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The Blue Jays are going into the playoffs, but here’s how they can still finish ahead of the Yankees

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Toronto cannot afford a loss in Baltimore if they want to finish with the fifth seed in this year’s MLB postseason.

All systems go: Craig Bakay checks out the controls for the electronic scoreboard at Exhibition Stad
Craig Bakay checks out the controls for the electronic scoreboard at Exhibition Stadium
Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The Toronto Blue Jays have clinched a playoff berth and are currently sitting in third place in the American League East and in the eighth postseason seed. But that spot has not been solidified yet—this weekend, Toronto still has a chance to switch place with the New York Yankees and claim the fifth seed.

On Friday evening, the Blue Jays beat the Orioles 10–5 and the Marlins beat the Yankees 4–3 in extras, bringing the 31–27 Jays one game back of the 32–26 Yankees. With two games remaining there are the following nine possible scenarios:

  1. Blue Jays go 2–0 to finish 33–27, Yankees go 2–0 to finish 34–26
  2. Blue Jays go 2–0 to finish 33–27, Yankees go 1–1 to finish 33–27
  3. Blue Jays go 2–0 to finish 33–27, Yankees go 0–2 to finish 32–28
  4. Blue Jays go 1–1 to finish 32–28, Yankees go 2–0 to finish 34–26
  5. Blue Jays go 1–1 to finish 32–28, Yankees go 1–1 to finish 33–27
  6. Blue Jays go 1–1 to finish 32–28, Yankees go 0–2 to finish 32–28
  7. Blue Jays go 0–2 to finish 31–29, Yankees go 2–0 to finish 34–26
  8. Blue Jays go 0–2 to finish 31–29, Yankees go 1–1 to finish 33–27
  9. Blue Jays go 0–2 to finish 31–29, Yankees go 0–2 to finish 32–28

The Jays are one game back so scenarios 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 would result in the Jays finishing behind the Yankees, scenarios 2 and 6 would result in a win-loss tie, and scenario 3 would put Toronto ahead of New York.

Let’s take a closer look at those win-loss tie scenarios and how the tie would be broken using Major League Baseball’s special tiebreaking rules for the 2020 season.

Scenario 2: Blue Jays go 2–0 to finish 33–27, Yankees go 1–1 to finish 33–27

In this case the Blue Jays will be seeded ahead of the Yankees. The first tiebreaker is the head-to-head record—despite the −16 run differential, the Blue Jays finished with a 5–5 record against the Yankees.

Since that is still a tie, we move to the second tiebreaker: intradivision record. The Yankees have finished intradivision play, so they will finish the season with a 23–17 record against other AL East teams. In this scenario, the Blue Jays would win two games against the Orioles, so their intradivision record would improve to, wait for it, 23–17.

Since that is still a tie, we move to the third tiebreaker: record in the final 20 division games. The Yankees have a 11–9 record but in this scenario the Blue Jays would have a 12–8 record to very narrowly edge the Yankees to finish second in the division and earn the fifth seed.

Scenario 6: Blue Jays go 1–1 to finish 32–28, Yankees go 0–2 to finish 32–28

In this case the Blue Jays will be seeded behind the Yankees. As before, we cannot rely on the first tiebreaker. However, because this scenario would have the Blue Jays have an extra loss against a division rival (well, to be honest, I should write “another team in the division”), Toronto’s intradivisional record would be 22–18, a game behind New York’s 23–17 record.

So, as Twitter user @james_in_to said, if the Blue Jays want to finish in the fifth seed and avoid the Tampa Bay Rays, they must sweep this Orioles series, and hope that the Yankees lose at least one more game against the Marlins.

As for the other American League seeds, the Astros have clinched #6, while all the other seeds are still open. The Rays have clinched at least the #2 seed and are currently in #1. The Athletics are currently #2 but has clinched at least #3 by winning the West and can top the Rays if they win out their three remaining games. The Central division will produce three postseason teams, one in either seed #2 or #3 plus two in seeds #4 and #7 but their relative seeding is still up in the air because Minnesota, Cleveland, and the White Sox are all within one game of each other. New York can only finish as seed #5 or #8 even if they win their last two games and Chicago or Cleveland lose their last two, because the White Sox have a better divisional record and Cleveland has a better record in their last 20 interdivisional games. The Blue Jays can only finish in #5 or #8. Every other team in the AL has been eliminated from postseason contention.