If you nod wisely when your neighbor mentions "the magic number," but assume it refers to the best price you can get when selling your lawn mower, then here's the simple explanation.
The Twins' magic number for clinching the American League Central is 3, meaning any combination of wins for the Twins and losses for second place Cleveland will give the Twins the Central title.
The Twins (96-60) and the Indians (92-64) are both off today with six games remaining in the regular season and the Twins holding a four-game lead.
A clinch could happen as early as Wednesday night if the Twins win twice and Cleveland loses at least once because the Twins would have 98 wins and the most the Indians could reach would be 97. The Twins have a 99 percent chance to win the division (but only a 5 percent chance to win the World Series) according to projects.fivethirtyeight.com.
If the teams tie for the AL Central title, there would be a one-game playoff in Cleveland next Monday. The Indians are tied for the second wild-card spot in the American League with Tampa Bay; both are two games behind Oakland.
The Yankees (102-95) and the Astros (102-94) have clinched their divisions. If the Twins win the Central, they would be the No. 3 seed and play either New York or Houston (whichever has the worst record). If the Yankees and Astros tie, Houston gets the edge because it beat New York in four of their seven meetings this season.
Most likely scenario is the Twins win the division and would begin a best-of-five playoff series either in New York or Houston on Friday, Oct. 4. After a Friday-Saturday on the road, the series would shift to Target Field for games Monday and (if necessary) Tuesday. Game 5 would be Thursday, Oct. 10, on the road.
The Twins have three games in Detroit and three in Kansas City to finish the season. Cleveland is on the road this week, with three games against the White Sox and three against the Washington Nationals (who are in a wild card battle of their own).
A couple other things ...
Twins rookie Luis Arraez can't win the American League batting title even though he has the best average. To qualify, a player has to have 3.1 plate appearance for each of his team's games (502 PAs in 162 games). Arraez, who is hitting .343, has only 348 plate appearances, 152 short. The same situation is likely to happen in the National League, where Washington's Howie Kendrick is hitting .346 but has only 355 plate appearances.
Ned Yost is retiring as a manager. He was with the Brewers for six seasons and the Royals for 10, had only five winning seasons, and had an overall losing record (1,201-1,338). He won only one division title, but it came in 2015 and the Royals won the World Series.
And the Indians, in a surprise, are expected to activate Jose Ramirez four weeks after he had surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand.
All our Twins stuff from the weekend, and there was a lot of it, is here.