American sports fans are obsessed with the idea of the classless society. They don't have a problem with taking the four or so obviously best college basketball teams and throwing them into a pool with 60 other squads, and then forcing them to win seven games in a row if they want to be crowned champion. It's a horribly inefficient system if the goal is to find and honor the best team in the nation, but that's not the goal. The goal is to create a "deserving" champion.
Meanwhile, the same fans will rail against a system that's examines the performance of every football team over the entire season, polls two separate groups of knowledgeable individuals, and then pits what it believes as the top two teams against each other in a single game to determine a winner. Why? Because there's a possibility that some team might do everything right and still not be given a chance. Auburn pulled on their bootstraps as hard as they could be expected to in 2004 but never got an invitation to the club.
American sports fans will accept anyone as their champion, as long as all contenders control their own destiny.
That's where the Rays are now. They've played 161 games, and won 90 of them. It means only one thing—that they get to control, with their game 162, whether or not there is a game 163. As the Rays' marketing department would say, "One more game."
Matt Moore (4.28 SIERA, 145 IP) will face Todd Redmond (3.69 SIERA, 76.1 IP) at 1:07. Ubaldo Jimenez (3.87 SIERA, 176 IP) of Cleveland will face Scott Diamond (5.10 SIERA, 125 IP) of Minnesota at 2:10. Yu Darvish (2.84 SIERA, 204 IP) of Texas will face Jason Vargas (4.31 SIERA, 143.2 IP) of Los Angeles of Anaheim at 3:05. But throw out all of those numbers. Right now, it doesn't matter how good the starting pitchers are. It only matters whether or not they can pitch their teams to one more win, right now.
Maybe Cleveland had an easier road to this point, but we no longer care. All three teams are getting their chance, and whatever happens will be deserved. Here are the scenarios:
- Rays win, Rangers win, Indians win: Rays travel to Texas for a tiebreaker game, then the winner of that travels to Cleveland for the wild card game.
- Rays win, Rangers lose, Indians win: Rays travel to Cleveland for the wild card game.
- Rays win, Rangers lose, Indians lose: Indians travel to St. Petersburg for the wild card game.
- Rays win, Rangers win, Indians lose: This scenario is more complex. Dan broke it down yesterday.
- Rays lose, Rangers lose: Rays travel to Texas for a tiebreaker game, then the winner of that travels to Cleveland for the wild card game.
- Rays lose, Rangers win: Rays go home.