Watch the board. You won't be bored. Major League Baseball has never had a final day quite like the one we're enjoying today.Although scoreboard-watching is a regular rite of the regular-season finale, Scoreboard Sunday is multitasking taken to the extreme. Not only did all 15 games begin within 10 minutes
Watch the board. You won't be bored. Major League Baseball has never had a final day quite like the one we're enjoying today.
Although scoreboard-watching is a regular rite of the regular-season finale, Scoreboard Sunday is multitasking taken to the extreme. Not only did all 15 games begin within 10 minutes of one another in a range from 3:05 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. ET, but five teams (the Giants, Cardinals, Orioles, Blue Jays and Tigers) went into those games still in the postseason hunt -- and all the games can be watched live free on MLB.TV. The previous high for a final day in the Wild Card era is four, most recently in 2011, which, you no doubt remember, provided an absolutely insane ending.
In other words, we're in for a fantastic finale.
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"This is what we live for as competitors -- the big games," said Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. "I knew it would come down to the last day. It always does."
But wait ... Is this really the final day? The truth is, we just don't know yet. Bonus "regular season" baseball is still very much a possibility in both leagues.
The Tigers might have to make up a rained-out game against the Indians on Monday because of its meaning in both the American League Wild Card race and/or the Indians' fight with the Red Sox for home-field advantage in the AL Division Series. The Cards could still force a Game 163 tiebreaker with the Giants.
And then there's the most wonderfully Wild scenario of all: A three-team tiebreaker is still possible in the AL, which would throw the early portion of the postseason schedule in dramatic disarray.
While the Blue Jays try to secure a Wild Card spot, the Red Sox have plenty to play for despite having already clinched the AL East. The Sox trail the Indians by a half-game for ALDS home field going into David Ortiz's final regular-season game at Fenway. AL Central champ Cleveland would like to not only secure home field, but avoid a makeup game Monday in Detroit.
We'll assess today's scenarios in just a sec. First, here's what little we figured out on Saturday:
• The Mets have not only clinched a National League Wild Card spot but secured home field for Wednesday's game. The defending NL champs held the tiebreaker edge over the Giants by virtue of a 4-3 head-to-head record.
• The Giants have clinched at least a tie for the second NL Wild Card spot.
• The NL East-champion Nationals will have home-field advantage in their Division Series against the NL West-champion Dodgers.
• The Mariners were eliminated from Wild Card contention with their valiant loss in extra innings to the A's, ending not only the dream of postseason baseball for Seattle for the first time since 2001 but also the dream of a four-team Wild Card tiebreaker.
OK, now here's the outlook for Scoreboard Sunday.
WIN AND THEY'RE IN
Giants: Rookie Ty Blach etched his name in Giants lore with eight brilliant innings against the Dodgers in Saturday's 3-0 win, and now the Giants are a win away from securing the NL's second Wild Card spot and a Wednesday date with the Mets in Citi Field.
Matt Moore started today opposite Kenta Maeda and a Dodgers team with nothing to play for, given that the Nationals have clinched the NL's second seed. The Giants are just 14-15 in this final month, but they've won three in a row to keep the concept of "even-year magic" alive. If the Giants lose and the Cardinals win, there's a Game 163 in St. Louis on Monday.
"No matter what," Giants manager Bruce Bochy quipped, "we're traveling."
Blue Jays: Toronto survived Roberto Osuna's balk and beat the Red Sox thanks to a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning to hold steady with the O's, who lost on Saturday in New York. Both Toronto and Baltimore are at 88-73 with a game to go; the Blue Jays hold the head-to-head edge over the O's for home field should the two teams finish in a tie.
You can't ask for a better matchup: The Blue Jays are facing David Price, who helped pitch them into the postseason for the first time in a generation last year. And they're opposing him behind Aaron Sanchez, the young man whose emergence in the rotation has helped them overcome Price's free-agent departure. If the Jays win it, they'll reward the 3 million-plus who packed Rogers Centre this season with (at least) one more home game.
Orioles: The Orioles clinched at least a tie for a Wild Card spot on Saturday even though Austin Romine's two-run single off Brad Brach broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth to send them to a 7-3 loss to the Yankees in the Bronx. But the Tigers' loss on Saturday means the O's can clinch outright today.
The O's sent Kevin Gausman, who is coming off two rough outings, to the hill opposite Luis Cessa. Gausman has a sparkling 0.80 ERA in five starts against the Yankees this season, so the Orioles feel good about the matchup as they try to avoid a tiebreaker scenario.
Cardinals: The Cards ride a three-game winning streak into today's home game against the Pirates, and they reworked their rotation last week to align Wainwright for this pivotal game. But even if Wainwright, who helped the Cards to wins in five of his last six starts, is victorious, St. Louis still needs help out west. Suffice it to say the Cards are simultaneously playing hard and rooting hard for Vin Scully's final Dodgers broadcast to be a positive one.
It's worth noting that the Cards roughed up their opponent, Ryan Vogelsong, on Sept. 6, when they scored five runs off him in four innings. Wainwright is 2-1 with a 4.07 ERA in four starts against the Buccos this year.
Tigers: Losing in Atlanta on Saturday night ended the Tigers' three-game winning streak and put them in a bind. What we know for sure is that today's game, in which AL Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander is opposing Julio Teheran, is a must-win and that the Tigers will also need one or both of the Orioles and Blue Jays to lose.
But even if that happens, the Tigers would then have to head home for the makeup game against the Indians to determine if they can force themselves into a Wild Card tiebreaker scenario. (Useless trivia: The last time a team played a makeup game after the last scheduled day of the season to determine a playoff spot was in 2008, when the White Sox had to beat -- you guessed it -- the Tigers to advance to a one-game playoff with the Twins for the AL Central title.)
Should the Tigers be in a two-team tie with either the Blue Jays or Orioles, Detroit would be the road team because it lost its season series to Baltimore and Toronto.
Think the Tigers players had a lot on their minds going into the final day? How about their traveling secretary? Without getting into the grim details just yet, there is still a three-team tiebreaker scenario alive in which, starting today, the Tigers play six games in six cities in six days -- never against the same team or in the same city on consecutive days.
Assuming they win in Atlanta today and in Detroit on Monday, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, they would play in Toronto on Tuesday. With a loss, they would also need to play in Baltimore on Wednesday and win to advance to the Wild Card Game on Thursday in Toronto. With a win Tuesday, they would get a much-needed Wednesday off before hosting the Wild Card Game on Thursday against the Orioles or Blue Jays. Then it's off to Arlington on Friday to play the Rangers if they advance to the ALDS.
THE UNDERRATED RACE
Indians and Red Sox: It's not just Wild Card spots on the line. We still have to decide where the AL Division Series between Cleveland and Boston will begin on Thursday. An Indians win and a Red Sox loss today would give the home-field edge to the Tribe. If the Red Sox win and the Indians lose, the series begins in Boston, because the Red Sox hold the head-to-head edge this year. And if both teams win OR both teams lose, home field will be decided by the outcome of the Indians' Monday makeup in Detroit.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.