Baseball is going to get a heck of a final weekend of the regular season, with wild card races going down to the final series in both leagues. The Orioles and their fans might rather be above all of that drama rather than in the middle of it, but they are central figures. After Friday’s games, the O’s are in the driver’s seat thanks to their win over the Yankees, although they need to keep winning, preferably today.
There are a lot of possible permutations of how things can work out. One thing that is for sure is that the Orioles magic number to clinch any postseason spot at all is now just two. But it’s weird because they have a magic number of two over three separate teams - Blue Jays, Tigers, and Mariners - so, once again, the best thing they can do for themselves is win.
It all adds up for a mighty interesting final two games for the proponents of Team Entropy, who want to see maximum wild card tiebreaker chaos every year:
AL #TeamEntropy update:— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) October 1, 2016
4x tie 88 W: BAL 0-2, TOR 1-1 DET 2-1, SEA 3-0
3x 89: BAL 1-1, TOR 2-0, DET 3-0
3x 87: TOR 0-2, DET 1-2, SEA 2-1
That’s from before Friday’s win was final for the Mariners, so if they win out, or go 1-1 with other things breaking as seen above, the multi-way ties with maximum chaos could still be in play.
You don’t want to see the Orioles in this mess at all. Win one game and they at least avoid the four-way scenario. Win two games and they’re the home wild card team, nothing else needed. Then it would be up to the Blue Jays to worry about whether they hold on to be the road team, or whether the Tigers or Mariners sneak past them.
If you are big into the scoreboard watching while Orioles games are going on, Saturday will not be any good for you. All of the O’s wild card competition is set to play at least three hours after the Orioles game is scheduled to begin. The O’s first pitch is scheduled for 4:05 in New York, though who knows whether rain will affect that timing in any way.
Toronto and Detroit are both scheduled to get underway at 7:10. For the Jays, Cy Young contender and 20-game winner J.A. Happ faces off against former O’s farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez in Boston. Underperforming Tigers $110 million man Jordan Zimmermann faces off against Aaron Blair of Atlanta and his 8.02 ERA.
So, don’t count on much help from the Braves, no matter how well they’ve played in September to date. Maybe don’t count on any help from the Red Sox, either, because who knows how hard they’ll be trying just to secure home field advantage for an ALDS matchup against the Indians.
Also, out in Seattle, there will be a 9:10 game against the Athletics, with Hisashi Iwakuma starting for the Mariners and Jharel Cotton pitching for the A’s. The Athletics have lost nine of their last ten games.
If the weather goes a certain way, those teams could either begin their games knowing they have no chance to catch the Orioles today, or they could sense blood in the water and begin believing that they can pass the O’s if they win.
So they need to win. They need to get another good game from Wade Miley, akin to the performance he pulled against the Diamondbacks last time around, and they need to make Yankees emergency starter Luis Severino - filling in for ace Masahiro Tanaka - look like a guy with a 5.75 ERA. Yeah, that’s all.
It’s great that the Orioles won on Friday night. They now have 88 wins, which makes this their fifth-best regular season in the 32 years of my life. That’s nice, but since they’ve played 160 games well enough to be the home wild card team, it’d be even nicer if they could play another two games well enough to do the same - or at least make the postseason at all. Just win, baby.