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The crazy American League wild card race could get even crazier this weekend

Four teams. Two spots. Three games left... or maybe more!

Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

Friday, we enter the final three days of play in the 2021 MLB season with no wild card spots clinched in the American League and four teams still in contention for those spots.

Going into Friday’s action, the wild-card standings read this way:

Yankees 91-68
Mariners 89-70
Red Sox 89-70
Blue Jays 88-71

It’s really too bad that the Blue Jays lost to the Yankees Thursday; if Toronto had won that game, the four teams would have all been within one game of each other, with a distinct possibility of a four-way tie.

If you are interested in the maximum amount of chaos for MLB’s postseason schedule, though, you’ll be rooting for a three-way tie. Per MLB’s tiebreaker rules, a three-way tie would take at least two days to break:

If the Blue Jays, Yankees and Red Sox were all tied, with no other non-division winners in the AL ahead of them, the three teams would choose/receive A, B and C designations. Club A would host Club B. The winner of that game would be one Wild Card club, while the loser would then play Club C on the road to determine the other. The winners of the two games would face each other in the Wild Card Game.

This, of course, also applies if the Mariners are involved in any three-team tie. If all four teams wind up tied — and they could, at 91-71 — that’s a much simpler process. The teams would be seeded 1 through 4, two games would be played Monday, October 4, and the winners would play the AL Wild Card Game Tuesday, October 5 as scheduled.

Here are all the various permutations and how the four teams would rank in various tie scenarios this year.

Here are the schedules for the four teams over the weekend, all three-game series.

Yankees vs. Rays at New York
Red Sox vs. Nationals at Washington
Mariners vs. Angels at Seattle
Blue Jays vs. Orioles at Toronto

So of the four teams, three play at home, with the Red Sox the only one on the road. The Nationals, like the Cubs, sold off at the trading deadline and have the worst record in the NL since then — 18-39. (Yes, worse than the Cubs, who are 19-36 since the deadline.)

That would seem to favor Boston — but the Red Sox just lost two of three to the even worse Orioles in Baltimore, and Boston is just 40-38 away from Fenway Park and the Red Sox have lost five of their last six.

The Rays have clinched the AL East and home field throughout the AL playoffs and you’d think they might be resting some players. However, the Rays are 9-7 against the Yankees and have outscored them 82-44 in those 16 games and I’d think they would like nothing better than to help knock the mighty Yankees out of the postseason.

The Mariners have been on quite a run this September, going 18-8 and winning 10 of their last 11, including their last four in a row. They are 10-6 vs. the Angels this year, but the Angels gave them their only loss in that 11-game stretch, a 14-1 trouncing in Anaheim last Saturday.

The Blue Jays went on a 15-2 run from August 28 through September 13 to get into the wild-card mix, but since then are just 7-8. And, the only two losses in that 15-2 run were to Baltimore, who they host this weekend. On the other hand, the Jays are 11-5 against the O’s this year and Baltimore is 25-53 in road games.

A four-way tie would happen at 91-71 with these results:

Rays sweep Yankees
Red Sox take two of three from Nationals
Mariners take two of three from Angels
Blue Jays sweep Orioles

That’s a plausible scenario.

The chaos of a three-team tie would happen if the Yankees win at least one from the Rays, thus getting to 92 wins. It’s possible then for a three-team tie between the Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners at 92 wins if the latter two sweep their series. Or, the Red Sox, Mariners and Blue Jays could tie at 91 wins in the above scenario.

It’ll be fun to watch, that’s for sure.

Earlier this week, the SB Nation Reacts survey had asked readers how this race would wind up. Voting had 71 percent of fans saying the Red Sox would take one of the spots, 65 percent voted for the Yankees, 43 percent for the Blue Jays and 11 percent for the Mariners. Another 11 percent voted for the Athletics, who have now been eliminated.

So now I ask you: Who’s going to take the two AL wild-card spots? The TV networks are salivating over the possibility of a Yankees/Red Sox wild-card game. Personally, after a crazy weekend and tiebreaker games, I’d like it to wind up Blue Jays/Mariners (although, admittedly, that’s a long shot).


Once the 2021 regular season ends and any tiebreakers have been played, the AL Wild Card Game will be between the...

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Yankees and Red Sox
    (41 votes)
  • 12%
    Yankees and Blue Jays
    (17 votes)
  • 35%
    Yankees and Mariners
    (48 votes)
  • 5%
    Red Sox and Blue Jays
    (8 votes)
  • 3%
    Red Sox and Mariners
    (5 votes)
  • 13%
    Blue Jays and Mariners
    (18 votes)
137 votes total Vote Now