MLB Tiebreakers: What Happens if Yankees, Red Sox & Blue Jays Tie Atop AL Wild Card Standings?

MLB Tiebreakers: What Happens if Yankees, Red Sox & Blue Jays Tie Atop AL Wild Card Standings? article feature image
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The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays could be entangled in a byzantine scenario in which they’re tied atop the AL wild-card standings and need to play a series of tiebreakers to get out of it.

Entering play on Monday, the Yankees hold the wild-card lead by a game over the Red Sox, who in turn hold a one-game lead over the Blue Jays.

If the Yankees win two games out of three from the Tampa Bay Rays and lose two of three against the Blue Jays; the Blue Jays sweep the Baltimore Orioles; and the Red Sox win four out of six against the Orioles and Nationals, the three teams will be tied atop the wild-card standings.

In this scenario, the team with the best winning percentage against the others would determine how this tiebreaker proceeds.

In this event, Boston would have the first choice because it beat Toronto 10-8 and New York 10-9 in their season series this season.

Their choices are between Club A, Club B and Club C.

Club A would host Club B in the first tiebreaker game on Monday, Oct. 4. The winner of this game would host the AL Wild Card Game.

The loser between Club A-Club B then travels to Club C for the second tiebreaker on Tuesday, Oct. 5. The winner of that game becomes the second wild-card team.

The AL Wild Card Game would move back a day and take place on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Club A seems like the most sound option for the Red Sox to take, right? Chris Sale is perfectly lined up to start on four days’ rest for a Monday game. And you’d obviously prefer two chances to advance instead of one.

But manager Alex Cora has been cautious with his ace and has mostly thrown him on five days’ rest since he returned from injury.

Sale has thrown just two of his season’s seven starts on four days’ rest.

Still, is that enough of a reason to justify eliminating an extra chance to advance — just so Sale and the rest of the team get an extra day of rest? Likely not.

But it depends on how burnt out the club is feeling. That’s a value judgment only Red Sox officials can fully flesh out.

Boston’s travel load could be considerably lightened by choosing Option C.

The worst-case scenario of picking Option A would mean traveling from Washington D.C. to Boston on Sunday night, Boston to New York or Toronto on Monday night, then, if they win, flying out again on Tuesday night for the AL Wild Card Game.

Then, even if they get by all of that, they’d have to travel immediately to Tampa for the ALDS.

Taking Club C over Club A would also allow Boston to face Toronto or New York’s No. 2 pitcher on Tuesday, Oct. 5 — after a tense loss and with no off days in between.

Even so, choosing Option A is probably the most sound decision on the aggregate.

A win as Club A would mean a rest day on Tuesday and no travel days before hosting the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday.

But, of course, a loss could trigger the aforementioned worst-case scenario.

Having two shots instead of one — with one at home — is likely too much to pass up, though.

If we assume the Red Sox pick Club A, that leaves Toronto as the second team up because it won its season series with the Yankees.

Toronto would be stuck with an incredibly difficult decision between Club B and Club C.

On one hand, playing two games and only having to win one makes Option B the better one on paper.

But the possibility of having to travel in back-to-back-to-back days — and play at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium in one-game playoffs, no less — could give some Blue Jays officials pause.

The worst-case scenario would mean the Blue Jays would have to fly from Toronto to Boston on Sunday night, Boston to New York on Monday night, then New York back to Boston on Tuesday night for the AL Wild Card Game.

Then, even if they win, they have to make a quick turnaround to Tampa.

It’s an unenviable position to be in.

There’s certainly utility in rolling the dice on one game at home with Option C. Toronto would save its players’ energy on travel, have an extra rest day and be able to throw its best pitcher against the Red Sox’s or Yankees’ No. 2.

But even with a win as Club C, the Blue Jays would have to travel that night to Boston or New York to play a team coming off a rest day.

The Yankees would be left with whatever option remains for them.

FanGraphs gives the Yankees about an 87% chance to make the AL Wild Card Game, the Red Sox about an 81% chance and the Blue Jays a roughly 29% chance.

FanDuel gives the Yankees -480 odds, the Red Sox -355 odds and the Blue Jays +154 odds to make the AL Wild Card Game.

Conversely, the sportsbook gives the Yankees +340 odds, the Red Sox +270 odds and the Blue Jays -194 odds to miss the playoffs.

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