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The Red Sox open a three-game series against the Orioles in Baltimore on Tuesday. Despite being swept by the Yankees over the weekend, they still hold on to one of the wild-card spots.

But can they retain it throughout this week? A lot of variables are at play. But a big thing is just winning.

The Red Sox should be able to maintain their position — or improve it — if they can get past the Orioles (50-106) and the Nationals (65-92) later this week relatively unscathed

If they hold on to the wild card, they’ll play in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct. 5. The winner advances to the American League Division Series. If the season ended today, the Yankees would have home-field advantage for that game, and the Red Sox would travel to New York for a winner-take-all showdown.


If it feels like the Red Sox have been struggling against postseason contenders, you’re right: They’re 16-26 since the All-Star break. The series with the last-place Orioles bodes well for the Sox, who are 17-6 against teams with losing records in that same span. Here’s a deeper look at how the Sox have fared.

We’ll be sharing a daily primer on where everything stands in the American League wild-card race. Here’s what you need to know:

LAST NIGHT: The Mariners crushed the Athletics, 11-4, bringing them within 1½ games of the Red Sox for the second wild card. The A’s dropped 3½ games behind the Red Sox for the second wild card with five games left — a nearly impossible hill to climb.

The Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays were idle. The Yankees retain the top wild-card spot, with a one-game edge on the Red Sox and two on the Jays.

ODDS: Fangraphs pegs the Red Sox as having an 85.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, the Yankees as having an 81.3 percent shot, the Blue Jays a 27.8 percent chance, and the Mariners a 5.1 percent likelihood.


TONIGHT: The Yankees and Blue Jays kick off a critical three-game set in Toronto with New York’s Jameson Taillon returning from the injured list to face Toronto southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The Red Sox will start Chris Sale against Orioles rookie lefty Bruce Zimmermann. Here’s our game preview.

The Mariners and A’s will play the middle game of their three-game series, with Oakland starting Chris Bassitt and Seattle sending Tyler Anderson to the hill.

THE LOWDOWN: If the Red Sox win Tuesday, they’ll remain in possession of a wild-card spot — either tying the Yankees for the top spot (if New York loses) or remaining one game behind the Yankees while moving two games ahead of the Jays (if the Yankees win).

If the Red Sox lose to the Orioles, they will lose a game on two teams — with a chance that they’d drop into a tie with the Jays if Toronto beats New York.

The Mariners have steamrolled the A’s, claiming five wins against them since the start of last week, to stay in the playoff picture.

Latest wild-card standings

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.