Breaking down AL wild-card race

Trying to figure out the American League playoff picture?

We’ll make it simple as possible — with the regular season concluding on Sunday.

The top three seeds are set. Boston (97-64) is the No. 1, followed by Oakland (95-66) and Detroit (93-68).

The Cleveland Indians (91-70), Tampa Bay Rays (90-71) and Texas Rangers (90-71) are battling for the two AL wild-card spots.

With the one-game lead, the Indians control their destiny. A Sunday win at Minnesota makes Cleveland the No. 1 wild card and the home team for Wednesday’s AL wild-card game.

If the Indians lose to the Twins, there could be a three-way tie. Cleveland and Minnesota face off at 2:10 p.m. ET on Sunday; Tampa Bay plays at Toronto at 1:05 p.m.; and Texas hosts the Los Angeles Angels at 3:05 p.m.

Here are the scenarios:
If on Sunday …

Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Texas win OR if all three lose
No. 1 WC: Indians
No. 2 WC: Winner of Rays at Rangers (Monday, 8:07 p.m. ET)
Rangers host because they beat Rays 4-3 in regular-season series.

Cleveland and Tampa Bay win; Texas loses
No. 1 WC: Indians
No. 2 WC: Rays

Cleveland and Texas win; Tampa Bay loses
No. 1 WC: Indians
No. 2 WC: Rangers

Cleveland and Tampa Bay lose; Texas wins
No. 1 WC: Indians
No. 2 WC: Rangers
Indians No. 1 because they beat Rangers 5-1 in regular-season series.

Cleveland and Texas lose; Tampa Bay wins
No. 1 WC: Rays
No. 2 WC: Indians
Rays No. 1 because they beat Indians 4-2 in regular-season series.

NOW THE TRICKY ONE — THE THREE-WAY TIE

Cleveland loses; Tampa Bay and Texas win
Monday: Rays at Indians, 4:07 p.m. ET — winner advances to WC game 
Tuesday: Loser of Monday’s game at Rangers, 4:07 p.m. ET — winner advances to WC game

How was this format decided?

Because each team split season series against the two others, winning percentage in games among all three was used to determine who had the pick of A) Monday’s home game, B) playing on the road twice or C) hosting Tuesday’s game.

Cleveland had the first pick with a 7-5 (.583) combined record against Tampa Bay and Texas, so the Indians opted for Monday’s home game.

With a 7-6 (.538) combined record vs. the other two, Tampa Bay had the second pick and opted for two chances to win a wild-card berth when it could have decided to host Tuesday’s tiebreaker game.

At 5-8 (.385) vs. Cleveland and Tampa Bay, Texas was left with the final spot, which is hosting Tuesday’s tiebreaker.

The two winners out of this format will then play the actual AL wild-card game on Wednesday at 8:07 p.m. ET. The team with the better head-to-head record among the two wild cards will host.

Here are the possible matchups:
Indians at Rays
Rangers at Indians
Rays at Rangers

The winner out of this will get to play top-seeded Boston in a best-of-five divisional series. Second-seeded Oakland will face No. 3 seed Detroit, also in a best-of-five setup.

The higher seeds, Boston and Oakland, will host Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5, before hitting the road for Game 3 on Monday, Oct. 7 and a possible Game 4 on Tuesday, Oct. 8. If a series goes the distance, the higher seed will host  on Thursday, Oct. 10.

Got it?

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