The Orioles really needed to find a way to win two out of three games against the Blue Jays in their most recent series and that’s exactly what they did. This sets up a final weekend that’s fairly simple. If the Orioles win more games against the Yankees than the Jays win against the Red Sox, the Orioles will host the wild card game. If they don’t, Toronto will host it.
Actually, it’s not quite that simple just yet. Two other teams still lurk in the periphery of the race, hoping that if they win enough games and the Orioles or Jays lose enough games, that they can sneak their way back into the picture. Either the Tigers or Mariners are still in play for setting up some kind of weird tiebreaker scenario if the teams ahead of them stumble in one particular way.
Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe is the standard bearer for what he calls Team Entropy, which spends each September celebrating the unlikely possibility of maximum wild card chaos. A four-way tie is not out of the question:
AL #TeamEntropy update:— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) September 30, 2016
for tie at 88 wins: BAL & TOR 1-2, DET 3-1, SEA 4-0
87 wins: BAL & TOR 0-3, DET 2-2, SEA 3-1
NYY, HOU: RIP
There could also potentially be a three way tie at 89 wins, if both the Orioles and Jays go 2-1 while the Tigers win out. Oh, and here’s the kicker about that. The Tigers had a rainout on Thursday, which means that they will only play their 162nd game on Monday if necessary, so if things shake out this way, the O’s won’t even know their exact playoff fate until that game is over - a game that Detroit’s opponent, the Indians, would likely have zero interest in trying too hard to win.
The Fangraphs standings projections now think that it will take 89 wins for both wild card spots in the AL. The Orioles need to win two games to get there.
Toronto Blue Jays
- Standing: Home wild card team; holds tiebreaker over Orioles
- Last Game: Lost to Orioles, 4-0
- Next series: at Red Sox (92-67), three games
- Current playoff chances: 86.2% (down from 92.2 before Tuesday’s games)
- To reach 89 wins (WC1/2): 2-1
How much will the Red Sox be trying hard to win games when their playoff position is more or less locked in? They’re two games behind the Rangers for home field in a potential ALCS between those two teams, and half a game ahead of the Indians for home field in a potential ALDS between those two teams.
There’s also the Final Home Regular Season Series for the Vandal, David Ortiz, to consider. Painful as it is to say, O’s fans must root for the Red Sox for the next few days.
- Standing: Road wild card team; 1.5 games ahead of Tigers
- Last Game: Beat Blue Jays, 4-0
- Next series: at Yankees (83-76), three games
- Current playoff chances: 88.7% (up from 72.2)
- To reach 89 wins: 2-1
If the Orioles want to have any hope at all of hosting the wild card game, they’ve probably got to win two games and they will maybe need to get a sweep. Two of their final three games will be started by Yovani Gallardo and Wade Miley.
Wherever the Orioles end up in the postseason picture, or even if they end up outside of the postseason picture entirely, no one will be able to say that they didn’t earn their place. They have overcome a lot to get where they are right now.
- Standing: 1.5 games behind Orioles
- Last Game: MLB-gifted rain-shortened 6-3 win vs. Indians
- Next series: at Braves (66-92), three games
- Current playoff chances: 14.7% (down from 17.4)
- To reach 89 wins: 4-0
It’s not great to look down and see that the closest team chasing the Orioles gets to play what’s been one of the worst teams in baseball all year in its final series. The Braves are a bad baseball team. They have, however, had a nice run in September, going 16-9 for the month. Keep that up, Atlanta, so that the Orioles don’t have to wait around for someone else to play a Monday game. Thanks.
- Standing: Two games behind Orioles
- Last Game: Beat Athletics, 3-2
- Current series: vs. Athletics (67-92), three more games
- Current playoff chances: 10.4% (down from 16.8)
- To reach 89 wins: Can’t reach 89 wins
If both the Orioles and Blue Jays win two games, these guys are out of the picture. They need a sweep of the Athletics and then they need to hope that either the O’s or the Jays get swept or win only one game. It could happen. Baseball is weird. But you wouldn’t be feeling good if the Orioles were two games back with three to play, and for good reason.
The Orioles magic number to clinch any postseason spot is three. That is a combination of Orioles wins and Tigers losses. They have a prime opportunity to pass the Jays, if they can play well against the Yankees. Just win, baby.