Important note: The following owes to an e-mail I received from a brilliant reader named Mike in West Palm Beach.
The Red Sox entered today with a magic number of 16 to clinch the American League wild card. They won, and the Rangers lost, so their magic number is now 14, right? No. It's actually 13, and here is why.
Right now, the Rangers are 80-64. The best record they can finish with is 98-64. They play the Angels seven times, so seven of those wins would have to come against the Angels, who right now have a record of 86-58. If the Rangers win all of their games, the best possible record the Angels can finish with is 97-65.
The Red Sox are 85-58. If they win 14 games, they will finish 99-63, an impossible record for the Rangers to duplicate. But they only need to win 13 games and finish 98-84, which would be an impossible record for the Angels to duplicate if the Rangers win all of their games.
Bottom line: If the Red Sox go 13-6 or better, they are going to make the playoffs no matter what.