Mets clinch top NL wild-card spot, Blue Jays regain control of first AL wild card
- With just one left in the regular season, there is a ton of uncertainty surrounding MLB playoff races, including the NL and AL wild-card participants. SI runs down all the important Game 161 results.
Only one day is left in the 2016 season, but there are still postseason spots and seedings up for grabs. Although all six division winners have been crowned, the wild cards remain a tight race in the American and National League, and home field advantage in one of the Division Series has yet to be determined.
With Saturday’s results in the books, one wild card has been locked up: the Mets, who clinched the NL’s No. 1 spot with a win over the Phillies. They will face either the Giants or Cardinals at Citi Field on Wednesday night. Things are far less settled in the AL, however, where three teams remain mathematically alive going into the final day. Here’s a quick rundown of all of Saturday’s action and how it affected the playoff chases, plus a quick look at everything still up for grabs on Sunday.
AL wild card
• The Blue Jays can clinch the first wild card with either a win over the Red Sox or an Orioles loss to the Yankees and, regardless of results, will finish with no worse than a share of the second wild card;
• The Orioles can clinch sole possession of a wild-card spot with either a win over the Yankees or a Tigers loss to the Braves. They would take the first wild card with a win and a Toronto loss. Like the Jays, they are guaranteed no worse than a share of the second wild card no matter what happens;
• The Tigers need either a win and a Baltimore loss or a win and a Toronto loss to stay alive. In either scenario, the Tigers would then have to win their Monday rainout makeup against Cleveland to force a Game 163 tiebreaker;
• A three-way tie for the wild card is possible if both Baltimore and Toronto lose and Detroit wins both its Sunday game and its Monday makeup. For the tiebreaker scenario in that case, go here.
ALDS home field advantage
• The Indians can clinch home field advantage in their ALDS matchup against the Red Sox with a win and a Boston loss.
NL wild card
• The Giants can clinch the second wild card with either a win over the Dodgers or a Cardinals loss to the Pirates;
• The Cardinals can force a Game 163 tiebreaker with the Giants with a win and a San Francisco loss.
Athletics 9, Mariners 8 (10): Seattle eliminated from wild-card contention
They gave it their all over the final week of the season and rallied multiple times on Saturday night, but in the end, the Mariners simply couldn’t hang on, falling to Oakland in extra innings to knock them out of the playoff race. Seattle had won three straight and five of its last six to stay within striking distance of the second wild card, but the loss to the A’s combined with the Jays’ win over the Red Sox sealed the Mariners’ fate. Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz both homered in the defeat, and Seattle got the winning run into scoring position with no one out in the bottom of the 10th on a single by Ben Gamel, but Cano, Cruz and Kyle Seager were unable to drive him in to save the season.
Blue Jays 4, Red Sox 3: Jays take over first wild card
The AL wild card is now a total mess. With Toronto rallying for a run in the ninth in Boston, the Jays and Orioles are now tied atop the wild-card standings with 88 wins each and one game to go, though Toronto is officially the No. 1 wild card because it owns the head-to-head record tiebreaker against the O’s. The Jays’ win also guarantees them a postseason spot in one form or another, as they can finish with no worse than a share of the second wild card.
As for the Red Sox, Saturday’s loss drops them half a game behind Cleveland for home field advantage in their ALDS matchup. But because the Indians still have two games left on their schedule—their series finale against the Royals on Sunday and a potential rainout makeup on Monday against Detroit—that setup is far from secure.
Braves 5, Tigers 3: Detroit’s wild-card hopes take big hit
With just one guaranteed game left in their season, the Tigers are going to need some help to get into the playoffs after falling 5–3 in Atlanta. Detroit’s loss leaves the team at 86–74, 1 ½ games behind the Orioles for the second wild-card spot. The Tigers’ season will come to an end with either a loss on Sunday or a win by Baltimore over the Yankees. Even if the Tigers win and the O’s fall, Detroit would still need another victory on Monday in its rainout makeup against Cleveland to force a Game 163 tiebreaker.
Yankees 7, Orioles 3: Orioles miss chance to lock up wild-card spot
Four New York runs in the eighth inning broke a 3–3 tie to keep the champagne on ice for Baltimore, and Toronto’s win over Boston knocked the Orioles into the second wild-card spot. Nonetheless, the O’s clinched at least a share of a playoff berth with the Tigers’ loss to Atlanta. If Baltimore wins on Sunday or if the Tigers lose to the Braves, that will sew up sole possession of a wild-card spot for the Orioles. A Baltimore loss coupled with a Detroit win, however, puts the O’s at risk of a Game 163 tiebreaker if the Tigers win their Monday rainout makeup against Cleveland. Baltimore can also still win the first wild card if it wins and Toronto loses on Sunday.
Giants 3, Dodgers 0: Giants keep hold on second wild-card spot
Thanks to the best start of Ty Blach’s life, the Giants will head into Sunday needing only a win or a Cardinals loss to ensure a trip to New York to face the Mets in the wild-card game. The rookie lefty threw eight shutout innings in just his second career start to outduel Clayton Kershaw and stymie the NL West champions in a huge win for San Francisco, which needed a victory to keep sole possession of the second wild card by one game after St. Louis beat Pittsburgh earlier today.
The Giants have now clinched at least a share of the second wild card: A loss on Sunday coupled with a Cardinals win would result in a Game 163 tiebreaker on Monday to determine who would face the Mets in the wild-card game. But should San Francisco win or St. Louis lose tomorrow, the Giants will lock up a postseason berth as they try to prove that Even Year Magic is still a potent force.
As for the Dodgers, the loss means that the Nationals will have home field advantage in their NLDS matchup, which will begin on Friday in Washington.
Mets 5, Phillies 3: Mets clinch NL wild-card berth
It’s official: The NL wild-card game will be in New York. With Saturday’s win over the Phillies, the Mets have locked up a postseason spot by clinching the No. 1 wild card. A two-run homer from James Loney was the difference, breaking a 2–2 tie in the sixth. Now, as New York celebrates its second straight postseason berth, the team will wait to see which of St. Louis or San Francisco will be making the trip to Queens on Oct. 5 to determine who will face the Cubs in the NLDS.
Regardless of who advances as the second wild card, the Mets already have their starter set for Wednesday: Noah Syndergaard, the last man standing from a rotation that has been picked apart by injury over the course of the season. Syndergaard was scheduled to start Sunday’s season finale, but manager Terry Collins told reporters after Saturday’s win that his ace righty was unlikely to take the mound, as it would force him to pitch in the wild-card game on three days’ rest. Instead, the plan is to have him throw a bullpen session to keep him fresh and ready.
Cardinals 4, Pirates 3: St. Louis stays alive
The Cardinals will take their season down to the wire thanks after a come-from-behind win over Pittsburgh keeps them mathematically alive in the wild-card hunt. Facing elimination with a loss, St. Louis rallied from a 3–0 deficit in the sixth, plating three runs in that frame, then jumped ahead for good on a Jedd Gyorko home run in the eighth. With the 4–3 win, the Cardinals now have 86 victories on the season; but San Francisco’s win over Los Angeles leaves St. Louis one game out of the second wild card. The Cardinals will need to top the Pirates on Sunday and hope the Dodgers can take out the Giants to force a Game 163 tiebreaker on Monday to determine who wins the second wild card.