1. There's a chance for two more playoff games: If the AL Wild Card race ends in a three-way tie — which is quite possible — it would mean we'd get two tiebreaker games before Wednesday's AL Wild Card playoff. Major League Baseball explained on Friday what would happen should the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers all finish tied on Sunday.
The Indians would host the Rays on Monday, with the winner earning one of the berths. The loser would play at Texas on Tuesday for the final spot.
That schedule is the result of the Indians having the best combined record (7-5) against the Rays and Rangers, and therefore having the right to choose to host the first game. The Rays' combined record is second (7-6), and they chose to go on the road on Monday rather than host a game on Tuesday. The Rangers (5-8) were left with only that option.
Home-field advantage in Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game then would be determined by the head-to-head record between the two remaining teams. The Rays hold the advantage over the Indians, the Indians over the Rangers, and the Rangers over the Rays.
If one game is needed to break a tie for a playoff berth between two teams, it will be played on Monday, hosted by the team that won the season series against the other. That applies to determining a division championship whether or not the losing team would still qualify as a Wild Card.
In other words, it would be a whole lot easier if these three teams just figured it out in the next three days. The Rays have a one-game lead over the Indians heading into Friday's action, and the Rangers are a game behind the Indians. The Rays play in Toronto this weekend, while Rangers host the Angels and the Indians visit Minnesota.
2. The Cardinals are one win away from winning the NL Central: The Pirates and Reds have a very BIG series (that we've already previewed), but for the other team in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals, things are pretty simple: One win and they take the division crown. Lucky for the Cards, they're playing the last-place Chicago Cubs. One out of three from the Cubbies? The odds are looking real good.
3. The best-record races will be fun to watch: The other thing the Cardinals are playing for this weekend is the best record in the NL, which would give them home-field advantage throughout the NL playoff bracket. Right now, their record is the same as the Atlanta Braves. The Braves, however, own the tiebreaker over the Cards. Home-field in the AL is something to watch for too. It's not as close as in the NL, but the Oakland A's are two games behind the Boston Red Sox for best record. The Red Sox finish their season playing the Baltimore Orioles while the A's play the Seattle Mariners.
Here's how the playoff bracket would look if the season ended today:
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- Tampa Bay Rays
- Cleveland Indians