We're down to the nub of the regular season, with four days left and every team starting their final series either Thursday or Friday. Since Monday, the Dodgers, Cardinals and Blue Jays have officially clinched their divisions, leaving only home field advantage battles on the table in the National League. But in in the AL, the West and both wild-card spots remain in play, with the possibility of tiebreakers and Game 163—even 164—play-ins. If you're ready to embrace the chaos and root for Team Entropy, here's what you need to know beyond how to fire up the multi-screen options on MLB.tv.
Given the Rangers' three-game lead over the Angels as their four-game series kicks off in Arlington on Thursday night, there's no way that the two teams can wind up tied, which means there will be no three-way tie atop the division—yes, we’re crushed at Entropy Central. The three-way tie is off the table because a 3–1 series win for the Angels would leave them at 86 wins, with the Rangers at 87; a four-game sweep would give the Halos 87 and the Rangers 86. Meanwhile, the Astros, who play the Diamondbacks in Arizona for their final three games, can't wind up with more than 87 wins; they're out of the division race with any combination of two losses and Texas wins.
If the Astros and Angels both sweep and end up tied at 87 wins, the tiebreaker game would be in Houston thanks to the Astros' 10–9 season series advantage. If the Astros sweep and the Rangers win one to wind up tied at 87 wins (leaving the Angels at 86), the tiebreaker would be in Arlington thanks to the Rangers' 13–6 record in the season series. If the Astros and Angels only get to 86 wins, that will mean that the Rangers have gotten to 87.
AL wild card
With three straight losses to the Red Sox—at home, no less—the Yankees have unlocked what once appeared to be a lock. Not only does their champagne remain on ice, but they could also still wind up frozen out if:
1) They fail to notch another win in their four remaining games (one at home against Boston and then three in Baltimore) and have to play a tiebreaker with a team; and
2) Two or even three teams from among the other four wind up with 86 wins: the Rangers (who would have to go 0–4), Angels (3–1, with no tie possible with the Rangers), Astros (2–1) and Twins (4–0, with one more game in Cleveland and then three hosting Kansas City).
In that case—which would be the longest of longshots still available, given the BP odds of New York making the postseason are at 99.7%—we'd have to break out the ABCs or even ABCDs of tiebreaker scenarios, which would start to be untangled by head-to-head records among the tied teams. Put a pin in this, because all of the combinations are within. The Yankees are 5–1 against the Twins, 4–2 against the Angels, 3–4 against the Astros and 2–5 against the Rangers. As noted before, the Astros are 10–9 against the Angels, 6–13 against the Rangers and 3–3 against the Twins. The Rangers are 5–10 against the Angels (with four to play) and 3–3 against the Twins, while the Angels are 5–2 against the Twins.
The tied teams involved in this scrum would then be ranked in order of combined winning percentage against the other two. If it's the Yankees (0–4 the rest of the way), Astros (2–1) and Twins (4–0), for example, the Yankees would be 8–5 against the other two for a .615 mark, the Astros 7–6 for a .538 mark and the Twins 4–8 for a .333 mark. The Yankees would get their choice of being Club A, B or C in the following scenario, with the Astros picking next and the Twins taking what's left: Club A would host Club B, with the winner taking one wild-card spot; Club C would then host the loser of the game between Club A and Club B to determine the second spot.
Need one more to see how this works? Happy to oblige. If it's the Yankees (0–4), Angels (3–1) and Astros (2–1), the pecking order would require an additional layer since the Astros (14–12, .538) and Yankees (7–6, .538) would have the same winning percentage, with the Angels (11–14, .440) bringing up the rear. The next tiebreaker would be the higher winning percentage in intradivision games; the Astros are 38–38 (.500) in the West, while the Yankees are 37–35 in the AL East with four to play but would sink below .500 because they'd have to lose all four to wind up in this particular bramble. Thus, the Astros would choose A, B or C, then the Yankees would choose, and the Angels would be stuck with the hand they're dealt.
To get into ABCD territory would mean that the four clubs would be tied for two wild-card spots, because somebody will have removed themselves from the fray by winning the West. A would host B for one spot, and C would host D for the other, with home field advantage in the Wild-Card Game determined by the head-to-head records noted above. In the case of those 3–3 split combinations (Rangers-Twins and Astros-Twins), the next tiebreaker would be the higher winning percentage in intradivision games. The Twins are 39–33 (.542) with four intradivision games still to play (one in Cleveland and then three hosting Kansas City), which means they're guaranteed to have the draw on both the Astros (38–38, 500) and Rangers (34–38, .472 with four to play).
If the Yankees get to 88 wins by going 2–2 the rest of the way, they will have assured themselves home field advantage in the Wild-Card Game regardless of where the other chips fall. If the Yankees only get to 87 wins by going 1–3 the rest of the way, there's no way the Twins can tie them, and while either an Angels-Astros or Rangers-Astros combination can get to 87, it would mean those two teams would be playing off for an AL West/wild card designation, with home field in the Wild-Card Game to be decided by the loser's head-to-head record with the Yankees. That means that the Houston-at-New York scenario that Yankees fans have been expecting since their team lost out to the Blue Jays for the division last week would become a New York-at-Houston scenario, or even a New York-at-Texas scenario if it's the Rangers involved, though it would be Anaheim-at-New York if that's the combo.
Home field advantage/seeding
At this writing, the Blue Jays have a one-win advantage over the Royals and own the 4–3 advantage in the season series in the event the two teams wind up tied. Both teams have four games remaining; the Jays have one more in Baltimore and then three in Tampa Bay, while the Royals have one in Chicago and three in Minnesota. If the current pecking order is preserved, that would mean the Blue Jays face the Wild-Card Game winner, with the Royals hosting the AL West winner.
Over in the NL, the Cardinals have clinched the No. 1 seed and will face the Wild-Card Game winner, while in the race for second seed, the Mets have a one-win advantage over the Dodgers and own the 4–3 season series tiebreaker. The Mets have one more game in Philadelphia and then three hosting Washington, while the Dodgers have one more in San Francisco and then three hosting San Diego.
With regards to the NL Wild-Card Game, the Pirates have a 2 1/2-game lead over the Cubs and thus a magic number of two to clinch home field advantage. They host the Reds for a three-game series starting Friday, while the Cubs play one more in Cincinnati and then three in Milwaukee. In the event that the two teams wind up tied—0–3 from Pittsburgh, 3–1 from Chicago, or 1–2 and 4–0—the Cubs own an 11–8 series advantage and the game would be at Wrigley Field instead of PNC Park.
Got it? I’ll be back this weekend if there’s still another chapter to write in this saga.