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So here we sit, on the morning of the last day of the baseball season. And other than one game (Cardinals at Braves on Friday), we have no idea who is playing whom in any postseason series.
But it's not as complicated as it seems. Really. It all depends on what happens on the field Wednesday. So let's run through the various scenarios:
Then the AL East is tied (at 94-68), and the Yankees and Orioles have to play a tiebreaker game Thursday in Baltimore. The winner is the AL East champ. The loser is the wild-card team. But is it the "first" wild card or the "second" wild card? That depends on what happens in Oakland.
Then Oakland (94-68) wins the AL West, and Texas (93-69) is a wild-card team. But would the Rangers be the "first" wild card or the "second" wild card? That depends on what happens in the AL East:
Then the Rangers (94-68) win the AL West, and Oakland (93-67) is a wild card. But is it the "first" wild card or "second" wild card? Again, that depends on developments in the AL East.
If the Yankees win Wednesday:
Then this is simple. They're the No. 1 seed in the AL. So their first Division Series game is Sunday at the winner of the wild-card game.
The AL West winner then would head for Detroit to start its Division Series on Saturday.
If there's a Yankees-Orioles tie:
This gets trickier. Then there's a three-way tie for the best record in the AL (Yankees, Orioles and the AL West champ, all at 94-68).
Under that scenario, the AL East tiebreaker game would not be used to determine seeding, even though it is otherwise considered a regular-season game. So how would that seeding be sorted out? Here's the breakdown:
Then there's a tie for the best record between the Yankees and the AL West champ (at 93-69).
Under that scenario, the Yankees are the No. 1 seed if the Rangers win the West -- but the No. 2 seed if the A's win the West. Why? See the tiebreaker scenarios above.
The Reds and Nationals head into their games Wednesday with the same record (97-64). So
Then the Reds are the No. 1 seed and play Sunday at the home of the wild-card survivor. And the Nationals are the No. 2 seed and play Saturday in San Francisco.
Then the Nationals are the No. 1 seed and visit the wild-card winner Sunday. And the Reds are the No. 2 seed and start their Division Series on Saturday in San Francisco.
Then the Nationals are the No. 1 seed. And the Reds are the No. 2 seed. (Same matchups as the Nationals win/Reds lose scenario above.) Why? Nationals won the season series.
It sounds insane. But it could have been worse, if Raul Ibanez hadn't hit that home run Tuesday to bring the Yankees back from the dead.
That would have created a nightmare scenario in which the Orioles, Yankees and the AL West loser could have finished in a three-way tie (at 93-69) -- forcing one of those teams to fly 2,500 miles, across three time zones, Thursday night to play the wild-card game Friday. But the good news is, that's one crazy possibility that's now officially defunct. Phew.