Wild-card scenarios: How Blue Jays can clinch this weekend

Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca join Barry Davis in Boston to talk about what the Toronto Blue Jays need to do to ensure of berth in the playoffs.

TORONTO – Most teams have a pretty good idea where their seasons are headed after 159 games. Not the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays.

With three games remaining on the schedule, the Blue Jays head to Boston for a crucial series knowing their season could end in any number of ways. After a series loss to the Orioles, the Blue Jays are now tied with Baltimore for the top American League wild-card spot. Still, the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners are very much in the mix.

“I would say the other teams are in more pressure situations than us right now,” Jose Bautista.

Fair enough, but the Blue Jays face plenty of pressure too given that some of these possible outcomes are much more desirable than others…

How to ensure they’re in?
If the Blue Jays sweep the Red Sox, they’re the top wild-card team regardless of what anyone else does.

What if Blue Jays win two of three?
The Blue Jays are facing one of baseball’s top teams, so a sweep is a lot to ask for. If the Blue Jays win twice, the Mariners can’t catch them. A single Tigers loss would ensure Detroit couldn’t catch the Blue Jays if they take two of three in Boston.

What if the Blue Jays lose two of three?
If the Blue Jays win only one game in Boston, the Mariners could tie Toronto by winning out while the Tigers could tie by winning three of four. If the Blue Jays lose two of three in Boston, the Tigers could pass Toronto by winning out.

And if the Blue Jays are swept?
Detroit could then pass Toronto by winning three of four, a real possibility considering the Tigers now visit the Braves for three (their final game would be a make-up contest against Cleveland, if necessary). Detroit could also tie Toronto by going 2-2.

As for the Mariners, they could pass the Blue Jays by sweeping the Athletics or tie the Blue Jays by taking two of three.

What if the Blue Jays and Orioles remain tied for the wild card?
The Blue Jays would host the wild-card game Tuesday if they end up tied with Baltimore ahead of Detroit and Seattle. Even if Baltimore sweeps the Yankees the Blue Jays would be the top seed because they won the season series against the Orioles.

What if three teams tie for the two wild-card spots?
The teams are seeded based primarily on head-to-head record (full MLB rules here). The top-seeded team hosts the second-ranked team with the winner moving on to the wild-card game. The loser of that game would then visit the three seed for the second wild-card spot. Bottom line: two clubs get two chances to advance while the three seed has just one shot.

The good news for the Blue Jays: they went 10-9 against Baltimore, 3-3 against Seattle and 4-3 against Detroit so they’d be well positioned in the event of a three-way tie.

What if four teams tie for the two wild-card spots?
This one’s actually pretty simple: two semifinal-type games occur and each winner advances to the wild-card game.