While we have been concentrating on the Cubs’ rise to the top of the N.L. Central since the All-Star break and their possible postseason matchups, the American League wild-card race has gotten a bit crazy.
The A.L. division title races don’t seem to be that hotly-contested. As of Thursday morning, the Astros still control the A.L. West by 12½ games, and the other division leaders (Indians, Red Sox) have somewhat comfortable 4½-game leads.
But the A.L. wild-card race? Ah, now there’s some fun.
The Yankees, who trail Boston by that 4½-game margin for the A.L. East lead, are in the first wild-card spot by 3½ games.
The second spot is currently held by the Minnesota Twins. That’s a bit of a surprise, as the Twins lost 103 games in 2016 and weren’t expected to contend this year. As recently as August 1 they were four games under .500. But a 15-7 run since then has put them in postseason position...
... for today, anyway.
The Royals and Angels are half a game behind the Twins, and the Mariners are one game back. The Rangers, who were A.L. West champions a year ago, are two games behind the Twins. Even the Orioles, at 3½ games back, are still in contention... despite being three games under .500.
So that’s six teams (including the Twins) within 3½ games of a playoff spot with anywhere from 34 to 37 games remaining.
Because there are so many teams left in this race, they all have games remaining against each other.
Twins: 7 vs. Royals
Royals: 7 vs. Twins
Angels: 6 vs. Rangers, 6 vs. Mariners
Mariners: 6 vs. Angels, 7 vs. Rangers, 3 vs. Orioles
Rangers: 7 vs. Mariners, 6 vs. Angels
Orioles: 3 vs. Mariners
Heck, throw the Rays (four games behind the Twins) and Blue Jays (five games behind) in there, too. The only A.L. teams really out of the postseason picture are the Tigers, White Sox and Athletics. Presumably, this will all sort itself out with five and a half weeks to go.
If it doesn’t, here are MLB’s tiebreaking procedures. They account for what to do if two, three or four teams tie for a postseason spot.
But what if more than four teams tie? There’s never even been a three-way tie for a postseason spot, but with this many teams this close, this could be the year it might happen.
Stay tuned. September American League baseball should be a lot of fun to watch.
Presuming the Yankees are the A.L.’s first wild card, who will be the second wild card?
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Another team not mentioned here (leave in comments)