Game 162 again crucial. Also, thanks for nothing, Boston.

With the final day of the MLB regular season upon us, there are still a multitude of potential scenarios in the American League playoff picture.

Though we know the five teams that are in the postseason, who will play who, when, and where is all still very much up in the air.

This morning, the Yankees (94-67) are one game ahead of the Orioles, who are tied with the exact same record as the Rangers and Athletics (93-68). We were robbed the chance of having all four of those teams enter the final day equal in the standings by the Boston Red Sox incompetence last night.

Boston held a 2-1 lead for most of the game in the Bronx, extended that lead to 3-1 in the top of the ninth inning, but “closer” Andrew Bailey allowed a single to Curtis Granderson and a two-run game-tying home run to 800 year-old Raul Ibanez. A home run that probably would have been a home run in all of zero other major league ballparks. The Yankees ultimately won, 4-3, in the bottom of the twelfth on a seeing-eye single by the aforementioned 1200 year-old Ibanez.

Forget steroids, I want every Yankee player tested for Fountain of Youth water. It’s ridiculous the contributions that squad gets from geriatric players year after year.

The O’s pulled off a most unlikely win in their own right down in Tampa. Facing Rays pitcher James Shields, the Birds couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, striking out 15 times against Shields, who tossed a complete game two-hitter on just 107 pitches. Luckily, one of those two hits traveled roughly 440 feet off the bat of Chris Davis (his sixth straight game with a home run, and seventh in that same stretch!) His solo home run accounted for the only scoring by either team on the night, as Miguel Gonzalez, Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day, and Jim Johnson combined for a two-hitter of their own in shutting out the Rays.

Unfortunately, O’s fans who dared to dream of going into the final day tied with the Evil Empire had our hearts crushed by the ineptitude of the Red Sox and their always-trolling-somebody manager, Bobby Valentine.

Thanks to the Sox being a doormat, the best the O’s can hope for is to win today and have Boston salvage one game in New York. In that case, there would be a one-game playoff for the American League East crown played Thursday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Should the O’s win and the Red Sux continue to play like a little league squad, the Birds would finish a game out of first place, despite a valiant effort over the season’s final two months. They would be relegated to the wild card play-in game, which would be against the loser of tonight’s Oakland/Texas contest. As long as the O’s win the finale in Tampa, the wild card game will be played in Baltimore.

If, however, the O’s lose to the Rays tonight, they would finish tied with whoever loses the AL West. Because the Birds lost the season series to both Oakland and Texas, they would be forced to travel to one of those two cities for the play in game.

We can play “pick your poison” between those two squads all we want, but no situation seems ideal, all factors considered.

The A’s are red-hot, even if they lose tonight, and facing them in Oakland would be going into a Lion’s den, while seeing them in Baltimore is only slightly more appealing.

Facing the Rangers, who would have just completed a devastating collapse to lose the division, might seem like a better option. They will be disheartened and shell-shocked, and the O’s may be able to jump on them in that one-game playoff.

However, the O’s would likely be facing Texas phenom Yu Darvish in that game. Not only is Darvish a certified ace already in his rookie year (16-9, 3.90, 221 K; 3 ER or fewer in his last 8 starts, 1 ER or fewer in 5 of last 7), but it would be the Birds’ first time facing him. We all know how the O’s can make even AAA call-up scrubs look like Cy Young the first time they see a new hurler.

On top of that, the Rangers – for whatever reason – seem to own Oriole pitching, and nightmares of 30-3 games and four HR explosions by a single player will have O’s fans shaking in our cartoon bird hats if the boys from Arlington are slated to come to town.

Throwing another wrench into things is that the Oakland/Texas game today is an afternoon contest. Thus, the Birds will know who their opponent would be on Friday before they even take the field in Tampa.

What all of this boils down to is that the best-case scenario for the O’s is still to tie with New York. They need to win tonight and have Boston win, which would result in two chances (the one-game division playoff and the one-game wild card play-in) to win a single game to advance to the ALDS.

It’s been a whirlwind year for baseball here in Charm City. Nobody is ready for it to end yet. Let’s all hope that we wake up tomorrow once again tied for the AL East lead, and will be guaranteed at least two more baseball games.


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