate, with a win for either guaranteeing a spot. For Baltimore, that means defeating the New York Yankees, who have nothing to play for at this point but were content to play spoiler yesterday with a come-from-behind win. Meanwhile, Toronto has an opponent with something on the line—the Red Sox are still fighting for home-field advantage in their upcoming division series against the Indians.
The Tigers will need to defeat the Atlanta Braves to have a part in this scenario. But if they do, and either Baltimore or Toronto loses, it can get very dramatic. Again, Detroit is a game and a half back, which shouldn’t be possible, because every team’s supposed to be playing their final game today, but the Tigers and Indians were rained out earlier this week. If Detroit wins and either Baltimore or Toronto loses, the Tigers will have to make up that game against the Indians on Monday—and then, if they win, play a tiebreaker game. If both Baltimore and Toronto lose, and Detroit wins both today and in the makeup game, then there’s a three-way tie, the rules of which are explained here. The gist of those rules is: more baseball.
Even if Detroit loses today, that rainout might still need to be made up, because Cleveland is fighting for home-field advantage over the Red Sox. The Tigers could lose, be eliminated, and still find themselves forced to play one last game on the eve of the playoffs.
We probably won’t witness a replay of the 2011 season’s final day, but it could be pretty damn close.