Major League Baseball Wild Card Game
The Major League Baseball Wild Card Game is a play-in game which was added to the Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason in 2012, and marks the beginning of the playoffs for both the American League and National League. The addition of a play-in game essentially maintained the three-tiered format used from 1995 through 2011, while adding a second wild-card team. Two wild-card teams in each league play each other in a single-game playoff after the end of the regular season. The winner of each league's Wild Card Game advances to face the top-seeded team in that league's Division Series.
The home team for the Wild Card Game is the team with the better regular-season winning percentage; if the two teams have identical winning percentages, MLB tie-breaking procedures are used to determine the home team, with no additional games being played. This is in contrast to teams tied for a division title, which, since the introduction of the Wild Card Game in 2012, do play a one-game tiebreaker for the division title, even if both teams are already qualified for the postseason. This differs from previous tie-breaking; for example, at the conclusion of the 2005 regular season, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox tied for first place in their division but did not play an additional game, as both teams were already qualified for the postseason.
In the Division Series, the winner of the Wild Card Game faces whichever division champion has the best record. Before 2012, a wild-card team could not face the winner of its own division in a Division Series. It is now possible for the two teams with the best record in a league to face each other before the League Championship Series for the first time since 1997, if the Wild Card Game winner has the second-best record in the league and the top-seed is from the same division. From 1995 to 1997, the matchups for the Division Series were determined by an annual rotation between divisions.
Through the 2018 postseason, 19 of the 30 MLB franchises have appeared in a Wild Card Game. The New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates have each appeared in a record 3 games. The San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees have won the most Wild Card Games, two each. The Oakland Athletics have lost the most games, losing all three of their Wild Card Game appearances to date.
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The addition of a second wild-card team to each league was completed for multiple reasons:
- Added importance to division races. Before 1994, only division-winning teams advanced to the playoffs, creating excitement when teams within a division competed for the best record in that division. From 1994 to 2011, the urgency of a division race was somewhat reduced as one second place team from each league made the playoffs as a wild card. In addition, the winner of the wild-card game is at a disadvantage in the next series, due to having to make strategic decisions to avoid immediate elimination, such as play its best pitchers available, without regard for future playoff games.
- Wild-card teams are penalized. In the four-team format from 1994 to 2011, the wild-card team had to win just as many postseason games as a division winner in order to reach the World Series. Now the winner of the wild-card game is at a disadvantage because it has to play an extra game.
- Increases postseason interest and revenue, with the tension of a sudden-death match at the start of the playoffs, similar to tie-breaker games held to resolve regular season ties. Recent examples of this were seen in tie-breaking games in 2007, 2008, and 2009, as well as the final day of the 2011 regular season.
- With an additional playoff spot at stake, more teams are competing at the end of the regular season for a place in the playoffs.
With the adoption of MLB's new collective bargaining agreement in November 2011, baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced that a new playoff system would begin within the next two years; the change was ultimately put into place in 2012.
Through the 2018 postseason, Wild Card Game winners have gone on to compile an overall 6–8 record in League Division Series, with Wild Card Game winners having 3–4 records in both the ALDS and NLDS. The 2014 postseason featured the first series sweeps involving a Wild Card Game winner; both in favor of the AL Wild Card Kansas City Royals, who swept the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS and the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. The Royals then met the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series, the second all-Wild Card fall classic, which the Giants won in seven games. The first all-Wild Card World Series had also involved the Giants, who lost the 2002 World Series to the then-Anaheim Angels in seven games.
The one-game, win-or-go-home Wild Card format favors teams with at least one dominant pitcher.[according to whom?] In the fourteen games played since the new Wild Card system began in 2012, five have been shutouts. In six of the nine others, the losing team scored 3 or fewer runs. Only the 2014 AL Wild Card game between the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics and the 2017 NL Wild Card game between the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks featured high scoring by both teams,[clarification needed] with the Royals eventually winning 9–8 in 12 innings and the Diamondbacks winning 11–8 with the most runs scored in a Wild Card game. The margin of victory has been four runs or more in seven of the fourteen games played, and one run only twice—in the 2014 Royals-Athletics game and the 2018 Rockies-Cubs game.
