(Editor's Note: Robert Breedlove wrote this wonderful article. I created the graphic.)
Rejoice! The Astros are playing meaningful games in October! It's an exciting time, but also incredibly stressful. Like how many games do the Astros need to clinch? Do we want the Angels to win the series against the Rangers or vice versa? Or would it be better if they split? What about those pesky Twins? Well, we at TCB have a handy dandy chart to answer all those questions.
If the Astros go 3-0...
- This is the simplest scenario: the Astros win out, they clinch a playoff spot.
- A Rangers series win or a split with the Angels would give the Astros a wild card spot.
- If the Angels win the series, the Astros will be tied for 1st place in the AL West with the Rangers.
- The division tiebreaker game will be played on Monday, with the winner taking the division and the loser playing the Wildcard game the following night.
If the Astros go 2-1...
- A loss to the Diamondbacks would eliminate the Astros from the division race
- However they will be guaranteed at least one extra game of baseball.
- Once again an Angels series win would put the Astros in a tiebreaker game Monday, but this time for the final Wild Card spot.
- A split or Ranger series win would put the Astros in sole possession of the 2nd Wild Card.
If the Astros go 1-2...
- A series win by the Angels in Arlington would knock the Astros out of the playoff race completely.
- A series split between the Rangers and Angels would set up the Wild Card tiebreaker game in Houston on Monday.
- The Astros could take sole possession the 2nd Wild Card with a Rangers series win, however they may be challenged by the Minnesota Twins
- If the Twinkies are able to win three of their next four games (one against he Indians a three game set with the Royals) they would host the Astros in a Wild Card tiebreaker game.
- If Minnesota can win all four, the Astros are eliminated.
If the Astros go 0-3...
- The nightmare scenario:The Astros get swept AND have to count on the Rangers to keep their playoff hopes alive.
- The Rangers must win the series and that won't guarantee even a tiebreaker game on Monday, at least if the Twins take three games.
The Tiebreaker Apocalypse
In the nearly 140 year history of the Major Leagues there has never been more than two teams tied at the end of the season. This year there is chance, an extremely unlikely, though still statistically possible chance that we could see four teams finish with the same record. If the Astros go 2-1, the Yankees 0-3, the Twins 3-0, and the Angels take the series against the Rangers, the AL Wildcard will have four teams with an 86-76 record.
Luckily there are rules set in place for four-team tiebreakers. There are four team designations, letters A-D. Team A hosts team B and C hosts team D. The team with best record among games played with the other four teams picks their slot first, then the team with 2nd best record and down the line. The result is essentially Wild Card semifinal where the two winning teams face of in the "real" Wild Card playoff round.