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Athletics magic number: 6, games to watch Monday Sep. 22

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A look back at Sunday's American League Wild Card action, and a look ahead to Monday's games to watch.

Rob Carr

Bob Melvin wears number six, and so goes the magic number photo, with the Oakland Athletics winning and the Seattle Mariners losing on Sunday. Just as a reminder, the magic number is the number of A's wins and opponent's losses needed to clinch a better record than that opponent. Because Seattle is the first one missing the postseason, the magic number against Seattle represents the number to reach the postseason.

Here is your American League Wild Card scoreboard as of the end of play on September 21:

W L GB 9/21
Magic Number
Games remaining
WC1 OAK 85 70 +0.5 Win 3 vs. LAA, 4 at TEX
WC2 KC 84 70 -- Win 8 2-5 3+1 at CLE, 4 at CWS
SEA 83 72 1.5 Loss 6 9-10 4 at TOR, 3 vs LAA
CLE 81 74 3.5 Win 4 4-2 3+1 vs KC, 3 vs TB
NYY 80 75 4.5 Win 3 4-2 4 vs BAL, 3 at BOS
TOR 78 77 6.5 Loss 1 4-3 4 vs SEA, 3 vs BAL
Division Leaders
West LAA 96 60 Champ Win 8-8 3 at OAK, 3 at SEA
East BAL 93 62 Champ Win 4-2 4 at NYY, 3 at TOR
Central DET 86 69 +1.5 9 2-5 3 vs CWS, 4 vs MIN

The "+1" between Kansas City and Cleveland denotes a suspended game to be resumed on September 22 with Kansas City batting in the bottom of the 10th inning trailing Cleveland 4-2.

Sunday's recaps

The Mariners lost to the Astros, which moved the postseason magic number down to seven, and then the A's win knocked that down to six. The A's could theoretically clinch by the end of the Wednesday with three victories, at least one Indians loss, and three Mariners losses. The Athletics unfortunately cannot enjoy a clinching celebration at the Coliseum on Wednesday, however, because the A's day game will be over before the Mariners even get underway.

The Royals pulled off a win against the Tigers today, moving the home field advantage magic number, so that the A's home field advantage fell to merely eight with seven games to play. Because Kansas City won the head-to-head battle this season, a tied record between just those two for the two Wild Cards at the end of the year would fall in favor of Kansas City hosting the AL Wild Card Game.

Now that the Tigers and Royals are not playing each other, we generally want both of those teams to lose, and in the best case end up in a tiebreaker scenario involving each other for the division title and possibly with Seattle for the final Wild Card spot. A three-way tie would require two days of tiebreakers prior to even playing the Wild Card Game.

Going down the line, the Cleveland Indians beat the Minnesota Twins, pulling to within 3½ games of the Kansas City Royals. The Indians and Royals have a four-game set coming up that starts off with the Royals having only three outs to get at least two runs in the suspended game.

Finally the Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays, meaning the Jays can at best tie Oakland by winning their final seven games. The Yankees trail in the race for the second Wild Card by 4½ games with just seven games remaining.

Enjoy these excerpts from the recaps of the remaining American League Wild Card contenders.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 2

From Matt Ferenchick of Pinstripe Alley:

Today was a good day for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka came back and not only made it through his outing, but looked good doing so. The offense hit a couple dingers, including the 15,000th in team history. And the bullpen sealed a 5-2 win over the Blue Jays without much trouble. Oh, and David Cone mentioned Pinstripe Alley on air.

From Tom Dakers of Bluebird Banter:

Not a fun game.

The Yankees had 3 cheapie, Yankee Stadium type home runs, 2 for Brian McCann, one for Brett Gardner and that pretty much won the game for them.

Royals 5, Tigers 2

From Connor Moylan of Royals Review:

Gordon threw the ball back to the infield; Moustakas was the relay man. Moose took his eye off the ball and turned early; letting the ball ricochet off his glove and roll into foul territory. The ball scooted far enough away to score Martinez, tying the game in an absolutely absurd manner. It was the kind of play that would make Chip Ambres blush.

From Al Beaton of Bless You Boys:

When he wasn't asked to lay down a bunt, Alcides Escobar wrapped up a huge 8-for-15 series with two hits and an RBI. When allowed to actually swing the bat, Norichika Aoki hurt the Tigers by tripling in a pair of runs. In what may have been his final home game wearing Royals blue, DH Billy Butler added two hits and an RBI for the winners. Alex Gordon chipped in an RBI double to give the Royals their final 5-2 advantage.

AL Wild Card Contenders

Astros 8, Mariners 3

From Matt Ellis of Lookout Landing:

Scattered throughout these infinite realities are some where the Mariners will make the playoffs in a week, and the good news is that it could happen in the one we find ourselves in. But the number of days we have between Now and Then is shrinking faster than we can learn to cope with untimely losses, and if something doesn't change soon, we are going to be back in that familiar universe of watching other teams play baseball in October. None of that has to be a miracle, but it really hurts to say that the Mariners may need one soon, if nothing else changes.

Indians 7, Twins 2

From Jason Lukehart of Let's Go Tribe:

I feel like I'm out of superlatives for Corey Kluber, so excuse me if I seem to be repeating myself...

For his second start in a row, Kluber struck out 14 batters Sunday afternoon. How many pitchers have ever had back-to-back starts with 14+ Ks? Kluber is just the 9th ever. Here are the previous eight: Sam McDowell, Bob Gibson, Mickey Lolich, Dwight Gooden, Jose Rijo, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. Good company.

Monday's games to watch

September 22 gets off to an early start with the completion of the suspended game between the Indians and Royals at three o'clock. At four o'clock, all four games not involving the A's get underway with the regularly scheduled Royals-Indian game, Orioles-Yankees, Mariners-Blue Jays, and White Sox-Tigers. Finally, at seven o'clock, the Athletics take on the Los Angeles Angels.

Time (PT) Starting Pitcher Notes
Indians (4) TBA M# vs. CLE = 4
Royals (2) TBA M# vs. KC = 8
4:05 PM Royals Danny Duffy (8-11, 2.42) M# vs. KC = 8
Indians Carlos Carrasco (8-5, 2.65) M# vs. CLE = 4
4:05 PM Orioles Wei-Yin Chen (16-4, 3.58)
Yankees Michael Pineda (3-5, 2.15) M# vs. NYY = 3
4:07 PM Mariners James Paxton (6-3, 2.06) M# vs. SEA = 6
Blue Jays J.A. Happ (9-11, 4.35) M# vs. TOR = 1
4:08 PM White Sox Chris Bassitt (0-1, 5.29)
Tigers Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 3.58) M# vs. DET = 9
7:05 PM Angels C.J. Wilson (13-9, 4.42)
Athletics Jeff Samardzija (6-12, 2.98)