The Indians are guaranteed to play baseball in October. Entering the final day of the regular season, their fate is in their own hands.
The Indians hold a one-game lead in the wild-card race over both the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays entering today’s regular-season finale against the host Minnesota Twins. If the Indians win today, they make life easy on everyone and will host Wednesday’s American League wild-card game against either the Rangers or Rays.
But if the Indians lose to the Twins, hold on tight. It’s bound to be a dramatic week, which is precisely what Major League Baseball wanted when it instituted a second wild-card team this season.
If the Indians, Rays and Rangers finish in a three-way tie, the Indians will host the Rays on Monday. The winner advances to Wednesday’s wild-card game, while the loser travels to Texas to face the Rangers. The winner of that game would meet the winner of Monday’s game, with home-field advantage determined by head-to-head records during the season.
The Rays hold the tiebreaker over the Indians and would host Wednesday’s wild-card game should the two teams qualify. The Indians hold the tiebreaker over Texas and would host Wednesday’s game against the Rangers.
In the craziest of scenarios, the Indians could lose to the Rays at home in Monday’s play-in game, beat the Rangers in Texas on Tuesday, fly to Tampa for Wednesday’s wild-card game and then fly to Boston for the start of the American League Divisional Series against the Red Sox.
Welcome to life with two wild-card berths.
If the Indians and Rays tie for the top wild-card spot, the Rangers would be eliminated and the Rays would host Wednesday’s wild-card game because they won the head-to-head series this season. No Monday play-in game is necessary.
The same is true if the Indians and Rangers tie for the top spot. No Monday play-in game is necessary and the Indians would host Wednesday’s wild-card game.
If the Rays win the first wild-card spot outright and the Indians and Rangers tie for the second, the Indians would host Monday’s play-in game and the winner would play at Tampa on Wednesday.
Since they haven’t clinched anything yet, the Indians will have to pitch Ubaldo Jimenez today as scheduled rather than hold him back for Wednesday’s wild-card game. If there is a play-in game of any kind on Monday, it falls on rookie Danny Salazar’s regular turn in the rotation.
Of course, all of this will be moot if the Indians simply do one thing today.