In exactly two weeks, the AL Wild Card game will be played ... somewhere. It's not clear yet. The Blue Jays and Orioles are tied for the wild card spots right now with the Tigers, Astros, and Mariners all no more than three games back. The NL wild card race is between the Mets, Giants, and Cardinals. The NL game will be played two weeks from Wednesday.

I know many folks don't consider the wild card game the "real" postseason, but the bottom line is if you get a wild card spot, you have a chance to win the World Series. The 2014 World Series between the Giants and Royals featured two wild card teams, remember. Losing the wild card game stinks and doesn't feel like the postseason, but get in however you can and you can win.

In a perfect world teams would line up their aces and we'd get phenomenal pitching matchups in the wild card games. That's not always possible. The wild card races are so close at the moment that teams may need to start their ace in Game 161 or 162 just to get to the postseason. Or maybe they'll need their ace in a tiebreaker game. It's not hard to derail pitching plans, after all.

So, with less than two weeks to go in the regular season, let's look at how the rotation is currently lined up for each wild card hopeful.

Baltimore Orioles

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Chris Tillman is all lined up for the wild card game, should the Orioles make it. USATSI

Lined Up: Chris Tillman
Also Available: Wade Miley

As it stands right now, Tillman is on track to start the wild card game with one extra day of rest. That also lines him up on normal rest for a potential tiebreaker game on Monday, October 3, if necessary. Miley left his start over the weekend with back spasms but it doesn't sound as though it's anything serious. The current rotation would make him available in the wild card game on normal rest. Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, and Ubaldo Jimenez would all be on short rest.

The Orioles have an off-day next Monday, which they could use to rearrange their rotation. It would allow them to flip Bundy and Miley, and instead line up Bundy for the wild card game in case Tillman is needed in a tiebreaker game or can't start the wild card game for whatever reason. That's probably the way to go given Miley's rough stint with the O's and poor season overall.

Detroit Tigers

Lined Up: Michael Fulmer
Also Available: Daniel Norris

As good as Fulmer has been, I'm sure the Tigers would prefer to have Justin Verlander start the wild card game, and it's possible that could happen. Verlander is currently on track to start the final game of the regular season. If the Tigers clinch early, they could simply skip that start and go with Verlander in the wild card game.

On the other hand, if this goes down the wire and Verlander is needed in Game 162, Fulmer would be on an extra day of rest for the wild card game and thus available on normal rest for a tiebreaker game. Norris will be available on normal rest for the wild card game, if needed. It's worth noting the Tigers do not have an off-day the rest of the regular season.

Houston Astros

Lined Up: Doug Fister
Also Available: Mike Fiers

Dallas Keuchel (shoulder) and Lance McCullers Jr. (elbow) won't be available for the wild card game and might not be available for the postseason at all. Fister is the 'Stros best option and he's lined up to start the wild card game with an extra day of rest. Fiers would be on normal rest, if necessary. Houston has an off-day on Thursday, September 29, which is a little too late to rearrange the rotation for the wild card game.

New York Mets

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Noah Syndergaard is the only one of the Mets' young starters to make it through 2016 healthy. USATSI

Lined Up: Noah Syndergaard
Also Available: Seth Lugo, Gabriel Ynoa

Because there are two off-days between the end of the regular season and the NL wild card game, the Mets will have more pitchers available. Obviously they want Syndergaard to start the game, and he's lined up for the wild card game on normal rest. That means he won't be available for a potential tiebreaker game, unless the Mets start him on short rest. A tiebreaker game would have to go to Lugo or Ynoa.

Clinching early would give the Mets the option of skipping Bartolo Colon in Game 162 and if not starting him in the wild card game, at least having him available if necessary. The Mets have an off-day next Thursday, September 29, which is a little too late in the game to help them rearrange their rotation in a meaningful way.

San Francisco Giants

Lined Up: Madison Bumgarner
Also Available: Jeff Samardzija, Albert Suarez

The Giants have an off-day next Monday, and that combined with the two off-days between the end of the regular season and NL wild card game gives them a lot of flexibility. Obviously they want Bumgarner starting the wild card game, and he's lined up to do so on normal rest at the moment. That's all well and good.

Bruce Bochy's team could use Monday's off-day to skip someone else (likely Suarez) and move Bumgarner up a day during the final week of the regular season. That would allow them to have Bumgarner available on normal rest for a tiebreaker game and Johnny Cueto available to start the wild card game. If there's no tiebreaker game, then Bumgarner gets the wild card game with an extra day of rest. The Giants have some flexibility. They'll be able to ensure Bumgarner is on the mound for the first postseason game. (Well, technically the tiebreaker game is be a regular season game, but you catch my drift.)

Seattle Mariners

Lined Up: James Paxton
Also Available: Ariel Miranda

Even though he hasn't been very Felix-like of late, Felix Hernandez is the guy the Mariners want on the mound in a wild card game. He's currently lined up to start Game 162, so if they clinch early, Hernandez could skip that start and pitch the wild card game.

Skipping one of Felix's remaining starts is the only way to line him up for a tiebreaker or a wild card game. Even if the Mariners use this Thursday's off-day to skip someone else, it won't help. The best they'd be able to do is start Felix on two days' rest in the wild card game. That won't happen. Skipping a start is the only way to get Hernandez lined up at this point, otherwise the wild card game will go to Paxton with extra rest or Miranda on normal rest.

St. Louis Cardinals

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Carlos Martinez is in line to get the ball in the NL wild card game. USATSI

Lined Up: Carlos Martinez
Also Available: Alex Reyes, Mike Leake

Like the Giants, the Cardinals have a lot of flexibility leading into the wild card game. They have an off-day this Thursday plus the two off-days before the wild card game itself. Martinez, who has usurped Adam Wainwright as the staff ace, is lined up to start the wild card game on normal rest right now. They have the option using Thursday's off-day to skip someone and line Wainwright up for the wild card game too, which wouldn't be a bad idea. That way Martinez could start a tiebreaker game and Wainwright the wild card game, if necessary. Either way, the Cardinals are in good shape. The off-days give them the means to line up their rotation.

Toronto Blue Jays

Lined Up: Marcus Stroman
Also Available: Francisco Liriano

Here's a question: who would the Blue Jays want on the mound in a winner-take-all wild card game? Aaron Sanchez has been their best pitcher this season, but he's far beyond his previous career high in innings. Marco Estrada seems to flirt with a no-hitter every other week. J.A. Happ has been consistently excellent all year. Stroman started Opening Day.

Regardless of who the Blue Jays want on the mound, Stroman lines up to start the wild card game with an extra day of rest right now. Liriano would also be available on normal rest. Sanchez is lined up to start Game 162, so if they clinch early, they could skip that start and use him instead. This Thursday's off-day gives them some flexibility, as does the ability to insert R.A. Dickey for a spot start, if necessary. Keeping things as is would put the ball in Stroman's hands for a wild card game (or tiebreaker game).


Keep in mind projecting a rotation out into the future is risky business, even if it's only two weeks. The weather and injuries can change everything in an instant. As it stands right now, most teams will be able to line up either their ace or another very good pitcher for the wild card game. The Mariners and maybe the Blue Jays seem to be the only teams who might not be able to start their No. 1 guy in the wild card game.