The races for the AL West title and second AL wild card are still unsettled with two games left, as the Rangers, Astros, Angels and Twins are all jockeying for position. Only Texas has clinched a playoff berth of that group.
The possibilities for chaos in piecing together the postseason picture have been lessened since my last Team Entropy roundup, as on Thursday the Rangers clinched a postseason berth and the Yankees a wild-card spot. Meanwhile, Hurricane Joaquin has pushed its way into the action—or rather the inaction, since rain forced the postponement of Friday’s games involving both New York teams, important for determining home field advantage and thus requiring makeup doubleheaders to be scheduled for Saturday, when forecasts are soggy as well. Still in play are the AL West and one wild-card spot, and yes, we can still get Game 163 or even Game 164 play-ins. If you want to climb aboard the Team Entropy bandwagon and root for chaos, here’s the menu.
^ = Team has clinched playoff spot. Postseason Odds are from ClayDavenport.com and are as of Friday morning.
With Thursday night’s 5–3 win, the Rangers not only guaranteed themselves a playoff spot, they eliminated the Angels from the AL West race. On Friday, however, the Halos prevented the champagne from flowing with a 2–1 win, keeping themselves alive in the wild-card hunt in the process, and the Astros gained a game on the Rangers by steamrolling the Diamondbacks 21-5. Still, there’s only one combination that results in a tie here, with both teams at 87 wins: The Rangers would have to lose their two remaining games to the Angels in Arlington, while the Astros win their remaining pair against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. The tiebreaker would be played in Arlington thanks to the Rangers’ 13–6 record in the season series, with the winner claiming the No. 3 playoff seed and the loser still claiming a wild-card berth.
AL wild card
With their clinching win over the Red Sox on Thursday, the Yankees avoided the possibility of getting entangled in a multi-team tie at 86 wins, but they still have work to do to claim home field advantage in the wild-card game. If New York remains stuck on 87 wins by failing to win one more of its remaining three at home against the Orioles, it could potentially wind up traveling to either Houston (which owns a 4–3 advantage in the season series) or Arlington (the Rangers went 5–2 against the Yankees) in the event the AL West teams tie at 87 wins and then play off, as noted above.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Twins’ Cinderella story received a cruel blow on Friday night when the Royals’ Ben Zobrist bashed Glen Perkins’s first pitch for a tiebreaking RBI double en route to a 3–1 KC win. One more loss to the Royals or one more Astros win will eliminate Minnesota.
Still, the dream of a three-team pile-up at 85 wins is a possibility if Houston loses its remaining two games, the Angels split theirs and the Twins win both of theirs. In the unlikely event of that trifecta, tiebreaking protocol hinges on combined winning percentage against the other two teams. The Angels are 5–2 against the Twins but 9–10 against the Astros for a combined 14–12 record and a .538 winning percentage. The Astros are 10–9 against the Angels and 3–3 against the Twins for a combined 13–12 record and a .520 winning percentage, while the Twins are a combined 5–8 against the other two for a .385 winning percentage. The Angels would get their choice of 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 hosting Club C to determine the wild card representative. Via ESPN’s Jayson Stark, it appears MLB and the teams have already hashed this out: The Astros and Twins would face off in Houston, with the Angels—who chose the shortest route—going on the road to play the winner.
Even if there can be no Twins-Angels tie that excludes the Astros, that still leaves a pair of possible ties. Based on the records above, Astros-Angels would be in Houston, while Astros-Twins would be in Minnesota based upon the two teams’ intradivisional winning percentages; the Twins are 40–34 against the AL Central, for a .540 mark with two games to play, and thus can’t fall below the Astros, who are 38–38 against the AL West for a .500 mark.
Home field advantage/seeding
At this writing, the Blue Jays (who have two more games in Tampa Bay) and Royals (who have two in Minnesota) have identical 93–67 records.
If they remain tied, the Blue Jays own a 4–3 advantage in the season series and would thus face the wild-card game winner, with the Royals facing the AL West winner.
Over in the NL, the Cardinals have clinched the No. 1 seed and will face the wild card winner, while in the race for the second seed, the Dodgers (90–70) now have a half-game lead, as they beat the Padres on Friday while the Mets (89–70) kept their powder dry for the start of their three-game set at home against the Nationals; they’ll hope to play two on Saturday. Los Angeles has to maintain its lead if it wants home field advantage, as the Mets own the tiebreaker via a 4–3 season series advantage.
Regarding the wild-card game, the Pirates (97–63) have a two-game lead over the Cubs (95–65) and thus a magic number of one to clinch home field advantage. They host the Reds for two more, while the Cubs play two in Milwaukee. In the event that the two teams wind up tied, the Cubs own an 11–8 series advantage and the game would be at Wrigley Field instead of PNC Park.
The bad news is that there are only so many combinations remaining that can produce tiebreakers. The good news is that every game this weekend is free via MLB.tv.