BOSTON — Buckle up, folks. The final day of the Major League Baseball season figures to be a doozy.
The American League playoff race is extremely cluttered entering Sunday. After Saturday’s results, the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays are tied for both wild-card spots, with the Detroit Tigers trailing by 1 1/2 games.
The Texas Rangers have clinched the AL’s No. 1 overall seed, while the Cleveland Indians currently are 1/2 game ahead of the Boston Red Sox for the No. 2 seed.
So, what does it all mean for Boston? Well, a lot. The Red Sox enter Game 162 facing three potential scenarios that all have different implications for whether they’d host Game 1 of the American League Division Series or travel to Cleveland instead.
Muddling these plans is a matchup between the Indians and Tigers that was rained out Thursday, which will be played in a makeup game Monday if it has playoff implications for either team.
To sort all of this out, let’s first check out Sunday’s matchups (and Monday’s, if necessary):
— Blue Jays at Red Sox, 3:05 p.m. ET
— Indians at Kansas City Royals, 3:15 p.m.
— Monday (if necessary): Indians at Tigers, time TBD
Now, let’s examine the possible scenarios.
SCENARIO 1: Red Sox win; Indians lose
The Red Sox own a tiebreaker over the Indians, so regardless of how the other games play out, a Boston win Sunday coupled with a Cleveland loss would clinch the No. 2 seed for the Red Sox and home-field advantage in the ALDS.
SCENARIO 2: Red Sox win; Indians win OR Red Sox lose; Indians lose
If the Indians maintain their 1/2-game lead over the Red Sox, they would have to play Monday’s makeup game against the Tigers, regardless of whether Detroit still has a shot at the wild card. If Cleveland wins that makeup game, it gets home-field advantage in the ALDS. If it loses, Boston hosts Game 1.
SCENARIO 3: Red Sox lose; Indians win
This is the worst case scenario for Boston, as Cleveland automatically would clinch home field in the ALDS, even if it had to play Monday’s makeup game by virtue of a Tigers win.
RECAP: In short, the Red Sox still don’t control their own destiny, as the Indians can secure home field by winning Sunday’s game in Kansas City and Monday’s makeup in Detroit.
If Boston wins Game 162 and Cleveland falters in either of those contests, though, the ALDS will begin Thursday at Fenway Park.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images