Figuring out the numerous scenarios the Orioles could face over the next several days is being made even more complicated by forecasts calling for bad weather this weekend in New York.
The Orioles are scheduled to play their last three regular-season games this weekend at Yankee Stadium, and all three could be important in determining whether the club makes the postseason. The forecast in New York is calling for rain all three days of the Orioles’ series against the Yankees.
Major League Baseball requires all 162 games to be played if a game impacts postseason seeding or home-field advantage. If a game doesn’t have that kind of postseason impact, those games don’t have to be played.
The Orioles went into Thursday's game holding the second American League wild card, trailing the Toronto Blue Jays by one game for the first wild card and home-field advantage in the wild-card game, with four games remaining in the regular season.
The AL wild-card game is scheduled for Tuesday, but MLB is prepared to bump the game to Wednesday if other games need to be fit in before then.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said his team is more focused on controlling its own future than all the possible scenarios that might exist.
“There’s certain stuff you have to be ahead of, like potential travel,” Showalter said. “[Travel secretary] Kevin [Buck] does a great job of that, but it’s only a challenge if you create one. It doesn’t matter if we don’t do what we have to do. Nobody’s talking about that. It’s not a topic [of conversation]. It’s about tonight’s game and tomorrow’s game and the next game and the smoke clears on Sunday. We’ll see where we stand and we adjust to it and go.”
The Tigers' final home game Thursday against the Cleveland Indians was postponed and will now be played Monday if it holds playoff implications. The Tigers are fighting for their postseason lives, and though the Indians have already wrapped up the AL Central title they can still help their playoff seeding.
With rainy weather expected to hit the eastern seaboard over the weekend, the league offices are prepared for other situations in which the season would be completed Monday. Not only are the Orioles playing for their postseason lives this weekend in New York, but the Blue Jays will be ending the regular season this weekend in Boston.
Even after playing the full 162-game schedule, the Orioles could still face the possibility of playing a tiebreaking “Game 163” to earn a postseason berth if they are one of two teams with identical records tied for the second wild card. If the Orioles and Tigers have the same record after 162 games, a tiebreaker would be played at Camden Yards on Tuesday. But if the Orioles and Mariners are tied, the Orioles would have to travel to Seattle to play a tiebreaker. Home field in tiebreaker games is decided by head-to-head regular-season records.
Any tiebreaker against the Tigers would be played Tuesday regardless, opening the door for the Orioles to finish any postponed games in New York on Monday, pushing a tiebreaker scenario, if needed, to Tuesday and the wild-card game to Wednesday.
“In fact, Mr. Angelos has already done something to make it a lot easier if there’s some travel after Sunday,” Showalter said. “It’s something that our players don’t have to worry about. I think that’s the big thing. You can’t just say, ‘Hey, I need a plane to go to the West Coast tomorrow.’ It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be ahead of it.”