The American League postseason race took several more twists Thursday as the Twins moved into the No. 2 seed for the first round and Cleveland rallied past the White Sox to sweep a four game series.
In addition, the Oakland A's, who had been the No. 2 seed, fell a half-game behind the Twins in the seeding race by losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
For many Twins fans, the main impact of Thursday's play is that it lessened the chances of a first-round match up with the Yankees, even though there's still a chance that could happen.
Today, though, the Twins have a one-game lead over the White Sox in the American League Central. The Twins close the regular season with three games at Target Field starting tonight against Cincinnati, which is still fighting for a National League playoff spot.
The White Sox finish their season by playing three games against the Cubs. Cleveland, meanwhile, has pulled itself into the picture. It trails the Twins by three games and ends the season with three games against Pittsburgh, which has the worst record in the majors.
If the Twins and White Sox are tied at the end of the season, Chicago wins the title based on having a better division record.
If the Twins, White Sox and Cleveland finish in a three-way tie, the Twins would get the No. 1 spot based on having a better record in games involving those three teams.
Currently, the website Fangraphs gives the Twins a 67.2% chance of winning the division. Before Thursday's games, that chance was 51.5%. In other words, their chances went from a toss-up to a two out of three chance.
If the season ended today, the Twins would have the No. 2 seed and play host to No. 7 Cleveland at Target Field. (The first round is set for home sites, with the following round scheduled for bubble locations in southern California and Texas. The White Sox would play the Yankees in Chicago.)
Here's the complete guide to playoff tie-breakers.
Back to those Yankees: Cleveland's recent play, combined with New York dropping three of four games vs. Toronto, has moved Cleveland one game ahead of the Yankees.
Why is that important?
Keep in mind that the top six playoff seeds go to the first and second place teams in each division, while the top two third-place finishers will get Wild Card berths -- and the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds.
If Toronto, which trails the Yankees by two games, managed to rally into second place in the AL East, the Yankees would become a Wild Card team.
If the third-place team in the AL Central has a better record than a Yankees team dropping into third place in the AL East, the Yankees would fall to the second wild-card spot (No. 8 seed) and play the No. 1 seed in the first round.
That's currently Tampa Bay, which leads the Twins by two games with three to play.
The Yankees finish the season with three games against Miami, which is battling for a National League playoff spot. Toronto finishes with three against Baltimore, which isn't a postseason team.
Fangraphs gives the Yankees a 95.7% chance of finishing second in the AL East.
While the American League playoff teams, if not the seedings, are currently almost a lock, the National League is more unsettled. Only four teams have clinched playoff berths going into this final weekend, and its season may extend into Monday if games that were called off need to be played to determine who gets in and where they're seeded.
One more if ... if you want to look ahead: If you haven't checked on the Twins chances of winning the World Series relative to other American League teams, that's another reason to check out the Fangraphs chart.