While we are understandably focused on the Cubs and their quest for a second straight N.L. Central (and World Series) title, there’s a playoff race going on in the American League that, with three and a half weeks remaining, could cause chaos.
Here’s how the teams line up behind the Yankees as of Wednesday morning:
That’s right, seven teams are within three games of the second wild-card spot and they have anywhere from 22 (Rays) to 25 (Rangers) games remaining. Further, you’ll note there are two teams with losing records in that race, and at that deficit they are indeed legitimately in contention. It’s entirely possible that the A.L. second wild card will be a .500 team.
Here’s what all seven of those clubs have remaining on their schedules, including Wednesday’s action, which is going on right now — the Rangers and Braves are playing a split doubleheader today because they were rained out of their interleague matchup on Tuesday.
I’m using boldface here not to indicate home/road, but instead to note where each of the seven contenders for the second wild-card spot play each other (and note, five of these teams also have games left vs. the Yankees).
Angels (23 remaining, nine vs. other contenders)
at Athletics (1), at Mariners (3), Astros (3), Rangers (3), Indians (3), at Astros (3), at White Sox (4), Mariners (3)
Twins (24 remaining, five vs. other contenders)
at Rays (1), at Royals (4), Padres (2), Blue Jays (4), at Yankees (3), at Tigers (4), at Indians (3), Tigers (4)
Orioles (23 remaining, seven vs. other contenders)
Yankees (1), at Indians (3), at Blue Jays (3), at Yankees (4), Red Sox (3), Rays (4), Pirates (2), at Rays (3)
Rangers (25 remaining, 10 vs. other contenders)
at Braves (2), Yankees (3), Mariners (4), at Angels (3), at Mariners (3), at Athletics (3), Astros (3), Athletics (4)
Rays (22 remaining, eight vs. other contenders)
Twins (1), at Red Sox (3), Yankees (3), Red Sox (3), Cubs (2), at Orioles (4), at Yankees (3), Orioles (3)
Royals (25 remaining, four vs. other contenders)
at Tigers (1), Twins (4), White Sox (3), at Indians (4), at Blue Jays (3), at White Sox (3), at Yankees (1), Tigers (3), Diamondbacks (3)
Mariners (23 remaining, 13 vs. other contenders)
Astros (1), Angels (3), at Rangers (4), at Astros (3), Rangers (3), Indians (3), at Athletics (3), at Angels (3)
Yikes, what a mess. On the face of it, the Royals have the easiest road, with 12 games agains the awful White Sox, Blue Jays and Tigers, but have only four games against teams they’re competing against. The Mariners, last in this wacky race, have the best chance to make up games against teams ahead of them — 13 games’ worth.
There has never been a tie for a MLB postseason spot involving more than two teams. It would seem as if this group might produce one — and as noted above, five of these clubs also have games against the Yankees, which could potentially pull them back into the pack.
This will be fun to watch, and if more than two teams tie for one or both of the spots it might mess up the rest of the postseason schedule. Good times.