TORONTO — It’s not often you say this literally, so let’s take the opportunity: Sunday’s game is a must-win for the Toronto Blue Jays.
It’s the only way to continue their season. When the Boston Red Sox took a win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday to tie the New York Yankees at the top of the wildcard standings, it forced the Blue Jays into a do-or-die scenario against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. . And even if they do, they can still die. Here’s the wildcard leaderboard for Sunday’s action:
The simple way to look at it is this: The Blue Jays must win on Sunday and one of the Red Sox or Yankees must lose. Whatever the Seattle Mariners do is irrelevant to Toronto’s chances of playing after Sunday. And come what may, the Blue Jays can’t just end up with a wildcard spot. They can only end in a two, three or four point tie. If the Blue Jays survive to fight another day, it will be Monday in a tiebreak scenario.
With the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees and Mariners all in action as of 3:05pm ET on Sunday, there are 16 possible outcomes. In six of those, the Blue Jays would continue their season and play a tiebreak game on Monday. Here’s what those 16 scenarios look like:
So if the Blue Jays’ season continues, it’s going to be a tiebreak chaos. How much chaos is largely up to the Los Angeles Angels and Mariners. And, in case you were wondering, all tiebreak games are considered regular season games. That means stats count toward regular season totals and the runner-on-second extra-innings rule applies.
Let’s take a look at the six possible outcomes that a Monday game could bring for the Blue Jays, starting at the top of the image above. Here are Toronto’s season records against the clubs it faces, which we need to see us through the tiebreak abyss:
TOR vs. NYY – 11-8
TOR vs BOS – 9-10
TOR vs SEA – 2-4
Scenario 1: Blue Jays Win, Red Sox Win, Yankees Lose, and Mariners Lose
This scenario would give the Red Sox the sole possession of the first wildcard spot and create a tie between the Blue Jays and Yankees for second spot. As the Blue Jays topped the Yankees in their series of the season, Toronto was set to host the tiebreaker between the clubs at Rogers Center on Monday. The winner of that game would travel to Fenway Park to face the Red Sox in the wild card game on Tuesday. It’s one of the simpler outcomes:
Monday, Oct. 4: NYY @ TOR
Tuesday, Oct. 5: NYY / TOR @ BOS
Scenario 2: Blue Jays win, Red Sox win, Yankees lose and Mariners win
The Red Sox again win the first wild card outright, but this time the Mariners join the Blue Jays and Yankees in a three-way tie for second. Each three-way tie-break process begins with teams designated as Club A, B and C. The first determinant is the mutual win percentage. But since none of these three teams won their season series against either of the other two, we have to move on to the next – the highest overall win percentage in games of the three teams combined. This is what it looks like:
TOR — 13-12 (.520)
NYY – 13-13 (.500)
SEA — 6-7 (.462)
How about that, the Blue Jays have somehow found their way to an advantage and will have first choice for the team designation. Club A will receive Club B in the first match of the tiebreak, with the winner receiving Club C the following day to determine the wildcard team.
Crazier decisions have been made, but it would be pretty shocking for the Blue Jays not to choose Club C, leaving them only to win one game against two – even if it’s on the way. The Yankees would then definitely choose to be Club A and host the Mariners, with the winner hosting the Blue Jays on Wednesday to determine who gets to travel to Boston the next day to play the Red Sox in the wildcard game. In that case, the likely scheme would look like this:
Monday, Oct. 4: SEA @ NYY
Tuesday, Oct. 5: TOR @ SEA / NYY
Wednesday, Oct. 5: TOR / SEA / NYY @ FOREST
Scenario 3: Blue Jays Win, Red Sox Lose, Yankees Lose, and Mariners Lose
This results in a tie for both wildcards between the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays. Again, we need Club A, B and C designations. But this time there is a wrinkle in the tiebreak games. Club A receives Club B on Monday to determine the first wildcard place. The loser of that game then travels to play against Club C on Tuesday to determine the second wildcard team.
