Trio of doubleheaders with big implications on deck
By Paul Casella and Chad Thornburg
Today figures to be a day unlike any other during the 21 seasons of the Wild Card era -- that is, of course, weather permitting.
Due to a series of rainouts on Tuesday night, today's slate will feature three doubleheaders, each of which carries postseason implications. This is the latest calendar date to feature at least three doubleheaders, regardless of the teams involved, since the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995. Furthermore, it's only the sixth time overall that three doubleheaders will be played on the same day at any point in September.
The only other September dates since 1995 to feature at least three doubleheaders were Sept. 13, 2009; Sept. 13, 2008; Sept. 29, 2004; Sept. 9, 2004 and Sept. 29, 1999. The 2008 date actually featured a whopping five doubleheaders, while each of the other dates listed consisted of three.
Today's games will not only be the latest trio of doubleheaders, but they will also involve the most postseason implications. While none of those aforementioned dates featured more than four teams playing with postseason ramifications, five out of the six teams involved in today's doubleheaders have postseason aspirations at stake.
Here's a closer look at this unprecedented triple doubleheader and what it means for each team.
STL @ PIT split doubleheader, 1:35 p.m. ET and 7:05 ET
The Cardinals can clinch the National League Central as well as home-field advantage in the Division Series round with a win in either game today. A win would also make St. Louis the first 100-win team since the 2011 Phillies went 102-60. The Cardinals haven't reached the century mark for victories since they did it in back-to-back years from 2004-05.
Home-field in the NL Wild Card Game for the Pirates is also in play. If the Pirates sweep the split doubleheader vs. the Cardinals and the Cubs lose to the Reds, Pittsburgh would host Chicago in the one-game playoff on Oct. 7. That is, unless the Pirates can catch St. Louis in the NL Central, in which case the Cardinals would then host the Cubs at Busch Stadium.
TOR @ BAL doubleheader, 4:05 p.m. ET
The Blue Jays can claim the American League East with just one win against the Orioles or a Yankees loss to the Red Sox. If Toronto clinches the division, the team would also be assured of home-field advantage at least through the AL Division Series. The Blue Jays' magic number to clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason is four over Kansas City, assuming they win the AL East.
"We'd love to do that," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of clinching home-field advantage. "I think that would be very important, every team would want to do that. If we clinch, though, these guys are going to get a day off to recoup but it will keep you sharp, keep you playing."
MIN @ CLE doubleheader, 4:10 p.m. ET
This doubleheader at Progressive Field features a pair of teams clinging to fading postseason hopes. The Indians' chances are all but extinguished with an elimination number of two behind the Angels, meaning two losses or a loss and an Angels win on Tuesday would take them out of contention. Playing further into October is less of a long shot for the Twins, who have an elimination number of five for the second AL Wild Card spot.
"It's hard to win one game, you know," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I'm sure there are statistics that support various theories about doubleheaders on the road. But you can't worry about those things tomorrow. You have to look at it as two opportunities to win."
The results of this doubleheader will also impact the Yankees, who can clinch a playoff spot. A win over the Red Sox, a Minnesota loss to Cleveland and either a Rangers or Angels loss will do it for New York.