No matter what happens tonight, the final day of the season will still be meaningful for the teams atop the AL.
The Yanks could clinch the AL East tonight with a win over Boston and a Baltimore loss to Tampa Bay. In that scenario, if the Rangers lose, the Yanks will also clinch home-field advantage throughout the ALDS and ALCS, but the AL West would then be up for grabs in the final Rangers-A’s game on Wednesday. On the other hand, if all the above happens but the Rangers win tonight, then the Yankees and Rangers will be battling it out Wednesday night for best record in the AL, determining who plays the winner of the wild-card playoff and who matches up with Detroit, and the O’s and A’s will be battling to see who has to fly across the country to play the other in wild-card play-in game.
Of course, if the Yanks lose tonight, Wednesday becomes critical for them and for Baltimore. And if the Rangers also lose tonight we’ll have a 4-way tie for the best record in the AL and both the AL East and AL West titles will come down to Wednesday’s games. No matter what you think of the additional wild-card spot, there is no doubt that it’s got every team desperately trying to take the division and avoid the vageries of a single-game playoff.
As for individual performances, with his 4-for-5 performance including his 44th home run of the season last night , Miguel Cabrera is alone atop all three triple crown categories – a 4-point lead in BA over Mike Trout, a single HR advantage over Josh Hamilton, and a seemingly insurmountable 10-RBI lead over Hamilton. It is simply amazing what he has done this year and regardless of the superlative rookie season turned in by Trout, Cabrera is all but certain to take home the AL MVP, especially now that Trout’s team is out of playoff contention.
Meanwhile, Robinson Cano is absolutely on fire. On the season he is second in WAR for all players (though more than 3 points behind Mike Trout’s ridiculous 10.7 WAR), and his recent play is off the charts. In the last 6 games he is batting .577 with an OPS of 1.533. Everything he hits is a rocket yielding a BAbip of .583. And that caps off a stretch of 28 days in which he has batted .337 with an OPS of .921.
No one calls it impressive when Goliath actually holds his own against an inspired David who is punching well above his weight, but you have to give it to the Yankees. Notwithstanding the frustrations and patches of mediocrity, they have not panicked despite the hot-beyond-belief play of the Orioles. They have embodied Andy Pettitte’s bend-but-don’t-break character, and at the moment, they have within their grasp – without having to rely on anyone else – the best record in the league and home-field throughout the playoffs. Based on how this season has gone, it would be true to form for them to slip right back into a 2-way (or even 4-way) tie tonight, but for the next 9 hours at least, things look really good.