clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MLB Playoffs 2016: The Orioles improve their chances with series win in Detroit

New, 33 comments

Turns out if you win two out of three games against your closest wild card competitor, your playoff chances increase. Who would have guessed?

Jonathan Schoop is congratulated by Hyun Soo Kim after homering against the Tigers.
Jonathan Schoop is congratulated by Hyun Soo Kim after homering against the Tigers on Sunday.
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The Orioles picked a good weekend to have a good weekend. As series go, you don’t get much more important than a September series between the two teams closest to competing for the same playoff spot. Winning two out of three games against the Tigers really helps them.

What makes life even better for the Orioles is that the Blue Jays have stumbled down to the same level. Toronto, which had been either leading or within a game of the AL East lead every day since July 29, has fallen over the last few days to two games behind the Red Sox, and they’re now tied with the Orioles for the first and second wild card spots.

Tiebreaker rules being what they are, if there was a tie between those two teams for those two spots at season’s end, the head-to-head record would determine the home team for the Wild Card Game. The Orioles are presently 7-9 against the Jays, so unless they sweep the final Jays series, the Jays would come out with the edge there.

The door is open for the Orioles, though. If Toronto keeps sinking, maybe the Orioles can get a little breathing room by climbing ahead of them. Nor is the division out of the O’s reach yet either. They’re just two games behind the Red Sox, and guess who they’re playing for the next three games after this? Yes, the Red Sox. They have seven games remaining against Boston. There is opportunity in danger.

Heading into Sunday’s games, the Fangraphs standings predictions continue to believe that 88 wins will secure the second AL wild card spot. As things stand now, the Orioles are the team they believe will reach 88 wins.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • Wild Card Standing: Home wild card team; tied with Orioles, holds tiebreaker
  • Yesterday: Lost to Red Sox, 11-8
  • Next series: vs. Rays (60-82), three games
  • Current playoff chances: 73.6%
  • To reach 88 wins: 10-10

Baltimore Orioles

  • Wild Card Standing: Road wild card team; tied with Jays, don’t hold tiebreaker
  • Yesterday: Beat Tigers, 3-1
  • Next series: at Red Sox (80-62), three games
  • Current playoff chances: 54.4% (up from 46.1 before Friday’s games)
  • To reach 88 wins: 10-10

Detroit Tigers

  • Wild Card Standing: Two games behind Orioles/Jays
  • Yesterday: Lost to Orioles, 3-1
  • Next series: vs. Twins (53-90), four games
  • Current playoff chances: 35% (down from 45.9)
  • To reach 88 wins: 12-8

New York Yankees

  • Wild Card Standing: Two games behind Orioles/Jays
  • Yesterday: Lost to Rays, 4-2
  • Next series: vs. Dodgers (80-62), three games
  • Current playoff chances: 13.4% (up from 8.5)
  • To reach 88 wins: 12-8

Houston Astros

  • Wild Card Standing: 3.5 games behind Orioles/Jays:
  • Yesterday: Lost to Cubs, 9-5
  • Next series: vs. Rangers (85-59), three games
  • Current playoff chances: 15.8% (down from 22.4)
  • To reach 88 wins: 13-6

Seattle Mariners

  • Wild Card Standing: 3.5 games behind Orioles/Jays
  • Yesterday: Beat Athletics, 3-2
  • Next series: at Angels (63-79), three games
  • Current playoff chances: 11.8%
  • To reach 88 wins: 13-6

I promised I would restore the Mariners to this list if they swept their weekend series, and well, that’s exactly what I did. The Mariners have now won five in a row. They and the Astros both have their work cut out for them, 3.5 games to make up and three teams to pass with 20 games to play, but they’re still in the thing. The Royals, at four games out, now have just a 3.5% postseason chance.

I’m still not convinced that 88 wins will get that second wild card. It’s not THAT much to think that the Tigers or Yankees might finish the season 13-7 instead of just 12-8, after all. Then again, the Orioles themselves might make sure that it takes more than 88 wins for the second wild card. They could - and really ought to - finish stronger than 10-10 to do it for themselves.

What’s good for the Orioles is that they survived one of their tough series against a contending team. Another good thing for the Orioles is that they have more home games (11) remaining than road games (9). Still, they’ve got to play 13 of their final 20 against contenders, including all of their remaining road games.

Will those first wild card spot hopes survive for long? Maybe not. The Jays get to play the cupcake Rays for the next three games, while the O’s are saddled with a trip to that most wretched hive of scum and villainy, Fenway Park.

If the Orioles can somehow escape Boston with a series victory - an unlikely prospect, but then, who among us believed they’d do the same in Detroit? - their postseason chances will be in a very good place.

If the Orioles lose the series against the Red Sox, or worse, get swept, we’ll be right back to the drawing board trying to figure out who has to win or lose what to get the Orioles into the dance.