Just a week ago, there was a column on Major League Baseball's website about how a six-way tie for the National League's two wild card spots could be broken. It was an admitted long shot at the time, but with just a handful of days remaining in the regular season now, it's officially not going to happen. Things, as they almost always do, have a way of sorting themselves out.
Last year, we had two tiebreaker games, including the Los Angeles Dodgers having to play a 163rd game to win the western division. We could still need some extra games on Monday to finalize the playoff participants, but the mega-tie scenario will not happen.
Entering today, five of the ten playoff teams have been decided. The Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Atlanta Braves have clinched division titles. The St. Louis Cardinals are guaranteed at least a wild card spot and are close to winning their division. Minnesota has a four game lead over Cleveland for the AL Central with six to play, but the Indians are in a battle with Tampa Bay and Oakland for the two American League wild card spots. Washington, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Arizona were all mathematically alive for the NL Wild Card entering this evening.
That six-team battle, though, is now down to five. St. Louis just beat Arizona, eliminating rhe Diamondbacks from post season play, and reducing their magic number to clinch the division down to three. The magic number to eliminate Philadelphia is one, for the Mets it's two, and for the Cubs it's three. That means we're really close to having a Washington-Milwaukee Wild Card game, however where that game will be played will be very much up in the air. The Nationals won tonight, and have a half-game lead on the Brewers, but play a doubleheader against Philadelphia tomorrow. By the way, the winner of the wild card game gets the Dodgers, so this is of interest to folks in southern California.
The real drama is three teams for the two combatants in the American League Wild Card game. Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland are separated by just two games, and the Rays, with a win tonight, lead Cleveland by just a half-game. In northern California terms, the Oakland A's could host the wild card game, be the road team, or miss out on the playoffs completely. That's a lot on the line in just six days.
Depending on how you define the word drama, there are other things to watch for. The Dodgers are one win (or one Atlanta loss) away from clinching the best record in the National League, but are two games behind both the Yankees and Astros for best record in baseball. New York and Houston each have 102 wins, and home field advantage is on the line should they meet to decide the AL pennant. Also, the team with the better record gets the wild card winner. The runner-up gets the Twins.
So, even with five teams in., and three more likely to punch their ticket withing the next 24 to 48 hours, there are still some things to be determined. All of the games on Sunday will start at the same time on Sunday, and TBS will televise one of them. An early prediction? Cleveland at Washington, with many Tampa Bay-Toronto and Oakland-Seattle updates. There won't be any six-way ties, but still plenty of reasons to tune in.
Four million Dodger fans can't be wrong: The Dodgers played their final home game of the regular season yesterday, and total attendance for the year has been announced as 3,875,656—an average of 47,847 and a Dodger Stadium record. The Dodgers will be home to open their post-season run Thursday against the NL Wild Card winner (we're predicting a game time of 6pm).
End of a broadcast era: America hasn't been getting Cubs games on WGN for several years now, but Chicago has. That is, until now. Saturday was the end of a 78-year run of carrying the Cubbies, and the super station was honored at Wrigley Field before and during the game against the Cardinals. The Cubs are forming their own channel, and the broadcasts will move there next year.
Tooting my own horn: There wasn't any money on the line, just pride, but I won my online fantasy league championship again this year. It's a competitive league with a dozen of us from all around the country, so I like to think of it as a national championship. The Yuba River Yawhoos (that's me) are the first repeat champion in the league's history (I've been in it since 2006), and have won three of the last four years. Of course, that means I have the last pick in next year's draft.
Emmys: I didn't forget about them like I did last year, but haven't watched yet, and I don't know if I'm going to. Ratings weren't so good, but I'm told there were some interesting moments.