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Twins now face the ugly possibility of being a wild-card team

Nobody expected this to be happening.
Author:
Jorge Polanco

It's all tied atop the AL Central as the Twins and Indians enter another huge showdown Saturday night with identical 70-46 records. 

Cleveland's astonishing comeback from what was once an 11.5-game deficit is complete, but the schedule, and thus the odds, still favor the Twins to win the division. According to FanGraphs, which takes into account strength of schedule, the Twins have a 59.1% chance to win the division compared to the Indians' 40.9% chance. 

The odds simply favor the Twins because the majority of their remaining games are against AL Central bottom feeders Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit, while the Indians still have to face the likes of the Red Sox, Yankees, red-hot Mets, Rays, Angels, Phillies and Nationals. 

But those are the odds. They're virtually meaningless, especially since the Twins and Indians still have to face each other eight more times. 

Life, as the Twins now know it, is one without a certain future. They're still a near-lock to make the playoffs (95.9% chance, per FanGraphs), but going in as a division winner compared to a wild-card team is vastly different. 

As a division winner, they would host a best-of-five divisional series. As a wild-card team, they would play in a do-or-die game against the other wild-card team for the right to advance to the divisional round. 

If they were to win the wild-card game they would be forced to play as the road team against the top team in the AL, which is primed to be the Yankees or Astros, who are tied atop the AL entering play Saturday with identical 76-40 records. 

Here's how the wild-race looks entering play Saturday: 

  1. Twins/Indians - 70-46
  2. Rays - 67-50
  3. Athletics - 66-50
  4. Red Sox - 62-56
  5. Rangers - 58-57

At this point, the Red Sox are 5.5 games out of a wild-card spot and the Rangers are 8 games back, so the team that doesn't win the AL Central, the Twins or Indians, will likely be in a do-or-die wild-card game against the Rays or Athletics. 

Minnesota is 5-2 against the Rays this season but just 3-4 against the Athletics. 

No one thought the Indians could come back from a massive deficit, but they have. Fortunately, the odds still favor the Twins, but if the pitching doesn't improve soon, even the lowly Royals, Tigers and White Sox will be capable of putting up big numbers against them. 

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