Big League Stew

A guide to the AL playoff possibilities

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

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Heading into the season's last three games, the National League is relatively a drama-free zone. The Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants have already clinched their divisions and the Atlanta Braves are a long shot to force an NL East tiebreaker with the Washington Nationals. The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, own a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the last wild-card spot.

There's potential for craziness on the Senior Circuit, sure, but not as much as exists in the American League. Heading into Monday's contests, eight teams are still jockeying for position with only the Orioles, Yankees and Rangers definitely in the playoffs  (though none of the three have clinched a division title just yet).

Here's a handy-dandy guide to the possible scenarios that could unfold in the American League the next few days.

Detroit Tigers
• Clinch the AL Central with a win or Chicago loss.

Chicago White Sox
• Clinch the AL Central with a sweep of Cleveland and a Kansas City sweep of Detroit, plus a win over the Tigers in Thursday's tiebreaker.

Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees
• Clinch the AL East with any combination of four victories and losses by the other contender. The Orioles finish the season with three games at Tampa Bay while the Yankees host the Red Sox for three. Both teams are tied atop the AL East.

Texas Rangers
• Clinch AL West with one win against Oakland.

Oakland A's
• Clinch a playoff berth with one win over Texas or a loss from both Tampa Bay and Los Angeles
• Clinch AL West with a sweep of Texas

Los Angeles Angels
• Clinch a wild-card spot with sweep of Seattle and a Texas sweep of Oakland, plus a win over the A's in a tiebreaker on Thursday (which Oakland would host).*

Tampa Bay Rays
• Clinch a wild-card spot with sweep of Baltimore and Texas sweep of Oakland, plus a win over the A's in a tiebreaker on Thursday (which Oakland would host).

*Things will really get nuts  if the Rangers, Angels and Rays all somehow sweep because it would cause a three-way tie between the A's, Angels and Rays at 91-71. In that scenario, Oakland gets a choice between two options because it won its season series against both Los Angeles and Tampa Bay:

1. It can play at home Thursday against the Angels with the Rays showing up to play the winner on Friday

2. It can rest on Thursday and travel to play the winner of L.A.-Tampa Bay on Friday.

Since the Rays won the season series against the Angels, they could also elect to play Oakland on Thursday with the hope of hosting Los Angeles at Tropicana Field on Friday. (Why any team would want to play two do-or-die games instead of one in exchange for something as negligible as home-field advantage remains one of the universe's largest mysteries.)

Confused yet? This A's-Angels-Rays tie is the most convoluted long shot of a scenario ... which probably means it will definitely end up happening.

Get ready for the postseason.
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