Two teams tie for both Wild Card spots
If there is a two-team tie for the two Wild Card spots they do not play a tiebreaker game to decide home-field advantage. Instead, it is decided based on head-to-head record, followed by intradivsion record. If that doesn’t settle it, it then goes to intraleague record.
*Cardinals: They hold the tiebreaker over the Giants by virtue of winning the season series 4-3, and they currently hold the tiebreaker over the Mets because even though they split the season series, the Cards have a better record against the NL Central (36-30) than the Mets do against the NL East (33-30). That could change, though.
*Mets: They hold the tiebreaker over the Giants by virtue of winning the season series 4-3.
*Giants: Both the Mets and Cardinals hold the tiebreaker over the Giants, which means the Giants would play on the road in the Wild Card Game if they are part of a two-team tie for the two Wild Card spots.
*Toronto has a 9-7 head-to-head edge over Baltimore, but the two teams still have three games left to play. As of now, this is by far the most likely scenario in the AL that would involve two teams tying for the two Wild Card spots.
Two teams tie for the second Wild Card spot
If this happens, a tiebreaker game will be played Monday Oct. 3 and hosted by the team with the better head-to-head record during the regular season. If they split the season series, home-field will be determined by the team with the better intradivision record.
*Cardinals: Would host either the Giants or the Mets in a tiebreaker game. Same reasons as above.
*Mets: They hold the tiebreaker over the Giants. Same reasons as above.
*Giants: They would be the road team in a tiebreaker game. Same reasons as above.
*Blue Jays: Currently hold the tiebreaker over the Orioles (9-7), but they have three games remaining against Baltimore. Hold the tiebreaker over the Tigers (4-3 season-series edge ), Astros (5-2), Yankees (9-6), and Royals (4-2). They have a 3-2 edge on the Mariners with one game left to play.
*Orioles: Hold the tiebreaker over the Tigers (5-2 season-series edge) and Royals (4-2). They lost the season series to the Astros (1-6) and Mariners (1-6), and currently trail the season series against the Blue Jays (9-7) with three games left to play. They have split the season series with the Yankees thus far (8-8) and close the season with three games in New York.
*Tigers: Hold the tiebreaker over the Astros (4-2 season-series edge) and Mariners (4-3) and currently hold it over the Yankees as well. Even though they split the season series with the Yankees (3-3), they have a better record against the AL Central than the Yankees do against the AL East. That could change, though. The Tigers lost the season series to the Orioles (2-5) and Blue Jays (4-3).
*Astros: Hold the tiebreaker over the Orioles (6-1 season-series edge) and Mariners (10-6 with three left to play). Lost the season series to the Tigers (2-4), Yankees (2-4) and Blue Jays (3-4).
*Mariners: Hold the tiebreaker over the Orioles (6-1) and Royals (4-3), but lost the season series to the Tigers (3-4). Currently trail the Blue Jays (2-3) with one game left to play. They split the season series with the Yankees (3-3) but currently have a better record against the AL West than the Yankees do against the AL East, which would give them the tiebreaker if it holds.
*Yankees: Hold the tiebreaker over the Astros (4-2 season-series edge). They trail the Blue Jays in the season series (6-9), but have four games left in Toronto over the weekend. Split the season series against the Tigers (3-3) and Mariners (3-3), and both of the clubs currently have a better record against their respective divisions than the Yankees do against the AL East. They have also split the season series with the Orioles thus far (8-8) and close the season with three games against Baltimore in New York.
Three teams tie for two Wild Card spots
This is where it gets confusing, but it’s looking possible in the National League, so let’s use those three teams as an example.
If the Cardinals, Mets and Giants finish with the same record they would receive an A, B or C designation. Think of this almost like a draft, and the team that holds the tiebreaker over the other two gets the “first pick” and can choose the scenario it likes best.
The Cards and Mets both have the season-series edge over the Giants, and the Cards and Mets split their series set, so first choice would go to the club with the better intradivision record, which is the Cardinals as of now, but that could change before the end of the season.
For example, let’s assume that the Cardinals (first pick) and Mets (second pick) both choose the designations that give them two chances to make the Postseason, leaving the Giants with only one chance. The Cardinals and Mets would play in St. Louis on Monday, Oct. 3.
The winner of that game would become the host team in the actual Wild Card Game; the loser would travel to San Francisco for a game on Oct. 4.
The winner of the game in San Francisco would earn the second Wild Card spot, and would be the road team against the winner of Monday’s game in the NL Wild Card Game on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
However, it is possible that Mets would decide that they prefer to play one home game with a rested pitching staff for a spot in the Wild Card Game. In that case, the Giants would travel to St. Louis for the tiebreaker game on Oct. 3, with the Mets waiting to host the loser on Oct. 4. However, in this scenario the Mets would be forfeiting any chance of hosting the actual NL Wild Card Game, making it less likely.
Three teams tie for one Wild Card
In a three-team tie, the three teams would choose their A, B and C designations, with Club C traveling to face the winner of the game between Clubs A and B to determine who advances to the Wild Card Game.
As an example, here’s how it would play out in the American League if we get a three-team tie among the Orioles, Tigers and Astros for the second Wild Card spot.
The Astros have combined for an 8-5 record against the other two teams, while the Tigers and Orioles are 6-7. Therefore, the Astros would have “first pick.”
The Orioles currently have a better record against the AL East than the Tigers do against the AL Central, so they would have “second pick” based on intradivision record.
In this scenario, the Astros face a choice: Would we rather have to win two home games on consecutive days (Oct. 3-4) to clinch a Wild Card spot (Club A designation), or win one road game on Oct. 4 (Club C designation)?
There has yet to be a three-way tie since the second Wild Card team was added in 2012, so there is no precedent for which designation a team would pick.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source: Mets News / Tiebreaker scenarios for Wild Card berths