Want a quick primer on the wild-card race? Here’s the situation prior to Monday’s games:
Oakland and Detroit were 83-66. That meant the Tigers had a 1 1/2-game lead over Kansas City (81-67) in the American League Central; and the A’s led the Royals by the same margin in the race for the top wild-card spot.
Kansas City held a one-game lead over the Mariners (80-68) for the second wild-card spot. But the Royals are three outs away from another loss in a suspended game against Cleveland.
Barring a Royals comeback in that suspended game, which will be completed Sept. 22 in Cleveland, they would trail the Tigers and A’s by two games, and hold just a one-half game edge on the Mariners.
Got all that?
What it means is, right now, the likeliest scenario is a battle between the Mariners and Royals for the final postseason spot, which probably brings a Sept. 30 trip to Oakland for the wild-card game.
The wild-card winner, as things look now, would advance to play Angels in a best-of-five division series. Such a scenario would match Detroit and Baltimore in the other AL division series.
Much could change, of course. Any club that gets hot or hits an extended skid could change the math.
Also: Toronto, Cleveland and New York remain on the fringe of the race. The Blue Jays (77-71) are four games behind Kansas City for the final wild-card spot, while the Indians and Yankees (76-72) are both five back.
There’s enough time for any of the three to play their way back into contention but, for now, let’s concentrate on the top four contenders. Here are their remaining schedules:
*Mariners (3 home, 11 road): Started 11-game trip Monday with first of four games at Anaheim. Then to Houston for three games and to Toronto for four games. They end the season with three home games against the Angels. Average winning percentage of opponents: .556.
*Oakland (9 home, 4 road): Opened nine-game homestand Monday with first of three games against Texas. Then Philadelphia and the Angels each arrive for three games. Close season with four games at Texas. Average winning percentage of opponents: .457.
*Detroit (7 home, 6 road): Opened six-game trip Monday with first of three at Minnesota. Then go to Kansas City for three games before closing season with seven at home (three vs. the White Sox and four vs. the Twins). Average winning percentage of opponents: .459.
*Kansas City (6 home, 7 road, 1 suspended on road): Play three-game home series against the White Sox and Tigers before ending the season on the road with three at Cleveland (plus the suspended game) and four against the White Sox in Chicago. Average winning percentage of opponents: .493 (doesn’t count suspended game).
What’s clear is the Mariners have a tough road to reach postseason for the first time since 2001. (That .556 opponents’ winning percentage is stiff.) Those home losses Saturday and Sunday to Oakland were costly.
The Mariners’ best chance — as of today, anyway — is to, at minimum, tread water (say, 7-7 over the final 14 games), and hope Kansas City stumbles through the final two weeks.
One point to note in the Mariners’ favor: If there’s a tie for the final wild-card spot, the Mariners hold the tie-breaker advantage over the Royals (and, at this point, all other contenders).
That means a one-game playoff for the final wild-card spot, if the Mariners are involved, would be Sept. 29 at Safeco Field.