Great Weekend (and maybe more) Ahead
What's really interesting is that there is a very legimimate possibility that the season will stretch out beyond this weekend, and quite possibly all the way into Tuesday; the race for the NL Central could need a Tuesday one-game series between St. Louis and Houston to settle things, on the same day that the American League kicks off the playoffs.
So if you, like me, are a fan of complete insanity and one-game playoffs, you should be rooting for the following things to happen:
1.) NL Central race
St. Louis goes into action tonight leading the Astros by 1/2 game in the division race. With both teams having 3 games left this season, you might ask why St. Louis leads by just 1/2 game; the answer is that they have played one fewer game, thanks to a rainout against the Giants earlier this year. Meanwhile, the Reds are barely alive, 2.5 games out.
Assume for a moment that the Reds are eliminated, because things go completely insane of they don't. If the Cardinals and Astros finish within a half game of one anther (who is leading doesn't matter), the Cardinals would have to make up the game against the Giants on Monday. If, after that game, the two teams were tied, they would play a one-game playoff on Tuesday (in Houston, thanks to a coin flip) to determine the division champion.
Things truly descend into madness if the Reds actually stay alive and get involved in the mix. If the Reds and Astros are tied, and St. Louis is a half game ahead or behind of them both, the Cardinals would make up the game against the Giants on Monday; if after that game they were tied with the Reds and Astros, things would get really interesting, as described here. Basically, the rub is that the Reds, leading the head-to-head matchups agains the other two teams, gets a choice: to play at home on Tuesday against the Cardinals, with the winner advancing to play the Astros on Wednesday (the Reds getting that game at home as well), or they could sit out on Tuesday and play on the road against the winner of the Reds-Cardinals game. Homefield advantage vs. one-lesser game - I think I'll take one less game.
Confused yet? I certainly am.
2.) NL Wild Card
This could also get interesting, but not quite as crazy. If the Dodgers, Padres, and Phillies all end up tied in the standings, there would be games on Monday and Tuesday to decide who was in and who was out. On Monday, the Dodgers and Padres would play to determine the winner of the NL West. That would game would be held in Los Angeles, thanks to the result of the infamous coin flips that occurred recently at MLB offices.
At some point in the past, this game would have been the only one played even in a three way tie scenario: the game, #163 for both teams, counted as a regular season game. As a result, after it was played, the winner would obviously win the division, but the loser would fall 1/2 game behind the team from OUTSIDE the division that they had been with (in this case, the Phillies). The result? The Phillies would automatically win the wild card by virtue of their higher regular season winning percentage.
MLB figured out that this wasn't the best way to settle things, however, and so decided that the loser of the divisional championship game would play again, the next day, against the non-divisional team. So, here too we could find ourselves playing into Tuesday to determine who gets into the playoffs.
This scenario is also pretty unlikely; the Phillies would need to sweep their series against the Marlins, San Diego would have to get swept by Arizona, and Los Angeles would have to win 2-of-3 against San Francisco. That's essentially a called shot in 9 games, and it's not likely to turn out that way.
I expect we'll be seeing at least one Monday game, and for the first time that I can remember, a Tuesday ending to the regular season is within the realm of possibility. Craziness.