The roster order is easier this time around, as Boston won its season run against both Toronto and New York, giving it the right to pick first. The Blue Jays would come in second thanks to their season advantage over the Yankees.
Again, crazy things are happening – but it’s almost certain that the Red Sox would pick Club A, give themselves a home game and two coin flips instead of one. That would leave the Blue Jays with the fascinating choice between Club B, which has two chances to advance to the wildcard game on the road, or Club C, which has one chance to advance at home.
You could argue that Club C has some intangible benefits, despite only getting the coin once. He would be well rested as he had Monday off. And it’s playing at home against a team that played an intense match the day before before heading out for the night.
But given the overwhelming role luck can play in one baseball game, it’s likely that the Blue Jays would choose Club B and head to Boston on Monday to play for the first wild card. Win that competition and they’re in. Lose and they head to the Bronx on Tuesday to play the Yankees for second place, and need a win to return to Boston on Wednesday to play the wildcard game. This is what that schedule would look like:
Monday, October 4: TOR @ BOS
Tuesday, Oct. 5: TOR / FOREST @ NYY
Scenario 4: Blue Jays Win, Red Sox Lose, Yankees Lose, and Mariners Win
This is the fun one. All four teams would tie for the two wildcard spots with 91-71 records. Now we need Club A, B, C and D designations. The selection order is determined by the winning percentage in the pool. Here’s how that shakes out:
FOREST — 24-21 (.533)
TOR — 22-22 (.500)
NYY – 22-23 (.489)
SEA — 9-11 (.450)
Club A receives B for one wildcard seat; Club C receives D for the others. The winners then play against each other in Tuesday’s wild card match, with home advantage determined by which team won the season’s series between the two.
Once again, the Blue Jays have a lead. On the first roster, the Red Sox would definitely choose to be Club A or C, letting the Blue Jays choose which of the two is left and keep home advantage on Monday. The Yankees would then have the intriguing choice of playing a must-win in Boston or Toronto, while Seattle would travel to play the team the Yankees don’t want to play.
So let’s say the Yankees choose to play the Red Sox, while the Mariners go to Rogers Center. If the Yankees beat the Red Sox and the Blue Jays beat the Mariners, Toronto would host the wildcard game on Tuesday thanks to winning the season’s series against New York. Incredibly, the Blue Jays were able to come out of this with a couple of home games, with them both having to win to advance to the ALDS.
Scenario 5: Blue Jays Win, Red Sox Lose, Yankees Win, and Mariners Lose
Now the Yankees are in first place with a wildcard, while the Red Sox are tied for second place with the Blue Jays. In this case, the Blue Jays lost their season run with the Red Sox, meaning they would head to Boston on Monday to play a tiebreaker. The winner would then head to the Bronx for Tuesday’s wildcard game. Simple things:
Monday, October 4: TOR @ BOS
Tuesday, Oct. 5: FOREST / TOR @ NYY
Scenario 6: Blue Jays Win, Red Sox Lose, Yankees Win, and Mariners Win
The Yankees win the world’s first wild card, and the Red Sox, Mariners and Blue Jays end in a tie for second. We need Club A, B and C designations again, with Boston picking first thanks to its seasonal advantage over both Toronto and Seattle. The Mariners would select second by winning their series against the Blue Jays.
As noted above, you can expect the Red Sox to choose to be Club C and set up a game between the Blue Jays and Mariners in Seattle on Monday, with the winner hosting Boston the following day to determine the wildcard team. . This is what that schedule would look like:
Monday, October 4: TOR @ SEA
Tuesday Oct 5: BOS @ TOR / SEA
Wednesday, Oct. 5: FOREST / TOR / SEA @ NYY
And there you have it. Six ways the Blue Jays season could continue after Sunday, depending on the results of Saturday afternoon’s games. Toronto’s reward if it successfully navigates this 72-hour odyssey? A five-game series featuring the well-equipped Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. Hey, nobody said it would be easy.