Orioles fans should root for the Yankees to win tonight. Let me explain.
Far too much has been made about the horrors of a one-game playoff between wild-card teams. While it may sound bad to have a 162-game season come down to one game, it really isn’t as awful as imagined. That’s because unless you are significantly better than the other team or have a deeper starting rotation -- which probably wouldn’t be the case -- then your chances of winning a playoff are roughly the same whether it is one game, three games, five games, seven games or 25 games. One team will win, one team will lose. Having the outcome stretch out over five days rather than three hours might be more enjoyable for fans but it doesn’t alter a team’s chances of advancing.
The key, however, is avoiding playing more games than necessary. And that is why it could be to Baltimore’s advantage to finish second.
Look at it this way. If the Yankees win or Baltimore loses tonight, the Orioles have Thursday off to prepare and rest for Friday’s crucial playoff. But a Yankees loss and Orioles win tonight sets up for a series of tiring, pressure-filled games for Baltimore.
Winding up tied for first place with the Yankees would require the Orioles to play a game Thursday to settle that tie. If they win it, great. They would be the AL East champions and they get Friday off before beginning a Division Series. But if they lose, they would have to play another game Friday.
That would be three games in three days against three teams (and eight consecutive days counting the regular season). That would definitely affect the bullpen, which would hinder their chances against opponents who would be able to rest their pitchers.
Would I want a 162-game season to boil down to a one-game wild card playoff? No. But I’m either going to lose it or win it, the same as if it were a multiple-game series. So what I definitely WOULD want is to have my team rested as much as possible before playing that potential season-ending game.
Which is why Baltimore fans should hope the Yankees win tonight. Yes, it would eliminate a division title. But it would also eliminate a potentially ugly series of games that would hurt the Orioles' postseason chances more than a wild-card finish would.
Which team should you root for in the postseason? Jim Caple has the list here.