|With two games left, there's still much to sort out in the AL. (US Presswire)|
Monday brought us a number of clinches and eliminations, and the full slate of games on Tuesday will bring further clarity. Unless, of course, it doesn't! That could absolutely be the case in the chaotic American League.
AL East: The Orioles fell to the Rays on Monday night, while the Yankees topped a "present-in-spirit-only" Red Sox team. So the Yanks have a one-game lead with two to play. As such, Coolstandings.com gives the Yankees a 91.2% chance of hanging on. On Tuesday, the Orioles will trot out Miguel Gonzalez to oppose James Shields, while the Yankees will pit David Phelps against Jon Lester. Neither opponent has anything but pride to play for, but the Rays would seem to have quite a bit more of it than Boston does. As implied by the lofty percentage above, the Yankees' lead and more accommodating opponent make them the heavy favorite to hang on. A tie atop the standings is still possible, in which case the Orioles would host the one-game playoff.
AL Central: The Tigers have clinched.
AL West: Monday night's win by the A's means they're one back of the Rangers with two to play. Unlike the Orioles, though, the A's have the advantage of a head-to-head matchup with the team they're chasing. Tuesday's game features Matt Harrison against Travis Blackley, which would seem to mean advantage Rangers. (Harrison has been the Texas ace this season and, while the sample size is small, Blackley has been knocked around in four 2012 starts against the Rangers). Wednesday has Ryan Dempster against A.J. Griffin. If the Rangers win tonight, they clinch the division. If the A's win, Wednesday's tilt becomes, in essence, a one game showdown for the AL West title.
AL wild card: While the AL "back doors" to the playoffs are still in play, we know the generalities. The AL East runner-up, most likely the Orioles, will grab one wild-card berth, and the AL West runner-up, mostly likely Oakland for the moment, will claim the other. The standings reveal that the Yankees and Rangers each have 93 wins, while the Orioles and A's each have 92 wins. It's possible that we'll need to go to the tiebreaker system to determine home-field advantage for the AL wild-card round regardless of the combatants. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. Here's how home-field advantage would play out for each possible wild-card match-up:
- If it's Orioles-A's, then the A's host (again, assuming identical overall records).
- If it's Orioles-Rangers, then the Rangers host (once more with feeling: assuming identical overall records).
- If it's Yankees-A's and both teams have the same overall mark, then we go to the second tiebreaker because of the teams' 5-5 record against one another in the regular season. The second tiebreaker is intra-division winning percentage, and the A's hold a narrow lead (they'll hold that lead under any circumstances that lead to a tie with the Yankees in wild-card position). So the A's would host if they were to end the regular season with the same record as the Yankees.
AL top seed: As mentioned above, it's tight at the top. The same tiebreakers apply. In the event that the likely favorites (Texas and New York) hang on and finish with the same records, then the Yankees would claim top seed by virtue of their 4-3 mark against the Rangers this season. Otherwise, see above.
NL East: The Nationals have clinched.
NL Central: The Reds have clinched.
NL West: The Giants have clinched.
NL wild card: The Braves have clinched the top spot and will host the NL wild-card game. The Cardinals will lock up the second wild-card berth if they win one of their final two games against the Reds or the Dodgers lose one of their final two against the Giants. If the Cardinals lose out and the Dodgers win out, then the Dodgers would host the one-game playoff because of 6-5 record against St. Louis in 2012.
NL top seed: Right now, the Nats and Reds are each 96-64 with two to play. Since the Nats topped the Reds in head-to-head play this season, Washington will claim the No. 1 seed if they and the Reds finish with identical records.