This is exactly what baseball signed up for.
Three Wild Card spots — two in the American League and one in the National League — and home field advantage in the American League Division Series are still up for grabs entering Major League Baseball’s final Sunday of the regular season, and several teams have a lot on the line on what could become the final day of the regular season.
(You know, if the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers don’t have to play on Monday afternoon.)
But as a fan of the Tribe, what does everything mean? And more importantly, what should you be watching the scoreboard for on Sunday when all games begin just after 3:00 p.m. ET (a brilliant move by MLB)?
RELATED: Updated MLB Standings
Here are the scenarios which could play out on Sunday:
Home Field Advantage in ALDS
The combination of the Indians’ win and the Boston Red Sox’s loss on Saturday gives Cleveland a half-game lead for the second-best record in the American League, which means the Tribe controls their own destiny when it comes to hosting the first two games of the ALDS at Progressive Field.
But Monday’s potential makeup game against Detroit clouds the picture a bit. Here is how home field will be decided:
— If the Indians win and the Red Sox lose to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, Cleveland will clinch home field in the ALDS.
— If the Indians win and the Red Sox also win, Cleveland will need to win Monday’s makeup game to clinch home field in the first round.
— If the Indians lose and the Red Sox win, Cleveland will open the ALDS at Boston.
— If the Indians lose and the Red Sox lose, Cleveland will need to win Monday’s makeup game vs. Detroit to clinch home field. A tie between the Sox and Tribe would go to Boston, who holds the tiebreaker over Cleveland.
Avoiding Monday’s Makeup Game
At this point, it certainly seems like the makeup of this week’s rainout in Detroit will be needed from one of the two team’s perspective, whether it’s to determine hold field in the ALDS or Detroit’s forcing of a tie-breaking Wild Card scenario or both.
There is, however, a way in which Monday’s game does not need to be played. Under this scenario, the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles control their own Wild Card destiny. To avoid playing the Cleveland’s 162nd game of the season, the following must take place:
— Cleveland must beat the Kansas City Royals.
— Boston must lose to Toronto.
— Detroit must lose to the Atlanta Braves.
— If Detroit wins, Toronto must beat Boston AND Baltimore must defeat the New York Yankees.
If that series of events plays out on Sunday, Monday’s game between the Indians and Tigers would not need to be made up from either club’s perspective.
However, a Detroit win over Atlanta paired with a loss by either Toronto or Baltimore would mean the Tigers would need on Monday to force a tie-breaking Wild Card scenario. If Toronto and Baltimore both lose and Detroit wins, a wild three-way tie would play out with the Tigers potentially playing six games in six different cities, never against the same team on consecutive days.
Your head spinning yet?
Games That Matter
So, which portion of the AL scoreboard should you be watching on Sunday? Here are the games that matter from Cleveland’s point of view:
• Baltimore (Kevin Gausman: 8-2, 3.66) vs. New York (Luis Cessa: 4-3, 4.18) – 3:05 PM
• Toronto (Aaron Sanchez: 14-2, 3.06) vs. Boston (David Price: 17-9, 4.04) – 3:05 PM
• Detroit (Justin Verlander: 16-8, 3.10) vs. Atlanta (Julio Teheran: 6-10, 3.33) – 3:10 PM
• Cleveland (Josh Tomlin: 12-9, 4.48) vs. Kansas City (Ian Kennedy: 11-10, 3.69) – 3:15 PM
Enjoy what should be a thrilling Sunday in MLB action.