(Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison)
Jarrod Parker makes a big start for the A’s on Saturday

by Jim Turvey

With just a weekend series against the Mariners remaining, A’s playoff baseball is right around the corner. As much hype as the AL Wild Card race has received, the race for the top-three seeds in the American League is pretty close as well. The A’s currently sit two games behind the Red Sox, and one game ahead of the Tigers. With such few games left this may sound like each team is a sure bet to stay in that position, but there are quite a few scenarios that could throw a wrench in the system.

First of all, the top-seeded Red Sox play the most difficult team this weekend (the Orioles), and the third-seeded Tigers play the easiest team this weekend (the Marlins). Because the A’s own the tiebreaker with the Tigers (they took four out of seven games this season), the A’s would have to either get swept while the Tigers won two out of three, or lose two out of three while the Tigers swept the Marlins to drop to the three seed.

Looking up, it gets a little more complicated. Tim Britton did a pretty good job breaking down the scenarios , but a few days have passed since then so some updates are needed. The A’s split their six games with the Red Sox this season meaning that the tiebreaker would go to divisional record. The Red Sox currently hold a one game lead on the A’s in this category, BUT if the A’s were to catch up those two games that they currently trail over this weekend, they would pass the Red Sox. For example, the A’s currently sit at 42-31 in the AL West, and the Red Sox are at 43-30 in the AL East. If the A’s were to sweep the Mariners, and the Red Sox were to lose two out of three to the O’s, the A’s would hold a 45-31 to 44-32 advantage in divisional record (the same advantage hold true if the Red Sox got swept, and the A’s took two of three).

Here’s the thing, though – the A’s have struggled all year against the Mariners. They are 6-10 against the Mariners, and haven’t won a series in Seattle all year. The Red Sox have also struggled against the O’s, but making up those two games may be difficult this weekend. Holding off the Tigers should probably be the A’s first priority. If the A’s can take two out of three this weekend it would guarantee them at least the second seed in the AL, and thus home-field advantage against the Tigers in the first round.

As of right now, the A’s rotation seems to be in perfect shape for the end of the year. Their top three starters – in name at least – Colon, Parker and Gray are slated to make the three starts this weekend. This means that they get their three top pitchers throwing with their seeding on the line, and with Game 1 of their ALDS series not starting until Friday October 4 th , they can start the series with their top guns yet again, giving Melvin plenty of options.

Now some A’s fans may remember last year, and worry that holding off the Tigers for the two-seed may not be a good thing seeing as the Tigers defeated the A’s who were the higher seed in the 2012 ALDS. The Tigers were able to win the first two at home, and then steal Game Five on the road and move on to the ALCS. However, MLB has returned to the 2-2-1 ALDS series format meaning that home-field advantage is once again an actual advantage (arguably even more of an advantage than in a seven game series). The Tigers got lucky last year in that they were given the first two games at home despite the lower seed. This happened because the two-wild card format was only implemented after the schedule for the year had been set, but this year those first two games would be in Oakland along with Game Five, an enormous advantage to hold.

All things considered, the A’s find themselves in a favorable position headed into the final weekend. It would be nice if the Marlins and Orioles could provide the A’s with a little help, but with their top-three pitchers slated to throw, and the fact that they control their own destiny for the two-seed, the A’s should feel good heading into the playoffs.

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