It all came down to the Texas Rangers.
That's fitting, really, because it was the Rangers' free fall in September that made this season's AL wild card race so exciting. The Rangers fought back, though, winning six straight games coming into Sunday's action to re-activate their postseason hopes.
Texas needed one more win to stay alive. And they got it, beating the Los Angeles Angels 6-2 on Sunday. This, however, was more like living to fight another day than "all right, we made it to the postseason!" Now, the Rangers have to play a one-game tiebreaker against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday to keep their season going.
So now, finally, after Game 162, we've made (some) sense of the wild AL wild card:
• The Cleveland Indians, with a 5-1 win Sunday, clinched the top wild card seed.
• The Rays, who won 7-6 on Sunday, will play in Texas against the Rangers at 8:07 p.m. ET Monday. The winner advances to play Cleveland in the single-elimination wild card playoff game on Wednesday. The Rays have said they'll start David Price (9-8, 3.39 ERA), while Martin Perez (10-5, 3.55 ERA) is expected to pitch for the Rangers.
The Rangers won despite starting pitcher Yu Darvish lasting only 5 2/3 innings and the Angels jumping on the board first. Mike Trout hit a solo homer to put the Angels up 1-0 in the first. The Rangers got a two-run single from Craig Gentry in the fifth inning to go up 2-1. Then ex-Ranger Josh Hamilton tied the game 2-2 in the sixth. Geovany Soto answered back with a double in the sixth to put the Rangers up 3-2. The Rangers built a cushion with an RBI single from Ian Kinsler in the seventh, then solo homers from Adrian Beltre and Soto in the eighth.
In the earlier Sunday games with wild card implications: The Rays beat the Blue Jays 7-6. The Rays actually jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning and looked to have things under control. That is, until the Jays put three runs on the board in the sixth inning, another in the seventh and two more in the eighth. Luckily for Tampa's postseason hopes, Fernando Rodney made pretty quick work of Toronto in the ninth to save the 7-6 win.
If the Rays can make it to the ALDS, where they'd play the Boston Red Sox, they have played in Toronto on Sunday, Texas on Monday, Cleveland on Wednesday and then in Boston on Friday.
Next, all eyes were on the Indians, who were in Minnesota playing against the Twins. A loss for them could have made things even more complicated, because it would have made the three-way tie possible. Nick Swisher opened the scoring in the top of the first with a two-run homer. The Indians added two runs in the sixth and one in the seventh. That was more than enough for Ubaldo Jimenez, who was nasty. He struck out 12 in 6 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and one run. The combination of Marc Rzepczynski and Justin Masterson finished off the Twins for the 5-1 Cleveland win. This was the Indians' 10th straight win.
A bit of trivia: On Sept. 12, the Indians were a game and a half behind the Rays for the second wild card spot. At that point, the Rangers had a two-game lead in the top wild card spot. Goes to show what a well-timed 10-game winning streak can do for a team.