The Red Sox have reached the final series of the season, and when it comes to their posteason chances, we know just as much about if and when they'll start the playoffs as we did prior to the first series of the season.
A playoff spot, which was all but certain just three weeks ago, is now something Boston is left scratching and clawing for. The Sox open their three-game series with Baltimore on Monday night, clinging to a one-game lead in the wild card standings.
Both Tampa Bay and Los Angeles are chasing the Sox, and there is still the chance that one of those teams — perhaps even both of them — end up tied with Boston at season's end on Wednesday.
So, what happens if two, or three, of the teams end up tied atop the wild card standings come late Wednesday night?
The most likely scenario involves Boston and Tampa Bay tying for the wild card. For the Angels to even force a three-way tie, they must sweep their series with the Rangers, the Red Sox must be swept by the Orioles and the Rays would have to lose two of three to the Yankees. Stranger things have happened, but this doesn't seem very likely.
If the Red Sox and Rays end up tied for the wild card at season's end, a one-game playoff would be played to decide the American League's final playoff participant. That game would be played on Thursday, and by virtue of the Rays' 12-6 record against the Red Sox, the game would take place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
If the Angels are somehow able to force a three-team tie for the wild card, things get much dicier. Tom Singer of MLB.com has broken down that long-shot scenario.
If the three teams are tied at the end of the season, they are "seeded" by their records against each other. The Rays would be the top seed, with the Sox at No. 2.
The Rays would then have their choice of one of three scenarios. They would be choosing from one of the following:
1. Play both games at home, assuming a win in Game 1.
2. Play Game 1 on the road and, if win, host the second game at home.
3. Have the other two play, then play the winner — but on the road.
In all likelihood, the Rays would choose the third alternative, which is the only option in which they would play only once. If they were to take door No. 3, the Rays would wait for the Sox and Angels to play a game on Thursday. That game would take place at Fenway Park with the Sox having the higher "seed."
The winner of that game would face the Rays on Friday. That would force MLB to change its divisional playoff schedule, as the ALDS is set to begin on Friday as well. If the Angels were to beat the Sox in this hypothetical scenario, the Rays and Angels would both head to Anaheim to play that game on Friday.
Again, that scenario seems incredibly unlikely, but then again, so did the idea that the Sox would even be in this situation.
The most likely scenario, assuming there is a tie, would be the Red Sox and Rays playing a one-game playoff on Thursday at Tropicana Field.
Or, the Red Sox could just take care of business this week in Baltimore, and they will put the end to any "what-if" scenarios.
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