The Yankees can win the American League East with a victory in game 162 tonight, no matter what Baltimore does. But even if the Yankees do capture the division title, there remain some unknowns, like if they’d play the survivor of the Wild Card playoff game or the Central Division champion Tigers. Here, all the ways the final day (or maybe even days) of the regular season could play out.
IF THE YANKEES WIN TONIGHT …
The Yankees are AL East champs tonight if they beat Boston tonight, no matter what the Orioles do. They’ll also finish with the best record in the American League with a victory, meaning they’d play Sunday against the winner of Friday’s Wild Card game. (If Texas beats Oakland today, Baltimore would play the A’s in that game. If Oakland wins, the Orioles would play the Rangers.)
IF THE YANKEES LOSE TONIGHT …
This is where it gets complicated. If the Yankees lose, Baltimore loses, and Texas wins, the above scenario still applies: The Yankees will win the East and get home field-advantage throughout the American League playoffs, because they own the tiebreaker over the Rangers. (In that case, Baltimore and Oakland would play Friday.)
If the Yankees lose, Baltimore loses, and Oakland wins, the Yankees still win the East, but the West champion A’s will get home-field advantage through the AL playoffs, because they own the tie-breaker with the Yankees. In that case, the Yankees would open the ALDS in Detroit against the Central Division champion Tigers. (The team with home-field advantage in the ALDS this year opens on the road because of the temporary 2-3 format.)
More complicated still is what happens if the Yankees lose tonight and Baltimore wins. Once upon a time, divisional ties didn’t require a one-game playoff if both teams were guaranteed a playoff berth. But now that winning the division is so important, a one-game playoff tomorrow would determine the American League champ if the Yankees and O’s have identical records through 162 games. (That game will take place in Baltimore, because the Orioles own the tiebreaker against the Yankees.)
If the Yankees win that game, they’re the AL East champs. According to Ken Rosenthal, the tiebreaker game doesn't affect seeding, meaning that the Yankees would be the AL's top seed if they win the Wild Card game and Texas wins today and takes the West. (They'd then await the winner of the Wild Card game between Baltimore and Oakland.) If the Yankees win the AL East tiebreaker but Oakland wins today and captures the West crown, the A's get home-field through the American League playoffs, and the Yankees would get the No. 2 seed. They'd then play Detroit in the ALDS.
If the Yankees lost the tiebreaker in Baltimore, they'd be a Wild Card team, and the AL West champ (whomever it is) would get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. (Both Texas and Oakland own the tiebreaker over Baltimore.) The Yankees would host the Wild Card game regardless of whether they're playing Oakland or Texas, and if they won that game, they'd play the AL West champ (i.e., the winner of today's Oakland-Texas game) in the ALDS.