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The American League wild card race comes down to one potentially crazy last day

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And, there’s still a bit of drama left in the NL West race.

Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In all of baseball history, there has never been a tie for any MLB postseason spot between more than two teams.

Now, we come down to the final day of the 2021 season with not only a possibility of a two-team tie, but maybe even a three-way or four-way tie. Any of those scenarios would produce bonus baseball for all of us to watch Monday, which otherwise will be an off day before the postseason begins with the wild card games currently scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

I was going to try to go through all the various permutations of the four teams still alive in the American League wild card race so I could present it to you here. Thankfully, Andrew Flax saved me a tremendous amount of time by doing exactly that:

(“Tomorrow,” obviously, refers to today, October 3.)

There are 16 possible win/loss combinations for the four teams involved. Nine of the scenarios wind up in some sort of tie, so there’s slightly more than a 50 percent chance that we’ll have baseball Monday.

Seven of the combinations wind up with the Red Sox and Yankees playing the AL Wild Card Game, and apart from fans of those teams and ESPN executives, no one wants that, so I’ll be rooting for one of the other nine scenarios.

The four-team tie is the easiest to play off. There would simply be two games among the four teams. They’d be seeded A, B, C, D based on their combined records playing each other. A hosts B and C hosts D and the winners play Tuesday in the AL Wild Card Game.

A three-team tie, though, takes at least two days to play off. Here’s how it works:

Three-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot:

After Clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B. The winner of the game would then host Club C to determine the Wild Card Club.

Three-Club Tie for Two Wild Card Spots:

After Clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B. The winner of the game would be declared one Wild Card winner. Club C would then host the loser of the game between Club A and Club B to determine the second Wild Card Club.

So maximum chaos would be caused by a three-team tie, because that would throw off Rob Manfred’s precious postseason schedule. MLB hasn’t said, but most likely in that case, there would simply be two Wild Card Games on Wednesday, since the division series are scheduled to begin Thursday.

Here’s a MLB.com article that goes into more detail on all of this.

Here are the AL wild card contenders games and pitchers for Sunday:

Red Sox vs. Nationals at Washington: Chris Sale vs. Joan Adon (Adon is making his MLB debut)
Yankees vs. Rays at New York: Jameson Taillon vs. Michael Wacha (both former NL Central pitchers!)
Blue Jays vs. Orioles at Toronto: Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Bruce Zimmermann
Mariners vs. Angels at Seattle: Tyler Anderson (another former NL Central hurler) vs. Reid Detmers

There’s one more postseason spot that’s not quite sewn up yet. That’s the NL West title, where the Giants lead the Dodgers by one game, with one game remaining for both teams today. If the Giants win or the Dodgers lose Sunday, the Giants win the NL West and the Dodgers would host the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Game.

But if the Giants lose AND the Dodgers win — both must happen — the teams would tie for the NL West title with identical 106-56 records. If that comes to pass, there will be a divisional tiebreaker game in San Francisco Monday (the Giants won the season series 10 games to 9). The winner of that game would be the division champion and rest until the division series begin. The loser would host the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Game — and then the winner of that game would play the NL West champion in the division series.

The Giants host the Padres Sunday while the Dodgers host the Brewers. San Francisco lost to San Diego Saturday and L.A. beat Milwaukee. If those results happen again, we’ll get a divisional tiebreaker Monday.

NL West pitching matchups today:

Giants vs. Padres at San Francisco: Logan Webb vs. Reiss Knehr
Dodgers vs. Brewers at Los Angeles: Walker Buehler vs. Brett Anderson

And, a reminder, all games today begin in the 2 p.m. CT hour, within a few minutes of each other. Enjoy the afternoon!