1. Twelve is the magic number. The National League wild-card teams brought their big-boy bats to the ballpark Tuesday. To nobody's surprise, the Marlins looked emotionally spent after Monday's win over the Mets. Of course, it didn't help that they had to face Noah Syndergaard. The Mets blew open a close game with eight runs in the final two innings to win 12-1. In St. Louis, the Cardinals pounded the Reds 12-5, slugging five home runs. The biggest was Aledmys Diaz's grand slam in the fourth, which put them ahead 5-2. Diaz grew up on the same street in Cuba as Jose Fernandez and had spent Monday in Miami with family and friends.
Needing to keep pace, the Giants beat the Rockies 12-3, matching the Mets with 19 hits. They had scored more than three runs just once in their previous nine games. The Mets remain a half-game up on the Giants, with the Cardinals a game behind the Giants. In the four-year history of the two-wild-card era, we've had just one tie, in 2013 when the Rays and Rangers had to play a Game No. 163 to determine the second wild card (David Price tossed a complete-game victory). But we've never had a three-way tie, whether for one spot or two. Maybe we can get one in the NL, with the three teams so close.
With that in mind, it's worth reviewing what happens if the Mets, Giants and Cardinals finish tied. The teams are given A, B and C designations. The Cardinals and Mets both won their season series over the Giants, so the Giants are the C. The Mets and Cardinals split and the tiebreaker there is intradivision record, which right now goes to the Cardinals. So they're A and the Mets are B. From MLB.com:
For example, let's assume that the Cardinals (first pick) and Mets (second pick) both choose the designations that give them two chances to make the Postseason, leaving the Giants with only one chance. The Cardinals and Mets would play in St. Louis on Monday, Oct. 3.
The winner of that game would become the host team in the actual wild-card game; the loser would travel to San Francisco for a game on Oct. 4.
The winner of the game in San Francisco would earn the second wild-card spot, and would be the road team against the winner of Monday's game in the NL wild-card game Wednesday, Oct. 5.
However, it is possible that the Mets would decide that they prefer to play one home game with a rested pitching staff for a spot in the wild-card game. In that case, the Giants would travel to St. Louis for the tiebreaker game on Oct. 3, with the Mets waiting to host the loser on Oct. 4. However, in this scenario the Mets would be forfeiting any chance of hosting the actual NL wild-card game, making it less likely.
Which way do you choose? You clearly have to go for the two chances to get into the wild-card game, even if that potentially leads to three games in three days. That said, I think you still have to go all-out to win that first game, because if you lose, you'll be staring down Madison Bumgarner in a must-win game. Here are potential pitching matchups, assuming Syndergaard and Adam Wainwright start Sunday as scheduled and Johnny Cueto starts Thursday for the Giants (as they hope he'll do after suffering a strained groin):
So you can see, the Mets are desperate to clinch before Sunday so they don't have to burn Syndergaard. With Colon starting Saturday, the two-game tiebreaker scenario leaves them in a bind, as they don't really have a fifth starter right now. The Giants are in the best position, with Bumgarner and Cueto potentially lined up.
2. Blue Jays inch closer to playoff spot. Josh Donaldson's two-run homer in the first for Toronto off Baltimore's Kevin Gausman set the early tone, and Aaron Sanchez tossed six solid innings with 10 strikeouts -- eight of those coming on his fastball, a season-best total. Sanchez would next pitch Sunday, or if the Jays clinch before then, be ready for the wild-card game. Toronto's playoff odds now sit at 96 percent.
3. Yankees ensure .500 season. They postponed Boston's American League East-clinching celebration with a 6-4 victory as they hit three home runs off David Price, including Gary Sanchez's 20th and Tyler Austin's two-run, go-ahead shot in the seventh. That's 24 consecutive non-losing seasons for the Yankees, which isn't quite the same as 24 consecutive winning seasons.
4. Tigers beat the Indians! Hey, it only took the Indians resting Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jose Ramirez, but the Tigers will take it any way they can as they climb one back of the Orioles. Justin Verlander was great with a season-high 12 K's, and Miguel Cabrera drove in five runs to pass 100.
Miguel Cabrera (DET): 10 seasons w/30 HR & 100 RBI (tied 7th all-time)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 28, 2016
Others with 10? Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, David Ortiz, Rafael Palmeiro pic.twitter.com/JjwjLlZArs
Others with more than 10: Alex Rodriguez (14); Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Jimmie Foxx and Babe Ruth (12); Barry Bonds (11).
5. Rangers take over top spot in AL. Teams don't generally care all that much about securing home-field advantage, as they'll rest players as needed once they've clinched. But the Rangers are 51-26 at home and 42-39 on the road, so they should care. They have 93 wins, the Red Sox have 92 and the Indians 91. Texas has one more against Milwaukee and finish up with three at home against the Rays. They split the season series with Boston (and won it against Cleveland), but will likely get the top seed over Boston based on a better intradivision record (they finished 47-29 against the AL West; the Red Sox are 42-29 against the AL East).