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Athletics magic number: 2, games to watch Thursday September 25

A look back at Wednesday's games around the American League Wild Card race, and a look ahead to Thursday's games to watch.

Thearon W. Henderson

If the Athletics somehow host a postseason game this year, the Coliseum should play "O Canada" prior to the "Star Spangled Banner" to thank the Toronto Blue Jays for winning the first three games of their series against the Seattle Mariners. Yes, despite every effort to hand the Mariners their place in the postseason over the last two weeks, the Athletics magic number is down to just two. On Thursday, the A's can clinch their place in the Wild Card Game if Seattle loses their day game to the Toronto Blue Jays and the A's win the night game in Arlington against the Texas Rangers.

Here are your American League Wild Card standings as of the end of September 24:

W L GB 9/24
Magic Number
Games remaining
WC1 KC 86 72 -- Loss 5 2-5 4 at CWS
WC2 OAK 86 72 -- Loss 4 at TEX
SEA 83 75 3.0 Loss 2 9-10 1 at TOR, 3 vs LAA
CLE 83 76 3.5 Win 1 4-2 3 vs TB
NYY 81 77 5.0 Loss Elim. 4-2 1 vs BAL, 3 at BOS
Division Leaders
West LAA 98 61 Champ Win 9-10 3 at SEA
East BAL 95 63 Champ Win 4-2 1 at NYY, 3 at TOR
Central DET 88 70 +1.5 Win 7 2-5 4 vs MIN

If Kansas City and Oakland or Detroit and Oakland are tied for the two Wild Card spots, Oakland would be on the road for the American League Wild Card game because the A's lost both season series.

If KC, Oakland, and Detroit are all tied at the end of the season, Kansas City and Detroit would play a Tiebreaker game to determine the American League Central Division championship. The loser of that game would host Oakland in the Wild Card game.

Wednesday's recaps

The New York Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention by losing to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday, meaning Derek Jeter's final game at Yankee Stadium will be one without mathematical postseason implications. It will be just the second game of his career played after the Yankees were mathematically eliminated. The game might not be played, however, with rain in the forecast.

The Tigers handily defeated the Chicago White Sox to continue Detroit's lead in the AL Central Division. Mark Buehrle and Taijuan Walker dueled in one hour, 59 minutes to a 1-0 Toronto victory, prompting many calls for Buehrle to join Bud Selig's pace-of-play committee. The Mariners loss also meant that the Tigers clinched a berth in the postseason. Finally, the Indians and Royals played a see-saw game that dropped the Royals back into a tie with Oakland at the end of the day.

AL Wild Card Contenders

Orioles 9, Yankees 5

From Tanya Bondurant of Pinstripe Alley, for the last time:

At long last, it's over. It has felt like the Yankees were hanging onto the ledge for a while, threatening to drag themselves up over the side and put themselves in playoff contention. They simply never found a way to get over that last hump. Considering the injuries to the pitching staff that left Hiroki Kuroda as the only starter left standing at one point and the ineffectiveness of nearly everyone offensively, maybe it's a miracle that they were able to hold on this long. Coming into today, the Yankees needed to win all of their last five games with Kansas City losing all of their last five to have a chance. Losing today means that what happens from here won't matter.

Tigers 6, White Sox 1

From Catherine Slonksnis of Bless You Boys:

Verlander (W, 15-12) was in vintage form for the second consecutive start. After an eight-pitch leadoff at-bat in the first inning, Verlander cruised through the White Sox's lineup, giving up just one extra-base hit that drove in the White Sox's only (unearned) run of the game. He surrendered no walks and struck out six, slamming the door on a dominant performance with a swinging strikeout of Conor Gillaspie in the eighth inning, who battled for 10 pitches before succumbing to a 94 mph fastball.

Blue Jays 1, Mariners 0

From Colin O'Keefe of Lookout Landing:

Being so close to the end, I figured it made sense to just be hopeful a little longer, to pray for a miracle. Even if it was a delusional thing to do, it was fun to scoreboard with with a little fervor this afternoon, and to actually see some good news. With the margin between realistic and actual elimination being so slim, I thought I'd just hold out for the latter. Because why not?

Tonight's why not. Because that felt awful, even if the way it ended was almost humorous in just how fitting it was.

From Kurt Mensching of Bless You Boys:

Fear no more. The Tigers are back. This is the first time in franchise history the Tigers made the playoffs four straight years. And now we can start thinking about playoff rosters and rotations and optimal bullpen strategy for real.

Let's celebrate a little. Just a little. It's not even a division title yet. We can save bigger celebrations for later. But at least they're in.

Indians 6, Royals 4

From Phil Kehres of Let's Go Tribe:

The Indians have staved off mathematical elimination for at least one more night. Though playoffs are still an extreme longshot, the Tribe managed to salvage some of its dignity regardless by avoiding a sweep at the hands of the Royals. Trevor Bauer struggled, but victory was secured thanks to solid offense and a dominant bullpen. It was also a wonderful reminder of what *has* gone right for the 2014 Tribe - namely Michael Brantley and Yan Gomes.

From Matthew LaMar of Royals Review:

Seriously, Moustakas has been horrible this year. Horrible. He's now around 20% below average for his career. I, for one, would rather see Colon in the full-time 3B role next year and just cut Moose loose. Paying arbitration money for such horrid play is a bad idea.

Thursday's games to watch

Start your afternoon off right at one o'clock and watch a double bullpen game between the Mariners and Blue Jays, with the Jays trying for the sweep.

At four o'clock, the Detroit Tigers will try to draw down their AL Central division magic number from three, playing the Minnesota Twins. A's fans should root against Detroit to increase the chances that the Royals and Tigers end up tied at the end of the year, and are forced to use their best starters in that Tiebreaker game.

At five o'clock are the final two games on the card, A's at the Texas Rangers, and the Royals at the Chicago White Sox.

Time (PT) Starting Pitcher Notes
1:07 PM Mariners Tom Wilhelmsen (3-2, 2.10) M# vs. SEA = 2
Blue Jays Daniel Norris (0-0, 5.40)
4:08 PM Twins Trevor May (3-5, 8.39)
Tigers Max Scherzer (17-5, 3.19) M# vs. DET = 7
5:05 PM Athletics Jason Hammel (10-11, 3.54)
Rangers Colby Lewis (10-14, 5.34)
5:10 PM Royals James Shields (14-8, 3.18) M# vs. KC = 5
White Sox Jose Quintana (9-10, 3.22)
Idle Indians M# vs. CLE = 1