Whenever there is an outrageously wild game going on — usually college basketball, but sometimes baseball too — my friend Amanda Rykoff of espnW tweets that it’s “bananas.” I wouldn’t dare speak for her, but I think she would agree that the AL wild card tiebreaker has some serious bananas potential.
If two teams are tied when the regular season is over, a one-game playoff will be held next Thursday. If the Rays are involved, the game will be played at Tropicana Field. If it’s between the Red Sox and Angels, the game is in Boston. Simple enough so far. OK, now it gets tricky.
A three-way tie will mean two playoff games, one on Thursday and one on Friday. Because of the various tiebreakers involved, the Rays would be the top seed, the Red Sox the second seed and the Angels the third. Here I’m just gonna quote Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune, because I think he laid it out better than anyone:
As the top seed, the Rays would have their choice between three plans, with the Red Sox picking second and the Angels getting what’s left.
Plan A: Get to play both games at home, providing you win Game 1.
Plan B: Play the first game on the road, win that and get the second game at home.
Plan C: Play the winner of Game 1, but do so on the road.
Got it? Good. And no, no one knows what Joe Maddon would pick right now, because he wouldn’t say. But let’s remember that the Rays didn’t exactly benefit from home field advantage in last year’s playoffs. They have a slight home field advantage in 2011. If I were them I take option C and play one game for the wild card rather than two, home field options be damned.
So, yeah, bananas.
The magic number to clinch a wild card spot is still 1, but the Mets have at least secured a wild card tie after defeating the Phillies 5-1 on Friday night.
Jay Bruce powered the offensive drive, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and his 33rd home run of the season, ripped from an Alec Asher fastball in the seventh inning. On the mound, right-hander Robert Gsellman limited the Phillies to seven hits and one run over six frames, striking out seven batters in his eighth appearance of the year. Behind him, a cadre of Mets relievers turned out three scoreless innings to preserve the lead and anchor the Mets in the wild card standings.
The Cardinals aren’t out of the race quite yet, and can still force a tiebreaker with the Mets if they manage to win the remainder of their games this weekend and the Mets lose the rest of theirs. Any other scenario will ensure the Mets’ exclusive rights to a wild card spot next week. While a wild card clinch is unlikely to happen tonight, with St. Louis leading Pittsburgh 7-0 through 7.5 innings and just entering a rain delay, it remains a distinct possibility over these next two days.
In a season that boasts the likes of Max Scherzer (he of the 20-strikeout masterpiece) and Clayton Kershaw (he of nine separate games with at least 10 strikeouts), there hasn’t been anyone who’s done exactly what Carlos Rodon did this week.
During Friday’s series opener against the Twins, Rodon retired seven consecutive batters via strikeout. His streak — and the beginnings of a perfect game, if you can call it that after just 2 ⅓ frames — ended on a Logan Schafer double that found right field well before Rodon managed to put up two strikes. With seven consecutive strikeouts, Rodon became the first American League pitcher to strike out seven batters to start a game since right-hander Joe Cowley did it for the Sox back in 1986. Had Schafer whiffed on a couple more fastballs, Rodon would have tied Mets’ starter Jacob deGrom for most strikeouts to start a game in major league history.
Not only did Rodon manage to quell the first seven batters in Minnesota’s lineup, but he extended his strikeout streak to 10 consecutive batters dating back through his last start against the Cleveland Indians. Per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, the last major league pitcher to do so was reliever Eric Gagne, who accomplished the feat for the 2003 Dodgers during his first and only Cy Young Award-winning season.
Any way you slice it, this is an impressive look: