Just last Friday, I wrote about the race for the second American League wild-card spot, asking if it could be the best major-league playoff race ever.
Of course, as soon as that happened, the Tampa Bay Rays started winning, defeating the Minnesota Twins in the first two games of their series, and it appeared the gap between the leaders and trailers in this race would widen. That became even more evident when the Kansas City Royals dropped two of three to the Detroit Tigers. The Royals aren't eliminated, but their road to a tie is much harder now.
Sunday's results, though, made everything much closer and the Texas Rangers have helped matters out by being swept by the Oakland Athletics. The Rangers, who have now lost six in a row, are tied with the Rays at 81-67. That makes a five-way tie still a distinct possibility even if the Royals drop out of the pack -- and a six-way tie at 88 wins, something that would force the entire postseason schedule to be revamped, still possible.
Here's how the six teams can still get to a tie at 88 wins.
Rangers, 81-67, 14 games remaining. 3 at Rays, 3 at Royals, 4 vs. Astros, 4 vs. Angels. To get to 88 wins: lose two of three to Rays, lose two of three to Royals, win three of four over Astros, split with Angels. (7-7 overall record)
Rays, 81-67, 14 games remaining. 3 vs. Rangers, 4 vs. Orioles, 3 at Yankees, 3 at Blue Jays. 88 wins come this way: win two of three over Rangers, split with Orioles, lose two of three to Yankees, win two of three over Blue Jays. (7-7 overall record)
Indians, 81-68, 13 games remaining. 3 at Royals, 4 vs. Astros, 2 vs. White Sox, 4 at Twins. Their 88-win formula: lose two of three at Kansas City, take three of four from Astros, split with White Sox, split at Minnesota. (7-6 overall record)
Orioles, 79-70, 13 games remaining. 3 at Red Sox, 4 at Rays, 3 vs. Red Sox, 3 vs. Blue Jays. Nine wins in 13 games is tough, but they can do it by taking two of three at Boston, splitting with the Rays, taking two of three at home against Boston, and sweeping the Blue Jays. (9-4 overall record)
Yankees, 79-71, 12 games remaining. 3 at Blue Jays, 3 vs. Giants, 3 vs. Rays, 3 at Astros. To get to 88 wins, it's a tougher road after their Sunday night loss to the Red Sox: win two of three from Blue Jays, win two of three from Giants, win two of three from Rays, sweep Astros. (9-3 overall record)
Royals, 78-71, 13 games remaining. 3 vs. Indians, 3 vs. Rangers, 3 at Mariners, 4 at White Sox. The path for the Royals is the most difficult -- they'll have to go 10-3 to get to 88 wins, but they can do it by taking two of three from the Indians, Rangers and Mariners, and then sweeping the White Sox.
A six-way tie. We've never had anything more than two teams tied for a postseason spot, and if this admittedly unlikely scenario comes to pass, there would be six teams tied for two playoff positions.
Even if this doesn't happen exactly this way, there's a very good chance that we could have the first multiple-team tie in the history of baseball. That'd be fun, even though it would create a logistical nightmare for major-league planners.
And then there are the Nationals, just 4½ games behind the Reds with 13 to go for the N.L.'s second wild card...