The AL Wild-Card Race Could Make Baseball History
By Owen Hetherington
September 28, 2021
Currently, three teams are in the race for two AL wild-card spots: the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays. Ironically, all three of these teams are in the AL-East.
The Blue Jays have seen a youth movement with an offense that’s a pitcher’s nightmare. The Red Sox have stabilized since the return of Chris Sale. And the New York Yankees whose preseason expectations exceeded their current situation with powerful stars find themselves in a do-or-die situation to make the playoffs. Another possibility is Seattle or Oakland finishing the season on a tear to take one of the two wild-card spots. The possibilities are endless.
After sweeping the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees find themselves back in first place in the AL Wild-Card standings, a game ahead of the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox currently holds the second-place spot, a game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, two games ahead of Seattle, and three games ahead of Oakland.
This last week is critical for the Yankees, playing three games in Toronto and closing the season out with three games against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Bronx. If the Yankees go on a tear against the Blue Jays and Rays, the Yankees will remain in first for the AL Wild-Card with home-field advantage in the one-game playoff series. In a perfect world, for Yankees fans, at least, this is the outcome.
However, this year’s wild-card race could finish in a never-before-seen three-team tie. It’s very unlikely but is fun to imagine how fun it would be to watch these games.
If we get a three-way tie for both wild-card spots between AL East contenders, the Boston Red Sox would automatically take the #1 seed, having had the best record during the regular season against the Yankees and Blue Jays. The Red Sox would have the choice of playing either Monday night after the regular season or start play on Tuesday.
If Boston chose to play Monday at home, they would have two shots to qualify for Wednesday’s Wild-Card game. They could also opt to wait for Tuesday to have a one-game opportunity to advance to the Wild-Card game.
If the Red Sox opt-out of Monday night’s game, the Blue Jays and Yankees would play that Monday night with the winner securing one of the two wild-card spots. The loser of that game would play against the Red Sox on Tuesday in Boston. The winner of the Tuesday game would secure the second wild-card spot and play on Wednesday, with the loser being eliminated from playoff contention. In short, the winner of Monday night’s game would play the winner of Tuesday night’s game.
If the Red Sox opt to play Monday night’s game, then the number two seed Blue Jays can choose to either play Monday night on the road in Boston or one game at home on Tuesday. If the Blue Jays opted out of Monday night’s game, the Yankees would play in Boston to decide who secures one of two wild-card spots, with the loser advancing to Tuesday’s game against Toronto. The winner of that game would secure the second wild-card spot.
It would be crazy, but so much fun to see teams decide how they want to strategize themselves to give their team the best shot of playing in the postseason.
Buckle up, we’re in for a fun finish!