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 weekend, they can improve their chances while also locking up a playoff spot for the first time in seven years.

Entering Saturday, Baltimore’s magic number for a playoff spot is three, 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 94 wins — three more than they have now — and miss the playoffs.

At the earliest, Baltimore can lock up a playoff spot Sunday, which coincides with the end of a critical four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays. After falling in the series’ first two games, the Orioles are tied with the Rays atop the AL East.

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’ 67 losses mathematically results in a magic number of five. But even though the Blue Jays are the first team out of a playoff spot, the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers have seven games left between each other, meaning one of them will lose at least four more games. That means both of those teams factor in still, too.

In fact, there are few scenarios in which a 93-win Orioles team misses the playoffs, but that’s enough to keep Baltimore’s magic number from being two. It involves Toronto winning out and 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 three.

How the Orioles can clinch Sunday

The Orioles winning their games with Tampa Bay are important to their hopes of winning the division. They also could help Baltimore clinch a playoff spot by Sunday.

Firstly, the Orioles must win at least one of their final two games against the Rays. A side note: Winning any one of the games against Tampa Bay will drop Baltimore’s 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.

If the Orioles win both games and manage a series split, there are multiple paths to a clinch: Seattle losing one of its next two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas losing one of its next two games against the Cleveland Guardians, or Toronto losing both of its next two games against the Boston Red Sox.

The Orioles could also lock up a spot despite winning only one more game against the Rays, though it would require more outside help. In that case, Baltimore would need the Mariners and Rangers to combine for three losses among their four games over the next two days.

Numerous outcomes would cause the Orioles’ magic number to drop from three, though none would bring it all the way to zero. A Baltimore victory or a loss by either Seattle or Texas would drop the magic number to two. The Mariners and Rangers both losing would help the Orioles and better position them for a Sunday clinch, but the magic number would still fall by no more than two. Likewise, a Blue Jays loss to the Red Sox would help Baltimore but wouldn’t drop its magic number.


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