The Cleveland Indians didn't wait long to lay claim to the American League Wild Card. In fact, they didn't even bother to play a full nine innings.
With a 2-1 victory over the visiting Houston Astros in a seven-inning, rain-shortened game, the Indians knotted up the Rays and Rangers temporarily Friday night. The Rays eventually beat the Orioles in 18 innings to pick up a half-game lead, but the Rangers lost 2-1 to the Royals to fall a half game outside the playoffs.
The good news for those who root for chaos -- six teams remain within 3½ games of each other in the hunt. Still. with less than 10 games remaining in the season, anything more than a three-team tie would probably take a miracle.
The Indians (75 percent chance of making the playoffs), Rays (58 percent) and Rangers (45 percent) are in the hunt according to CoolStandings.com, with the Royals on the outside (13 percent), and Orioles (5 percent) and Yankees (4 percent) longest shots. Baseball Prospectus gives the Rays the best chance at 78 percent with Indians (60 percent) leading the Rangers (49 percent). KC, NY and Baltimore are all in single figures.
In the most likely tiebreaker at this point -- the Rays, Rangers and Indians finish with the same record -- you have to get pretty deep into the rules. That's because the Rays have a winning record against the Indians, but losing record against the Rangers. The Indians have a winning record against the Rangers. If you work your way through the rest of the rules, as Patrick did, this is what appears likely: The Rays and Rangers would meet to determine one Wild Card. The loser takes on the Indians to determine the other Wild Card.
If more than three teams tie, well, we'll cross that river when we reach it.
By the way, the Red Sox, who clinched the East Friday, appear set to earn the AL home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Tigers still need to outperform the A's by two wins in order to earn home field in the ALDS.
American League Wild Card Standings
In the National League, the playoff teams are known -- though only the Dodgers have clinched so far. With a magic number of one, the Braves can clinch the East today. That leaves the NL Central to provide the other three playoff teams: the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds.
St. Louis has a two-game lead over the other two, and Cincinnati and Pittsburgh still have several games to face each other. St. Louis is clearly in the NLC driver's seat.
So essentially the Reds and Pirates, both tied at 88-66 currently, have five games to sort out which team hosts the Wild Card game. With the teams about four hours and 290 miles apart, that seems like a pretty fun rivalry to follow.
Here's a look at the NL Central standings: