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Jays can see finish line as MLB enters final weekend series


A back-and-forth race between four teams is drawing to its conclusion, and the Rogers Centre is primed to host a wild card berth celebration this weekend. 

The Toronto Blue Jays can clinch a wild card berth with a victory on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays and a loss by the Seattle Mariners.

Seattle is hosting the Texas Rangers - who missed out on booking their postseason ticket when the Mariners rallied for a walk-off victory - for a four-game set that started on Thursday. 

AL Standings entering play on Sept 29

Team Record What they're playing for
Texas Rangers  89-70 

Can clinch AL West title with one win in final three games;

can clinch Wild Card berth with two losses by Houston Astros   

Toronto Blue Jays  88-71  Can clinch Wild Card berth with win and Mariners loss 
Houston Astros  87-72 

Can clinch Wild Card berth with two wins in final three games and loss by Mariners;

can clinch AL West title by winning final three games and Rangers lose final three games 

Seattle Mariners  86-73  All clinching scenarios are contingent on Astros and Blue Jays losing multiple games 

Four teams are fighting for three spots in the final weekend of the season: the Blue Jays are in command of the hunt for the second wild card slot (the Rays clinched the first a couple of days ago), and the three teams at the top of the AL West are duking it out for the division title and the final wild card slot to the runner-up. 

If all four teams finish the season tied at 89-73, the Blue Jays would be the odd team out. Three-team ties in MLB are decided first if any of the three teams involved won the season series against both of the other teams.

The AL West division title tiebreaker would not fall under that category in this scenario: the Mariners won the season series against the Astros but lost to the Rangers, the Rangers beat the Mariners but lost to the Astros and the Astros beat the Rangers but lost to the Mariners. The second tiebreaker becomes best combined record against the other two opponents, which in this case, goes to the Mariners, who are 14-12 against the Rangers and Astros.

The same tiebreaker applies to the Rangers, Astros and Blue Jays for the second wild card slot after Seattle takes the AL West title. None of the three teams won the season series against the other two, so combined record is the deciding factor again - the Astros are the winners in this tiebreaker.

Finally, the final wild card slot would be decided by head-to-head record between the Rangers and Blue Jays: Texas won the season series six games to one, so the Blue Jays season would be over and Texas would claim the final wild card slot. 

In the case of a three-way tie, where one team wins the AL West with a better record than the other two (this can only happen if the Astros or Rangers are the winners) and the Blue Jays remain tied with the two losers of the division, the tiebreakers would work out accordingly: If the Astros win above the Rangers and Mariners, the Blue Jays do not qualify for the postseason. If the Rangers win above the Astros and Mariners, the Astros would not qualify.

All of this is to say that the wild card race in the American League has the potential to get extremely messy if the Blue Jays struggle in their final series of the year. 

This scenario seemed out of reach just two weeks ago, when the Rangers completed a four-game sweep of the Blue Jays in Toronto to push them a game and a half back of the Mariners for the final wild card spot on September 14. 

"We're all competitors, we don't like what happened this series," said ace pitcher Kevin Gausman after allowing four runs in 4.2 innings in a 9-2 defeat. "We've got a bad taste in our mouth. But we can't do anything right now but keep going."

As manager John Schneider described it, it was "not a great series ... not our best game by any stretch of the imagination." 

As it turned out, he was right. In the last 14 days since that series, the Blue Jays hold a record of 8-4, while the Rangers have gone 7-6, the Astros 4-8, and the Mariners 5-8 to rearrange the wild card standings in Toronto's favour. 

Now the goal for the final weekend series is clear: the Blue Jays will clinch a playoff spot with wins in two of their final three contests. Win a series against a division rival at home, and they're in.