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How the Blue Jays can make the playoffs: Wild-card tiebreakers, scenarios

TORONTO – The scenarios for the American League wild card remain wild heading into the final weekend and the Toronto Blue Jays still have realistic pathways to the post-season, even after losing two of three to the New York Yankees.

To get there, though, they’re going to need some help, as even a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles won’t be enough on its own. The Yankees, at 91-68, are the closest to securing a berth, holding a two-game lead for the first wild card over the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners, who are tied for the second spot at 89-70, with the Blue Jays a game behind them at 88-71.

Boston closes out at the Washington Nationals while Seattle hosts the Los Angeles Angels, so those should be the primary out-of-town focuses for Blue Jays fans this weekend. The Yankees, meanwhile, will hope to clinch against the AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays, although they can still miss the playoffs, too.

Here’s what the scenarios look like.

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Four-team tie for two wild card spots

This is still possible and, strangely, is actually a good outcome for the Blue Jays if they can’t win a wild card spot outright. For it to happen, the Blue Jays would need to win out, the Yankees would need to lose out, and the Red Sox and Mariners would each need to go 2-1 to finish up 91-71.

The teams’ winning percentage against one another is the first tiebreaker and the Red Sox, at .533, would get first choice of the Team A, B, C or D designation, followed by the Blue Jays at .500 (22-22), the Yankees at .489 (22-23) and the Mariners at .450 (9-11). Team A would then host Team B in one tiebreaker with Team C hosting Team D in the other, with the winners then meeting in the wild card.

The Red Sox, presumably, would host one game as Team A, the Blue Jays the other as Team C and then the Yankees would be left with the intriguing choice of who to play.


Cumulative records for wild card contenders against one another, along with head-to-head records



Three-team tie for two wild card spots

This can happen a few different ways, both with or without the Blue Jays. If the Yankees go 1-2 while the Red Sox and Mariners go 3-0, they’d all finish 92-70; If the Yankees go 0-3, the Red Sox and Mariners go 2-1 while the Blue Jays go 2-1 or worse, the first thee would all finish 91-71; If the Blue Jays go 3-0, the Yankees go 0-3 and one of the Red Sox or Mariners goes 2-1 and the other does no better than 1-2, the first three would all finish 91-71.

In this scenario, a team’s head-to-head against the others would be weighed first and the club with the best mark selecting to be either Team A, B or C. Next, the club with the better head-to-head mark chooses second. Team A would then host Team B, with the winner advancing to the wild card game and the loser going to play Team C in the second tiebreaker.

The intriguing call is made by the second-place team, choosing between two shots on the road or one at home. Boston, having won the season series against each of the others, is best positioned for this.

Three-team tie for the second wild card spot

This is a more likely tiebreaker to occur, potentially set up by the Blue Jays going 3-0 while the Mariners and Red Sox each go 2-1 to all finish 91-71, although any three of the four clubs could end up in this situation. In this case, the same three-team tiebreak formula as above is used to decide the designation selection order, with Team A hosting Team B, and the winner of that game then hosting Team C to determine the wild card.

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Blue Jays win first wild card outright

This is also still in play, incredibly, if the Blue Jays win out, the Yankees lose out and the Mariners and Red Sox go no better than 1-2. In that case, home-field in the wild card game would be determined by season series and the Blue Jays hold the tiebreaker over the Yankees.

Blue Jays win second wild card outright

For this to happen, the Yankees would need to go at least 1-2, the Blue Jays would need to sweep the Orioles while the Mariners and Red Sox could go no better than 1-2. The Blue Jays would then visit New York for the wild card game under this scenario.

Two-team tie for the second wild card

This can happen in several ways, with head-to-head records deciding who hosts a Game 163 and the winner advancing to the wild-card game.

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