In 2004, the Houston Astros won their final 7 games of the season to capture the NL Wild Card. Twelve years later, the Astros are in need of another epic finish if they are going to make the playoffs. Here are the standings as of this morning:
What Needs to Happen
As you look at the standings and think through all the scenarios, I suggest focusing on the win column to simplify things. With 6 games remaining, the Astros can end the season with 88 wins if they sweep the Mariners and Angels this week. Baltimore already has 85 wins, so we need them to win no more than 3 of their final 6 games. They play the Blue Jays and Yankees this week, so that's certainly possible.
With 7 games left and 83 wins, Detroit would need to lose at least 2 games this week, which is also very possible since they face the Cleveland Indians for a 4-game series before ending the season with the cellar dweller Braves (63-92).
Crazy Scenarios Possible
So what happens if Baltimore, Detroit, and Houston all tie for the second wild card spot? It certainly isn't the craziest scenario I can think of, but it's the most plausible. So, here is what would happen...
It would be easy if one of the three teams had won the season series against both of the other two teams. However, Houston won the season series against Baltimore, Baltimore won the season series against Detroit, and Detroit won the season series against Houston. So you then look at each team's record against the other two teams combined:
- Detroit is 6-7 against Baltimore and Houston combined
- Houston is 8-5 against Detroit and Baltimore combined
- Baltimore is 6-8 against Houston and Detroit combined
- They could let Baltimore and Detroit play a tiebreaker and then play the winner. However, the Astros would have to play the winner on the road.
- They could host one of the other two teams (Astros wouldn't get to choose which team they hosted) for the first tiebreaker game, and if they won, they would then host the second tiebreaker game.
One Week Can Change Everything
As we saw this week, things can change in a hurry. After starting the week in the top wild card spot, Baltimore was usurped by Toronto, and then Detroit took over the second wild card spot for a day before Baltimore reclaimed the second wild card spot.
Here is a closer look at what each team did this week and what they're up against in the final week of the regular season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto began the week by taking 2 of 3 in Seattle and moving into sole possession of the top wild card spot. After a day off Thursday, they won the first 3 of a 4-game series with the Yankees to further solidify their hold on a playoff spot.
The Blue Jays play game 4 against the Yankees on Monday before welcoming the Orioles for a 3-game showdown between the two teams that currently hold the wild cards. Toronto ends the season with 3 games in Boston, who has almost clinched the AL East crown.
Baltimore got off to a rough start this week as they were swept in a 4-game series against the Red Sox and fell out of a playoff spot. They recovered with a 3-game sweep of the lowly Diamondbacks (64-91) at home.
Baltimore has Monday off before finishing the season with 6 road games: 3 against fellow wild card contender Toronto and 3 in Yankee Stadium.
Detroit had a nice week as they swept the lowly Minnesota Twins (56-100) and won the first game against Kansas City as part of a 5-game winning streak. They briefly stole the 2nd wild card spot from Baltimore, but then lost the final two games against the Royals over the weekend. Still, the Tigers went 4-2 on the week and are only 1.5 games out of a playoff spot.
The Tigers welcome Cleveland for a 4-game series to start the week. They are only 2-13 against the Indians this season, but get to finish the season with a 3-game series in Atlanta against the NL-worst Braves (63-92).
Seattle lost 2 of 3 at home against fellow wild card contender Toronto to start the week before taking 2 of 3 in Minnesota. Like the Astros, Seattle didn't fall completely out of the running this week, but they certainly haven't made their task any easier either.
The Mariners come to Houston for 3 games to start their final week before heading back home to finish the season with a 4-game set against Oakland (67-88).
Our Astros got us pretty excited after sweeping the A's in Oakland to start the week, putting themselves just one game away from a playoff spot. Coming home to face the Angels, whom they were 11-1 against before this week, the Astros suffered some gut-wrenching losses as the bullpen gave up late leads. The Angels won the first 3 games, but Houston was able to salvage the series with a win on Sunday to put them at 4-3 on the week.
The Astros welcome Seattle for a 3-game series before heading out West to face the Angels for a final 3 games. Their elimination number is 4, and the Astros really cannot afford to lose another game if they're going to make the 2016 playoffs.
New York Yankees
New York hung around for a while and still hasn't been statistically eliminated, but with an elimination number of 2, they need a miracle. They started the week with 2 wins over Tampa Bay before losing the final game of the series and then losing 3 in a row to the Blue Jays.
The Yankees play one final game in Toronto on Monday before returning home for 3 games against Boston followed by 3 against Baltimore.
This has been a crazy season for the Houston Astros. Some players under-performed, many had their seasons cut short by injury, and others have stepped up to the challenge and kept the team in the hunt through late September. Let's see if their ain't still some magic left in these boys.