Let’s get right to it: Here’s where the Twins could end up in the playoffs when today’s game are over.
If the Twins win, they’ll own the AL Central title and the No. 2 seed in the American League. They’ll play Cleveland if the White Sox beat the Cubs today. If Cleveland beats Pittsburgh and the White Sox lose to the Cubs, the Twins would play Chicago.
If the White Sox and Cleveland are tied for second place, Cleveland wins the tiebreaker for winning their season series. That's the difference between being seeded fourth and seventh.
If the Twins lose to Cincinnati and the White Sox win, Chicago wins the division and the Twins drop to the No. 4 seed by having a worse record in AL Central play. (The main tie-breaker – the season series – was a 5-5 tie.)
If the Twins and White Sox both lose, the Twins win the division but would drop to the No. 3 seed if Oakland beats Seattle. Why? The A’s would finish with a better record against AL West teams than the Twins have against AL Central opponents.
Who will they play and where?
No matter what, the Twins will play their best-of-three first-round series at Target Field starting Tuesday. Game times have yet to be set.
If the Twins are the No. 2 seed, it’s the White Sox or Cleveland.
If the Twins are No. 3, they’ll play No. 6 Houston, which has the worst record among second-place teams.
If the Twins are No. 4, they’ll play the No. 5 seed -- either the Yankees or Toronto Blue Jays.
What’s up with the Yankees? They lead Toronto by one game. But if the Jays beat Baltimore and the Yankees lose to Miami, the Jays would win their tie-breaker based on having the better record in the last 20 games of the season – the third tiebreaker after head-to-head and division games.
If the Jays have the fifth seed, the Yankees would drop to No. 8 and play at Tampa Bay in the first round.
Side Note: If the Twins have the Nos. 2 or 3 seed, they would be in opposite American League brackets from the Yankees and wouldn’t meet them until the American League Championship Series, if both teams win their first two rounds.
Side Note II: The Yankees are probably as motivated to avoid Tampa Bay as the Twins are to avoid the Yankees. The Rays won eight of 10 games between those teams this season.
Yes, we’re spending more words on the Yankees than anything else because it’s a safe bet most of you are stressing more about facing them than any of the Twins’ other potential outcomes.
One more quirk: Surprisingly, the Twins would have been helped on Saturday if Cleveland had beaten Pittsburgh.
If Cleveland had won, the Twins could have lost to the Reds today and still won the AL Central title if the White Sox and Cleveland both won their season finales.
Yes, the White Sox hold the tiebreaker in a tie with the Twins. But if there had been a three-way tiebreaker for the division title, the Twins would have won based on the best record in games among all three teams. (Of course, Cleveland already did the Twins a week of significant solids by sweeping four games from the White Sox just before this final weekend.)
Yes, that’s a lot of ifs. Here’s one more: If the Twins beat the Reds today, everything after the first two paragraphs of this story is pretty much irrelevant, right?