In this rollercoaster ride of a season, is it any surprise that we arrive at the final day of the season with as many questions as answers?
After 161 games, we’ve seen Baltimore, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Washington surprise everybody. We’ve seen Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Arizona – all making the postseason last year – underachieve while Boston straight up bottomed out. We’ve seen Detroit falter, yet somehow manage to curb the White Sox and make the postseason.
With unsuspecting storylines aplenty, we really shouldn’t be surprised that only after Wednesday’s slate of games will many of our remaining questions be answered. And it could take even longer than that.
National League All But Sorted
San Francisco’s win over the Dodgers on Tuesday night eliminated the Los Angeles (85-76) side from postseason contention, handing St. Louis (87-74) – who fell to Cincinnati earlier in the evening – the second and final Wild Card berth.
Following Wednesday’s wrap-up with the Reds, the Cardinals will travel to Atlanta (93-68) for a Wild Card showdown with the Braves. It’s a matchup that’s been on the cards [no pun intended] for the better part of a month now, but it took until game 161 to confirm it.
Bettors looking for an edge should consider this: Atlanta is 5-1 against St. Louis this season, with a 2-1 record at Turner Field.
The only other question left in the National League is who will finish with the number one seed. Washington (97-64) and Cincinnati (97-64) remained tied for best record in the NL and the Majors with wins on Tuesday night. Washington holds the tiebreaker by way of a 5-2 head-to-head record.
A Washington win or a Cincinnati loss will give the Nationals homefield advantage throughout the postseason, as well as setting up a Divisional Series against the winner of the Wild Card game.
A Cincinnati win coupled with a Washington loss gives Cincinnati the homefield advantage, while sending Washington to San Francisco for the opening Divisional Series.
AL West Crown To Be Decided Wednesday Afternoon
Having essentially shocked the world, Oakland (93-68) took a 3-1 win over Texas (93-68) on Tuesday night to put the two sides neck and neck with one game to play.
Having been a season-high 13 games behind on June 30, Oakland has rallied and astonishingly caught up with the Rangers, who have led the division since game 3 of the season.
Wednesday’s game (3:35 PM ET) will decide the division winner, with the loser heading to the Wild Card game on Friday.
Of course, trying to separate these two is tough enough, but determining who ends up going where later this week is all but impossible. Here’s what we can deduce at this time.
If Oakland loses on Wednesday, the team will be hitting the road for the Wild Card round. The A’s will take on the AL East division runner up (either the Orioles or Yankees).
If Texas loses, their destination will depend on how the AL East plays out. Texas currently holds the tiebreaker over Baltimore, but an Orioles win on Wednesday erases that advantage. New York holds the tiebreaker over Texas regardless. So, Texas could be headed to Baltimore or The Bronx, or could host the Orioles at Rangers Ballpark.
AL East Could Go Beyond 162
Despite expectations, having started hot, Baltimore (93-68) has never fallen away and now the Orioles are heading to the postseason for the first time since 1997. Keeping with the theme of hanging in there, the Maryland side could still win the AL East outright.
For the New York Yankees (94-67) it’s simple: win on Wednesday and take the division title. But things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the Bronx Bombers this season, and with a seething Boston side visiting Yankee Stadium one last time this season, you wouldn’t be laughed at for putting your money on the Red Sox being spoilers on Wednesday night.
It’s fairly simple for Baltimore too. While the O’s no longer have their fate in their own hands, a win in Tampa Bay is a necessity on Wednesday. Why?
A win coupled with a Yankees loss forces game 163. The AL East decider would be played at Camden Yards – the two sides have split 18 games evenly, but Baltimore has a better record against the AL East, which is the second tiebreaker.
Even if the Yankees win and take the title on Wednesday, a win for Baltimore over the Rays guarantees homefield advantage in the Wild Card round. As it stands, Baltimore owns the tiebreaker against Oakland but not Texas, both of whom currently hold an identical record to the Orioles. With the two deciding the AL West title on Wednesday, Baltimore would do well to ensure that whoever loses has to make the long trip east.
But what does all this mean to the betting odds?
Well, with the way the season’s played out so far, would you bet against Oakland shocking Texas and taking the title? Would you bet against game 163 being won by Baltimore, leaving the Yankees to face Texas – the two teams with shortest odds of winning the World Series – in a one-game playoff? That would certainly cost a lot of people a lot of money.
Whichever way you look at it, with one day left of the regular season it would be tough for Major League Baseball to be any more exciting.