The 2016 regular season is heading into its final weekend.
Although each of the six division races has been settled, much remains up in the air as each club plays its last series. Seven teams begin today in contention for the four Wild Card berths, and of the six division champions, only the Cubs are locked into a particular seed. That leaves plenty of questions about home-field advantage to be answered over the next few days.
Standings | Wild Card standings | Tiebreaker scenarios
Here's where we stand heading into today:
American League Wild Card
This is now officially a four-team race, as the Orioles' 4-0 win over the Blue Jays on Thursday not only created a tie atop the AL Wild Card standings but also eliminated both the Astros and Yankees. Going into the final three days, the Tigers are 1 1/2 games behind the Jays and Orioles, while the Mariners are two games back.
Although Baltimore took two of three from Toronto in the teams' final regular-season set, the Jays still eked out the season series, 10-9. That means that if they finish tied for the two Wild Card spots, Toronto would host the AL Wild Card Game next Tuesday. However, both clubs still have work to do, with the Jays starting a series at AL East champion Boston tonight, while the O's travel to Yankee Stadium.
The Tigers' situation grew more complicated on Thursday, when their home finale against the AL Central champion Indians was rained out. For now, Detroit heads to Atlanta to finish its schedule, but if the missed game turns out to have any postseason implications, it will be made up on Monday. If things go well for the Tigers, that means they potentially could play on Sunday in Atlanta, on Monday back in Detroit, then on Tuesday in Baltimore or Toronto in a tiebreaker game for a Wild Card spot, before Wednesday's Wild Card Game.
Seattle also stayed in the hunt by holding on for a 3-2 victory over the A's on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series at Safeco Field. If, for example, the Mariners complete the sweep, either the Orioles or Blue Jays lose at least twice, and the Tigers lose at least once, then Seattle would at minimum get into a tiebreaker game (or games) for a Wild Card berth.
National League Wild Card
With the Mets off on Thursday, the Giants and Cardinals both gained ground on them. St. Louis, which escaped with a dramatic and controversial 4-3 win against Cincinnati, remained one game behind San Francisco for the second Wild Card spot. The Giants, who took a 7-2 victory over the Rockies, are a game behind the Mets.
New York, which opens a series at Philadelphia tonight, needs one win or a St. Louis loss to clinch at least a tie for a Wild Card berth. If both happen, it would lock up a Wild Card berth outright. The Mets also won their season series over the Giants, so if those two clubs finish tied atop the Wild Card standings, they would face off at Citi Field to move on to the NL Division Series.
The Giants, hosting the rival Dodgers for the final few days, have a magic number of three to clinch a Wild Card berth. Should they finish tied for the second spot with the Cardinals, who host Pittsburgh, they would have to play a tiebreaker in St. Louis to determine the winner.
American League home-field advantage
The Rangers were off and the Indians were rained out in Detroit on Thursday, while the Red Sox lost, 5-1, in the Bronx. That pushed Boston to two full games behind Texas for the best record in the AL, with Cleveland another half-game behind.
Since the Rangers hold the tiebreaker over both of the other two teams, their magic number for home-field advantage throughout the postseason is one as they open a home series against the Rays on Friday. Cleveland (at Kansas City) does not own a tiebreaker against Texas or Boston (vs. Toronto), but if the Tribe finishes Sunday a half-game ahead of one of those teams, it would force them to play a makeup game on Monday at Detroit to determine home field in their ALDS matchup.
National League home-field advantage
The Cubs enter their final series, at Cincinnati, with 101 victories and are guaranteed the No. 1 seed in the NL. They will play the winner of the NL Wild Card Game in the NLDS.
In the battle for home field in the NLDS between the Nationals and Dodgers, both teams won on Thursday, keeping Washington two games ahead. The Nats, who finish their schedule at home against the Marlins, have a magic number of two to host Game 1 of the series next Friday. L.A., which opens a series at San Francisco tonight, won the season series against Washington and so would bring Game 1 to Chavez Ravine by finishing in a tie.
If the postseason began today …
Wild Card: Orioles at Blue Jays
Division Series: Wild Card at Rangers, Indians at Red Sox
Wild Card: Giants at Mets
Division Series: Wild Card at Cubs, Dodgers at Nationals
2016 POSTSEASON SCHEDULE
AL Wild Card Game: Oct. 4
NL Wild Card Game: Oct. 5
AL Division Series begins: Oct. 6
NL Division Series begins: Oct. 7
AL Championship Series begins: Oct. 14
NL Championship Series begins: Oct. 15
World Series begins: Oct. 25