by Larry Hodges (alias larrytt)
Here's a simple way of looking at the rest of the season. The Orioles will only get a wildcard spot if they play well. If the Orioles play well, assume they beat Tampa Bay three out of four Sept. 20-23. Since we're currently three games behind Tampa Bay, beating them three out of four pulls us one game behind them at 82-71, with Tampa Bay at 83-70. It also essentially puts us one game behind Texas (81-68), half a game behind Cleveland (81-69), and 1.5 games up on the Yankees and Royals (both 79-71). So we'd be in the thick of things.
Now suppose all these teams play at a .550 pace the rest of the way. Then Tampa Bay, Texas, and Cleveland would all finish at 88-74. (NY and KC would both finish at 86-76 and be out of it; they need a great finish for them to catch up.) So the Orioles would need to win 88 games to create a four-way tie (with two advancing) - which means they'd need to win six of their other nine games (six against Boston, three against Toronto). Wouldn't that be fun? If they win seven, they likely get the first wildcard spot. (The Orioles are 7-6 against Boston this year, and 8-8 against Toronto. The Orioles historically are undefeated in one-game playoffs - 1-0 to be exact, beating Texas last year 5-1.)
It's obviously a bit more complicated than this, as these teams are playing each other, and some teams may get hot or cold. Texas, for example, is in free fall, having lost seven in a row. Ideally one of the other main contenders pulls away by knocking out another of the contenders (or another team does this for us), leaving the second spot more open for us. But it ultimately comes down to the Orioles simply playing well. Beating the Red Sox two out of three the next three days would be a good start. Bottom line: if the Orioles can beat Tampa Bay three out of four, and win six of the other nine games, they have a very good chance of getting into a playoff game. Our fate is mostly in our hands. Even if one of Tampa Bay, Texas, or Cleveland pulls ahead of us, all we have to do is stay at least tied with the other two.
If there were a four-way tie, the teams would draw lots on who plays who, and there'd be two one-game playoffs. The two winners would get the two wildcard spots, and would play the next day to see who advances. If there were a three-way tie, the team with the best record among the three of them would get a bye while the other two have a one-game playoff. (If they have the same record, then there are procedures for breaking that tie.) The winner would then play the team with the bye to see who advances.
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