Heading into Sunday, the final day of play for this year's abbreviated MLB season, all eight teams for the American League Wild Card round were set; however, a few crucial games determined the final seeding.
The Minnesota Twins lost to the Cincinnati Reds, but they were still able to clinch the AL Central thanks to the Chicago White Sox falling to their crosstown rival Cubs.
Similarly, even though the New York Yankees lost to the Miami Marlins, the Toronto Blue Jays were also defeated by the Baltimore Orioles, allowing New York to lock up the No. 5 seed.
The Cleveland Indians did not control their own fate, but they locked down the No. 4 seed by defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates and thanks to the White Sox loss.
Given the truncated nature of the coronavirus-shortened regular season, the playoffs have been extended this offseason. Where typically the fourth and fifth-best teams in each division have a play-in wild-card game to determine the respective division series, there are eight teams that have advances this season.
This year, each of the eight teams will take part in a best-of-three wild-card series, with the higher seed hosting each matchup. The playoffs then move on to best-of-five divisional series followed by traditional seven-games series in the championship and World Series rounds.
The three teams to win their respective divisions were the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, the Oakland A's in the AL West and the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.
Let's take a look at the seeding for each of the eight teams in the AL Wild Card round, as well as their odds and the schedule of play for the next three games.
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AL Wild Card Round Matchups and Odds to Win League
No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays (3/1) vs. No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays (15/1)
No. 2 Oakland A's (5/1) vs. No. 7 Chicago White Sox (13/2)
No. 3 Minnesota Twins (11/2) or vs. No. 6 Houston Astros (11/1)
No. 4 Cleveland Indians (13/2) vs. No. 5 New York Yankees (14/5)
AL Wild Card Round Schedule
Tuesday, Sept. 29
Game 1: Blue Jays at Rays
Game 1: White Sox at A's
Game 1: Astros at Twins
Game 1: Yankees at Indians
Wednesday, Sept. 30
Game 2: Blue Jays at Rays
Game 2: White Sox at A's
Game 2: Astros at Twins
Game 2: Yankees at Indians
Thursday, Oct. 1
Game 3: Blue Jays at Rays
Game 3: White Sox at A's
Game 3: Astros at Twins
Game 3: Yankees at Indians
Start times and TV schedule TBD
The Rays head into the postseason with momentum; even though they earned the No. 1 seed in the AL when the A's fell to the Mariners, the Rays took their own game against the Phillies 4-3. Mike Zunino returned from the injured list on Sept. 20, and Tampa Bay sure is glad he did, as he went 2-for-3 with an RBI Sunday and should be a key contributor in the postseason. The Blue Jays are healthy and should be feeling confident after clinching their first postseason berth in four years, but it's a tall order to defeat these No. 1 Rays. Prediction: Rays.
The White Sox, powered by starters Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel, have played lights-out against left-handed pitchers so far this shortened season, going 14-0 when facing them. How will that play out against the A's?
Both teams are looking to win their first playoff round since 2005 (White Sox) and 2006 (A's). Unfortunately, both would have liked to enter the Wild Card Round with more momentum. The White Sox have lost nine of their last 12; the A's have been downed three of their last five. But the White Sox, who had the opportunity just days ago to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AL, are primed to take this series. Prediction: White Sox.
Along with the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL, the Astros (29-31) become the first team to reach the postseason with a losing record (29-31), as USA Today's Bob Nightengale pointed out:
The repeat AL Central champion Twins host the Astros, who have been injury-plagued and have gone 9-23 away from Minute Maid Park. Prediction: Twins.
The Yankees limp into the postseason having lost six of their final eight games and have to face Cy Young Award favorite Shane Bieber in Game 1 against the Indians. That's not exactly a recipe for postseason success. Prediction: Indians.
Odds via DraftKings and current as of Sept. 27