Travel issues could force early start for Yankees-Orioles Game 5

NEW YORK -- The first rule of postseason baseball scheduling is that the Yankees always play in prime time.

The television networks demand it.

So on the surface, it looks strange to see that if the Yankees and Orioles go to a decisive Game 5 on Friday, the game could start at 5:07 ET, and won't start any later than 7:07 ET.

There's a reason.

Game 1 of the American League Championship Series is set for Saturday. It's still possible that the A's could be in that game, and either they would need to fly in from the West Coast for a Game 1 in New York, or the Orioles would need to fly cross-country for a Game 1 in Oakland.

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Baseball rules require a minimum of 25 1/2 hours between games (first pitch to first pitch) if a team has to fly cross-country. So a 7:07 start Friday is the latest that would allow Game 1 to begin at 8:37 ET on Saturday night.

If the Nationals force Game 5 in their Division Series with the Cardinals, they would actually get the prime-time (8:37 ET) start on Friday, with a Yankees-Orioles game starting at 5:07. If the Cardinals wrap up the series on Thursday, a Yankees-Orioles Game 5 would start at 7:07 -- and no later.

No matter what if the Yankees and Orioles go to Game 5, it will create a difficult travel scenario for one team or another. The travel issues won't be as bad if the Tigers beat the A's, but it still wouldn't be ideal.

The scenarios, if there's a Game 5 in the Bronx:

-- If the Tigers beat Oakland, the ALCS would begin in Detroit (against the Orioles) or New York (against the Yankees). The Tigers wouldn't know until late Friday night whether they were home or in New York the next night, but at least it's a short flight.

-- If the A's beat the Tigers, the ALCS would begin in Oakland (against the Orioles) or New York (against the Yankees). In this scenario, one team or another would be flying all night, either the A's to New York or the Orioles to Oakland.

Barring rain (not currently in the forecast), there's no similar problem in the National League. The last possible NL Division Series game would be the Friday night Cardinals-Nationals game in Washington. The NLCS doesn't start until Sunday, either in Washington (if the Nationals win), or in Cincinnati or San Francisco (if the Cardinals beat the Nationals).

Either way, Saturday is available for travel.

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