MINNEAPOLIS — The Tribe (88-70) trailed Tampa Bay (89-69) by one game and led Texas (87-71) by one game for the second wild-card spot. Their magic number for clinching the wild card was any combination of Indians wins or Texas losses that equal four.
But with the field so tightly bunched, the chances for ties exist when the season ends Sunday. Here’s how some of the scenarios could go:
■ If the Indians and Tampa Bay tie for the top wild-card spot, Tampa Bay would host the wild-card game Wednesday because they won the season series against the Indians, 4-2.
■ If Tampa Bay wins the first wild card and the Indians and Texas tie for the second, Texas would play a tiebreaker game at Progressive Field on Monday because the Indians won the season series, 5-1. The winner of the tiebreaker game would travel to St. Petersburg, Fla., to play Tampa Bay on Wednesday.
The winner of the wild-card game would then play the AL's top seed in the best of five Division Series that starts Friday.
■ If the Indians and Texas tie for the top spot, the wild-card game would be played at Progressive Field on Wednesday with the winner advancing to the Division Series.
■ If Texas and Tampa tie for the top spot, the wild-card game would be played at Rangers Ballpark in Texas because they have a better head-to-head record against Texas during the regular season. The winner would advance to the Division Series.
If your head still attached, try this one for size.
■ If the Indians, Tampa Bay and Texas finish in a three-way tie for the two wild cards, here's what would happen. The first tiebreaker is out because no one team has an advantage over the other two. The Indians went 5-1 against Texas, but 2-4 against Tampa Bay. Tampa went 4-2 against the Tribe, but 3-4 against Texas. Texas went 4-3 against Tampa, but 1-5 against the Indians.
The second tiebreaker gives the Indians the top designation or seed because they had the best combined record against the other two teams at 7-5. Tampa Bay was 7-6 and Texas 5-8. The Indians could chose between the A or B seed.
If they took the A seed, they'd play Tampa Bay on Monday at Progressive Field in a tiebreaker game. If they won, they would be considered the No.1 wild-card team and the wild-card game would be played Wednesday in Cleveland.
If the Indians lost, they would still get a chance to make the wild card game, but they would have to play Team C (Texas) in a second tiebreaker game at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Tuesday.
Manager Terry Francona has tried his best to ignore the numerous tiebreaker situations his team could face.
"I won't let myself think about them," said Francona. "I know there may be a time. I've gone over tonight's game a lot, but that's about it. That's really how I feel."
Francona's Red Sox made the postseason as a wild card, but that was before there were two in each league, forcing a win-or-go-home game after a 162-game season.
"I wish there was a way they could make it two out of three," he said. "I understand that (if you did that) the teams with a good record almost get penalized. But I guess our hope would be that we get a chance to test this out."
NO GO: Center fielder Michael Bourn missed his second straight start Thursday night because of a sprained right wrist. Bourn pinch-ran Wednesday and could do the same Thursday, but "we'll stay away from him with the bat," said Francona.
Bourn hasn't swung a bat or thrown a ball since he jammed his wrist Tuesday night sliding into second. Francona said the Indians will try to get a better read on Bourn on Friday.
"We'll just see how aggressive we can get with him," said Francona.
FINALLY: Justin Masterson pitched a scoreless ninth inning Wednesday. On Thursday, he said there were no complications from his strained left oblique muscle. Francona said Masterson could be available Friday. As to what specific role the Tribe's No.1 starter will fill out of the pen, Francona would only say, "He's a weapon." ... Ryan Raburn, who received a cortisone shot in his left ankle over the weekend, started in right Thursday. He said his heel/Achilles is still not 100 percent and it hurts his swing because it's his landing foot.