BALTIMORE — The Red Sox will host the wild-card champion on Friday in Game 1 of their American League Division Series. Their opponent could face a long and winding road to Fenway Park.
With one game remaining in the regular season, the Terry Francona-led Cleveland Indians (91-70) are first in the wild-card standings with the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays tied for second at 90-71. The Red Sox are rooting for a three-way tie and the chaos that will ensue.
In the event of a two-way tie between the Rangers and Rays for the second wild-card berth, the tiebreaker will be played on Monday at 8:07 p.m. at Texas.
The winner would advance to the one-game wild-card playoff on Wednesday at 8:07 p.m.
A three-way tie for both wild-card spots would be decided with two games. The Indians would host the Rays on Monday at 4:07 p.m. with the winner advancing to Wednesday’s game.
The second tiebreaker game would be the Rangers hosting the loser of Monday’s game. That game would be Tuesday at 4:07 p.m. with the winner moving on to Wednesday.
The location of Wednesday’s game will be determined by the winner of the head-to-head season series.
Theoretically, the wild-card champion could play four games in four days in four cities before traveling to Boston to play the well-rested Red Sox.
The Sox are just fine with that idea.
“I think from just a pitching-usage standpoint, going up against one of the potential teams, the more they play the more they’re going to use their guys and the less rest they’re afforded,” Sox manager John Farrell said on Saturday. “That might have some effect, who knows?
“When you factor in travel and the things that are going to be demanded of those teams, they might prefer to have a more clear-cut path themselves.”
Good day for Ellsbury
The Giants on Saturday agreed to a five-year, $90 million deal with right fielder Hunter Pence. That would seem like excellent news for Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who will be a free agent after the World Series.
Pence is 30 and has a career OPS of .814. He has shown consistent power (164 home runs over seven seasons) over his career and has 22 stolen bases this season.
Ellsbury is 30 and has a career OPS of .788. He has shown little home run power outside of the outlier 2010 season when he hit 32 but has game-changing speed on the bases and is a better defender. He also plays a premium position.
Pence received an average annual value of $18 million without going into the open market. Ellsbury, who almost certainly will test the market, could be worth $20-21 million a year with a total package over $100 million.
That figure could climb if Ellsbury excels in the postseason.
Ellsbury is following the same route former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon took. Papelbon steadfastly refused entreaties to sign an extension with the Sox, became a free agent and signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Red Sox are in a position financially to compete for Ellsbury if they choose. They also have an attractive fallback solution in center field prospect Jackie Bradley Jr., a former first-round draft pick.
Ellsbury did not play in Saturday’s game against Baltimore. After playing 11 innings in two games over three days, Ellsbury was given a day off.
Farrell said the day off was planned and that Ellsbury was scheduled to play nine innings on Sunday.
Ellsbury returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing 16 games while recovering from a small fracture in his right foot.
Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu is now a free agent, his status made official by Major League Baseball. The 26-year-old is free to sign with any team and his deal will not count toward international spending limits.
Abreu is a 6-foot-2-inch righthanded slugger who weighs in the vicinity of 240 pounds.
He hit .360 with three home runs and nine RBIs in six games during the World Baseball Classic in March and was a prodigious hitter in Cuba.
The Red Sox have acknowledged an interest in Abreu and he accepted their invitation to work out at their facility in the Dominican Republic.
He also has visited other teams.
Abreu is expected to hold a showcase workout for teams early this week.
Along with the Sox, the Giants, Rangers, and White Sox could pursue Abreu. The low-budget Marlins, who hunger for a Cuban star, could enter the bidding.
The Red Sox are pleased with the production of Mike Napoli this season but he will be a free agent following the season. First base is a weak position in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
Ortiz gets a rest
A day after he belted his 30th home run, David Ortiz was given a day off . . . The Red Sox have a variety of lefty relievers to pick from for their postseason roster. Craig Breslow is obviously on the team. But Felix Doubront, Matt Thornton, and Franklin Morales are under varying degrees of consideration. The opponent in the Division Series will help determine that, Farrell said. Thornton aided his cause with a perfect sixth inning in a 6-5 loss against Baltimore. Morales inherited two runners in the eighth inning and allowed a two-run double . . . Daniel Nava (4 for 4) raised his batting average to .303. He is hitting .356 since Aug. 1 . . . Backup catcher David Ross started his first game since Sept. 21 and was 2 for 4 with a double and two RBIs . . . Dustin Pedroia has played in 160 games, his most in a season and a record for a Red Sox second baseman. He was 3 for 5 and drove in a run . . . Quintin Berry’s steal of second base in the ninth inning was the 38th consecutive successful steal for the Red Sox. It’s the longest streak in the majors since Toronto had 38 straight in 1993 . . . The Sox have struck out 1,300 times, adding to their franchise record. But seven teams have more this season with the Astros whiffing a record 1,516 times.