When your team’s bullpen has blown late leads a stunning 6h time in the last 19 games, it’s hard to think about anything else. Yet the reality is that yesterday’s loss left Oakland all of 2 games back of even the first wild-card when looking at the all-important loss column.
Your first instinct, when seeing that, is to ponder how if the A’s had just put half of those games in the win column. they would be sitting pretty in the Wild Card standings instead of looking up at three teams, and they would be just three games out of first place in the AL West. It is also true that if I just had some ham, I would have ham and eggs if I had some eggs.
With the regular season ending 3 weeks from today, here’s where we are in the loss column: BOS, NYY, TOR all at 63, SEA and OAK at 65. When I conceived of this article yesterday, matters were even closer with those five teams separated by just one game in the loss column. It made, and still potentially makes, for some interesting scenarios in 3 weeks.
Naturally your first thought goes to tie breakers — 3-way ties, 4-way ties, is it even possible we could see a 5-way tie for the first wild-card? But there are other scenarios that are more likely to play out with these five teams, in the last weekend of the regular season when it is perfectly likely that 3 or more teams, fighting for two spots, could be separated by just one game.
Here’s an example of how it could play out. Imagine that, say, the A’s and Red Sox are separated by one game, or tied, going into Sunday’s regular season finale fighting for the second wild-card spot. that means the two managers are going to be compelled to throw their best available starting pitcher just to try to avoid being eliminated on the season’s final day.
Let’s say that the result of Sunday’s game is that the two teams end the regular season with identical records. No no, we are not at the wildcard game yet. Monday is reserved not for a playoff game but rather for a ‘play in game,’ that one-game show down which determines who gets to participate in the one-game showdown.
Enter each team’s second best available starter, as the two teams play an elimination game to try to qualify for an elimination game. When the play-in game, and you get to go to the wild card game… with your third best available starting pitcher. For the Red Sox, that might mean using Chris Sale and Nate Eovaldi and having to face the wild card game with Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound. Beeg drop-off el grande, as Rodriguez sports a 5.15 ERA for the season (albeit with superior peripherals, but he’s no Sale or Eovaldi).
For the A’s, it’s unclear how the end of the regular season will play out, because if Frankie Montas stays on turn he will have to be saved for the actual wild card game, But one way or the other you might see James Kaprielian or Cole Irvin take the mound in a game the A’s have to win or go home.
The point being that with Oakland two games back of three different teams, very much still in the mix but also with little margin for error, a reasonable likelihood exists that the A’s path to the Division Series includes 3 consecutive “win or go home” 1-game showdowns. And of course this is “best case” scenario, assuming no further bullpen implosions that take the A’s out of the running entirely in the coming days. It would be nice to be in Boston’s, New York’s, and Toronto’s position right about now, but here we are with 20 to play. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go brush up on the 5-way tiebreaker.