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AL Wild-Card Race Ends With Absolutely No Chaos

Jose Iglesias #12, Xander Bogaerts #2, Rafael Devers #11 and Kyle Schwarber #18 of the Boston Red Sox celebrate after a 7-5 victory against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on October 03, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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So much for the idea of a four-way tie. The final day of MLB’s regular season had potential for lots of havoc, with the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Mariners fighting for two AL wild-card spots, but in the end, the two teams that led the race did not collapse. No 163rd game was needed. Baseball did not get drunk. Baseball did not have a single sip of beer. Baseball remembered that it had to wake up early and went home at a responsible hour.

Before the start of today’s games, the Yankees and Red Sox were in position to make the postseason. To force a four-way tie, the Mariners and Blue Jays both needed to win then hope that New York and Boston lost. The second part did not happen, and only one lovable underdog accomplished their task.

Maybe the M’s were exhausted from Saturday night’s thrilling comeback victory, which is fair because it was pretty cool, but they did not show up in their 162nd game. Starting pitcher Tyler Anderson faltered early, Shohei Ohtani smacked a leadoff home run, and Seattle lost to the Angels, 7-3. A 90-72 record is still quite impressive for the Mariners, but it just wasn’t enough for the Wild Card Game. So long, thanks for playing.

The Blue Jays did their job. Toronto trounced the sadsack Orioles 12-4, handing Baltimore its 110th and final loss of a miserable season. The game felt over by the fifth inning, but when it officially concluded, the players and fans stuck around to watch the outcome of Red Sox-Nationals.

As that unfolded, the Yankees were in an excruciating battle with the Rays. Aside from Gio Urshela and Angel Hernandez both tumbling into a dugout, there wasn’t much going on here. The game was scoreless after eight, but in the bottom of the ninth, Tyler Wade reached home on Aaron Judge’s infield single, and the Yankees clinched a wild-card spot with a 1-0 victory.

There was one more ticket to the postseason left up for grabs. If the Red Sox lost to the Nationals, they’d have to play a tiebreaker game on Monday against the Jays. Chris Sale took the mound Sunday, and normally he’d be the guy you’d want against a crummy NL lineup (Juan Soto obviously excluded), but he struggled early, and a relief inning from Garrett Richards did not stop the bleeding. The Nationals led 5-1 after five innings, but the Red Sox climbed back to tie the game in the seventh on Alex Verdugo’s two-RBI double. Then Rafael Devers delivered a go-ahead two-run dinger in the ninth, and Boston won, 7-5.

Just like that, the feelgood stories were buried in the dirt. The Yankees will travel to Fenway for Tuesday’s wild-card game against the Red Sox. The face of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was watching the Sox game from his dugout, says it all:

Credit: Mark Blinch/Getty Images