The Oakland A’s have lost 74 games out of the first 161. Turns out 70 or 71 gets you a ticket to the dance that is the regular season finale and a chance to play either in the wild card game on Tuesday or the dreaded “one game shot Monday at the one game shot Tuesday”.
So the A’s came up 3-4 wins short of joining the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, and the Mariners as teams separated by 1 game with 1 to play. You can decide which bullpen meltdowns and which of the 15 losses to Seattle are responsible. Or if you like synergy, you can pick out the last of 3 consecutive August games the A’s bullpen blew late — that one was against your Seattle Mariners.
But enough about the A’s, who will be watching from home with vague interest at best. Here’s your “cheat sheet” for the game that begin just after noon PDT:
– If the Yankees win (vs. Tampa Bay) they are in the wild card game.
– If the Red Sox win (vs. Washington) they are in the wild card game.
– If the Blue Jays lose (vs. Baltimore) they are eliminated.
– If the Mariners lose (vs. LAA) they are eliminated.
So all 4 teams control their destiny to the point of either being able to clinch, or eliminate themselves, regardless of how the other games play out. Where it gets fascinating, though, is here:
– If the Red Sox and Yankees both lose, while the Blue Jays and Mariners both win, there will be a 4-way tie for the 2 wild card spots.
– If either the Red Sox or Yankees lose, and either the Blue Jays or Mariners lose, that is enough to assure a play-in game on Monday to settle the second wild card.
– All 4 teams are still not assured of a wild card spot, meaning they are compelled to go “all in” to win today — especially the Blue Jays and Mariners, who have no avenue to the post-season if they lose, but also the Red Sox and Yankees who have to win in order to clinch.
That’s why Boston is starting Chris Sale today, even though they would have preferred to hold him back for Tuesday’s wild card game or at least for a Monday play-in game they will have no margin for error to lose. The Red Sox could conceivably get to Tuesday’s wild card game having had to start Sale and Nate Eovaldi and forced to turn to Nick Pivetta (who would be on turn) for a “win or go home” wild card game.
Similarly, Gerrit Cole is on turn to pitch Monday, meaning if the Yankees don’t clinch today they will be compelled to throw Cole tomorrow instead of Tuesday. Corey Kluber would be on turn for Tuesday.
Meanwhile, for a team like the Mariners (and Blue Jays) their only avenue to the ALDS now is to win 3 straight “win or go home” showdowns today, tomorrow, and Tuesday. That means possibly asking yet more of their plus relievers who have been heavily worked just to get Seattle to this point.
Paul Sewald appeared in 15 games during the 30 days that September hath, then pitched again on October 1st and 2nd. Sewald has pitched 4 of the last 5 days and now Seattle cannot afford to lose today or tomorrow or Tuesday.
It’s a little better for Drew Steckenrider, who has appeared “only” 3 of the past 5 days, but likely cannot go in all of the next 3. Casey Sadler has made 28 straight appearances without allowing a run, but 4 of those have come in the last 6 days including the last 2 in a row.
Toronto is forced to pin all its hopes today on Hyun-jin Ryu, who has allowed 15 ER in 8.2 IP over his past 3 starts, posted a 9.20 ERA in September and has a 5.65 ERA since the All-Star break.
Then again they’re playing the Orioles, which is what might save them. Strength of schedule hasn’t meant everything of late — those O’s just took 2 of 3 from the Red Sox — but today the Yankees are the only team whose opponent has a winning record. And that opponent is the AL’s only 100 game winner.
So fasten your seat belts, and in the interest of true safety we also recommend wearing a helmet, a mask, and a condom. And nothing else, because that image is now with you all day as you enjoy the chaos that is the chase for a wild card spot on the regular season’s last day.