Until Sunday, it appeared that the AL wild card race might involve a three-team playoff, something that's never happened in the history of major league baseball. All the Los Angeles Angels needed to do was to protect a three-run lead in the ninth inning, at home, against a mostly bad Oakland Athletics team.
You know what happened, and mentioning the name "Jordan Walden" among Angels fans could cause... well, I don't think I'll go any farther. The resulting loss to Oakland put the Angels three games behind the Red Sox with three games remaining.
Still, there was the miracle possibility -- if the Angels could sweep the Rangers and the Red Sox could get swept, while the Rays lost two of three to the Yankees, there would be a three-way tie for the wild card.
The Red Sox did their part, losing to the Orioles, and the Rays won the one game they could have under this scenario, all completed before the West Coast-starting Angels finished their game against Texas. Could they keep it going for one more day?
Unfortunately for Angels fans, no, they could not. The Angels went behind after just two batters, on a single, a passed ball, another hit and a throwing error. Texas increased the lead to 3-0; after the Angels closed to within 3-2 in the sixth, Texas scored an insurance run in the eighth.
That gave the Angels one last chance, down by two runs in the bottom of the ninth. Erick Aybar led off with a single, and after a passed ball sent him to second base, Peter Bourjos singled him in to make it 4-3. The tying run was on base with two out, but Howie Kendrick struck out to end the game and the Angels' playoff hopes.
The loss ensured that the AL wild card will come from the East, either the Red Sox or Rays, who are now tied for the position. That means that team, who would normally play the team with the best record in the league, cannot do so because the best record belongs to the Yankees, and current rules state that a wild card cannot play a team in its division in the first round.
The No. 2 seed currently belongs to the Rangers; they would play the wild card if they stay ahead of the No. 3 Tigers, who Texas leads by one game. If Texas and Detroit wind up with the same record, the No. 2 seed goes to the Tigers, who won the regular season series from Texas 6-3.
But if things stay the way they are now, the AL playoffs would begin Friday with the Tigers visiting Yankee Stadium, and either the Red Sox or Rays traveling to Texas. In the meantime, the Rays and Red Sox soldier on... perhaps, even a day beyond the regular season's end on Wednesday, if they remain tied.