One of the most crowded postseason races in baseball history could go right down to the last day of the season—and maybe beyond. While the Yankees have managed to hold on to a small edge, at least seven other teams are lingering with realistic hopes of making it to October. To get there, the Twins, Royals, Orioles, Rays, Angels, Rangers and Mariners will at some point have to beat up each other, which limits the chances of something truly wild, like a scenario in which more than two teams tie for a playoff spot, something that has never happened in baseball history.
Although the three-division format was introduced in 1994, the player's strike that year meant that the first wild-card wasn't awarded until the next year. The first such winner was the New York Yankees, who used that avenue to get back to the postseason and end a 14-year franchise postseason drought.
The first AL wild-card team to reach the World Series was the Angels, who in 2002 kept the Yankees from the Fall Classic for the first time since 1997 and went on to beat another wild-card entrant, the Giants, in memorable seven-game showdown. Two years later the wild-card-winning Red Sox erased the Curse of the Bambino en route to their first title since 1918. Since then only two AL wild-card teams have reached the World Series: the Tigers, in 2006, and the Royals, in 2014. Neither won the championship.
For many years the wild-card was the exclusive province of the AL East, as teams from that division won it 13 times in the 17 years before the introduction of the second wild-card in 2012. In the five years that has been in existence, the home team has gone 2-3. Only two teams have yet to win a wild-card: the Twins and the White Sox.
AL Wild-Card Winners
New York Yankees: 1995, 1997, 2007, 2010, 2015
Baltimore Orioles: 1996, 2012, 2016
Boston Red Sox: 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009