When and how the Orioles can clinch a playoff spot – Boston Herald

The Orioles have their eye on their first American League East title since 2014, and this week, they can improve their chances while also locking up a playoff spot for the first time in seven years.

Entering Thursday, Baltimore’s magic number for a playoff spot is four, a number determined based on numerous tiebreakers and head-to-head matchups between the teams in the wild-card race. Effectively, there is no scenario the Orioles finish with 95 wins — four more than they have now — and miss the playoffs.

At the earliest, Baltimore can lock up a playoff spot Friday, after the second game of a critical four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Orioles lead the Rays by two games in the AL East heading into Thursday’s series opener with the Rays.

Here’s a look at when and how the Orioles can clinch a playoff spot for the first time since 2016.

Magic number explainer

First, let’s quickly explain the magic number. In a straight-up scenario, it’s determined by adding the number of wins of the team in the playoff spot to the number of losses of the first team out, then subtracting that sum from 163, or the number of games in the season plus one. In the case of the AL East, it’s 163 minus Orioles wins (91) plus Rays losses (57) to get a magic number of 15. Each Orioles win or Rays loss brings the number down by one each.

To figure out Baltimore’s magic number for a playoff spot, it’s more complicated. Simply using the Orioles’ 91 wins with the Toronto Blue Jays’ 66 losses mathematically results in a magic number of six. But the Blue Jays are currently in a four-game series with the Texas Rangers, who are half a game up on the Seattle Mariners for the second of the AL’s three wild-card spots, with Toronto a game behind Seattle. The Mariners and Rangers have seven games left between each other, meaning one of them will lose at least four more games.

In fact, there’s only one scenario in which a 94-win Orioles team misses the playoffs, which keeps Baltimore’s magic number from being three. It involves a tie atop the AL West among Texas, Seattle and the Houston Astros at 94-68, with subsequent tiebreakers keeping the Orioles out. It’s an immensely convoluted and unlikely outcome, but it exists, so it leaves the magic number at four.

How the Orioles can clinch Friday

The Orioles have already announced Camden Yards is sold out for Friday’s game, before which longtime center fielder Adam Jones will officially retire with Baltimore. The night would make perhaps the perfect setting to clinch. But there’s only one scenario in which the Orioles can do so.

Firstly, they must win their first two games against the Rays. A side note: Baltimore’s first win against Tampa Bay will drop its AL East magic number by three, based on an Orioles win, a Rays loss and Baltimore securing the head-to-head tiebreaker with its seventh win in the teams’ season series.

Beyond their own two wins, the Orioles will need help from elsewhere. With the Mariners off Thursday, the only way Baltimore can clinch Friday is if Seattle loses to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday and the Rangers lose to the Blue Jays on Thursday and Cleveland Guardians on Friday. Either of those teams winning a game over those two days leaves open the possibility of the aforementioned three-way tie atop the AL West that eventually results in the Orioles being the odd team out.

Regardless, Texas losing Thursday will drop Baltimore’s magic number to three. The Orioles also winning would bring it to two.

How the Orioles can clinch Saturday

Numerous outcomes can result in Baltimore clinching Saturday. If the Orioles win Thursday and Friday while Texas and Seattle collectively win no more than two of their three games in that time, Baltimore would clinch Saturday with a win against Tampa Bay regardless of what happens elsewhere. The only way the Orioles win Thursday, Friday and Saturday without clinching is if Texas and Seattle do the same and Houston wins one of its two games with Kansas City, the majors’ worst team.

Even if the Orioles lose one of the first two Rays games, Baltimore could ensure a playoff berth Saturday if Texas and Seattle lose three of their combined five games in that span.

For the Orioles to clinch a playoff spot Saturday while winning only one of their next three games, the Rangers must lose their next three games while Seattle loses its next two. Any other outcomes push clinching scenarios into at least Sunday.


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