With just six days left in the MLB regular season, the AL wild card race is tighter than Batman’s tights. Five teams, all within four-and-a-half games. These are the types of races dreams are made of. We’ve even got a few series between the teams involved. It’s all lining up perfectly, just as Major League Baseball designed it! To make matters even nuttier, if all the cards fall accordingly, we could see a five-team tie for the two wild-card spots. Here’s how that could happen.
The New York Yankees need to go 1-5 in their last six games. They get the AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays and a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays to end the season. The Rays are very close to clinching home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Their magic number to secure the AL’s top seed is just one, meaning they need one win or one Astros loss the rest of the season for the No. 1 seed. Therefore, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where the Yankees get swept by Tampa Bay. There’s a popular phrase in baseball called the “just-clinched lineup.” That’s a lineup where the everyday starters all get days off because their team just clinched a division or postseason berth the day prior. If Tampa Bay no longer has anything to play for going into their final series of the season, they’ll likely rest their starters for the postseason, giving the Yankees a great chance to secure the top AL Wild Card spot.
If by some miracle the Yankees do get swept by Tampa, the door will swing open for the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Boston needs to go 2-4 for this to happen. They have the best opportunity to go 6-0 though, as their final opponents are the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, two teams with nothing to play for other than pride at this point. While baseball is one of the most fickle sports in existence, and taking two of three from any team is considered a win, with how much the Red Sox have to play for in the final week of the regular season, they’ll likely pull out all the stops in order to stomp the Nats and O’s into the ground.
For the five-team tie to work, the Blue Jays have the biggest role to play. They need to go 3-3, but more importantly, they need to take two of three from the New York Yankees. That’s the important part, and it actually seems very doable. The Blue Jays have gone 10-6 against the Bronx Bombers this season, and in three of their five series, the Blue Jays have taken two of three from the Yankees in three of them. The other two series saw the Blue Jays get swept at home (but not in Toronto), and a four-game sweep of the Yankees in New York. Toronto must then drop two of three in their final series of the season against the Baltimore Orioles... that’s going to be even tougher. The Orioles have only won one three-game series in the month of September (Sep. 3-5 @ NYY) and only two series since the start of August. They’ve been the worst team in baseball, and with how much Toronto has to play for, I doubt they’ll give Baltimore any room to breathe.
The other two teams involved are the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, who began their three-game series last night with the Mariners taking the first game by a final of 13-4. In order for the five-way tie to unfold, the Athletics need to win every game for the rest of the season. That’s tougher than it sounds. Every game left on the team’s schedule is on the road, and not only do they face the Mariners, to whom they’ve lost 10 straight, but also the Houston Astros, against whom they’ve gone 7-9 this season. Oakland has a tough road ahead, and the best they can hope for at this point is a tie and play-in game for a Wild Card berth.
The Mariners will have to drop their next two against the A’s, and then sweep the Angels in their final series. While the Mariners have dominated the Angels this season, going 10-6 against their SoCal rivals, the Mariners have never swept the Angels. They’ve taken two of three or split a four-game set every single time, so while sweeping a team with nothing to play for shouldn’t seem like a big hurdle, the Mariners haven’t been able to do it yet.
If absolutely everything I just listed comes to fruition, all five teams listed will finish with 90-72 records, and I would be able to die a happy man. However, the question still remains, what would MLB do if all five teams finished the regular season tied? This isn’t like the NFL where there are predetermined tiebreakers, such as head-to-head records, in place specifically to avoid these situations. There is a solid system in place for if three teams finish tied for the Wild Card spots, involving the team with the best record choosing one of three options to determine how the tiebreaker games unfold. It’s already more convoluted than the plot of Inception, but five teams?! That’s just absurd. MLB even has something in place for a four-team tie, but they could’ve never predicted a five-way tie. That’s so unlikely.
So, what will happen if all five teams tie for the two Wild Card spots? I couldn’t tell you. Not even Major League Baseball knows what they’d do, and that makes me want this five-way tie to happen even more, just to see MLB scramble to put together some semblance of a plan that totally didn’t get thrown together the night before and totally favors one or two teams. It would be legendary, and would probably push the postseason back by more than a few days, and hey, that just means more baseball, which is never a bad thing in my book.