Through the 2019 Wild Card Games, visiting teams have won more games (nine) than home teams have won (seven). There have been five shutouts, each of which has been won by the visiting team (including three consecutive shutouts in the 2014–2016 NL editions). Two of the three extra innings games have been won by the home team.
|bold||Wild Card Game winner|
|↓||Lost tie-breaker game to reach Wild Card Game (arrow links to game)|
|↑||Won tie-breaker game to reach Wild Card Game (arrow links to game)|
|Reached League Championship Series|
|Reached World Series|
|Won World Series|
|Year||Visitor||Manager||Score||Host||Manager||Winner's postseason performance|
|2012||Baltimore Orioles||Buck Showalter||5–1||Texas Rangers||Ron Washington||Lost ALDS 3–2 (Yankees)|
|2013||Tampa Bay Rays↑||Joe Maddon||4–0||Cleveland Indians||Terry Francona||Lost ALDS 3–1 (Red Sox)|
|2014||Oakland Athletics||Bob Melvin||8–9
|Kansas City Royals||Ned Yost||Won ALDS 3–0 (Angels), Won ALCS 4–0 (Orioles), Lost WS 4–3 (Giants)|
|2015||Houston Astros||A. J. Hinch||3–0||New York Yankees||Joe Girardi||Lost ALDS 3–2 (Royals)|
|2016||Baltimore Orioles||Buck Showalter||2–5
|Toronto Blue Jays||John Gibbons||Won ALDS 3–0 (Rangers), Lost ALCS 4–1 (Indians)|
|2017||Minnesota Twins||Paul Molitor||4–8||New York Yankees||Joe Girardi||Won ALDS 3–2 (Indians), Lost ALCS 4–3 (Astros)|
|2018||Oakland Athletics||Bob Melvin||2–7||New York Yankees||Aaron Boone||Lost ALDS 3–1 (Red Sox)|
|2019||Tampa Bay Rays||Kevin Cash||5–1||Oakland Athletics||Bob Melvin||Lost ALDS 3–2 (Astros)|
Postseason results by AL Wild Card Game winnersEdit
Updated through the 2019 postseason.
|Year||Visitor||Manager||Score||Host||Manager||Winner's postseason performance|
|2012||St. Louis Cardinals||Mike Matheny||6–3||Atlanta Braves||Fredi González||Won NLDS 3–2 (Nationals), Lost NLCS 4–3 (Giants)|
|2013||Cincinnati Reds||Dusty Baker||2–6||Pittsburgh Pirates||Clint Hurdle||Lost NLDS 3–2 (Cardinals)|
|2014||San Francisco Giants||Bruce Bochy||8–0||Pittsburgh Pirates||Clint Hurdle||Won NLDS 3–1 (Nationals), Won NLCS 4–1 (Cardinals), Won WS 4–3 (Royals)|
|2015||Chicago Cubs||Joe Maddon||4–0||Pittsburgh Pirates||Clint Hurdle||Won NLDS 3–1 (Cardinals), Lost NLCS 4–0 (Mets)|
|2016||San Francisco Giants||Bruce Bochy||3–0||New York Mets||Terry Collins||Lost NLDS 3–1 (Cubs)|
|2017||Colorado Rockies||Bud Black||8–11||Arizona Diamondbacks||Torey Lovullo||Lost NLDS 3–0 (Dodgers)|
|2018||Colorado Rockies↓||Bud Black||2–1
|Chicago Cubs↓||Joe Maddon||Lost NLDS 3–0 (Brewers)|
|2019||Milwaukee Brewers||Craig Counsell||3–4||Washington Nationals||Dave Martinez||Won NLDS 3–2 (Dodgers), NLCS (Cardinals)|
Postseason results by NL Wild Card Game winnersEdit
Updated through the 2019 NLDS. 2019 NLCS result TBD.
Win–loss records by teamEdit
Updated through 2019 results; table only includes MLB teams that have appeared in a Wild Card Game.
|Team||League||Win–loss record||Appearances||Winning Pct|
|Kansas City Royals||AL||1–0||1||1.000|
|New York Mets||NL||0–1||1||.000|
|New York Yankees||AL||2–1||3||.667|
|San Francisco Giants||NL||2–0||2||1.000|
|St. Louis Cardinals||NL||1–0||1||1.000|
|Tampa Bay Rays||AL||2–0||2||1.000|
|Toronto Blue Jays||AL||1–0||1||1.000|
The following current MLB teams have not yet appeared in a Wild Card Game:
- Most runs scored, one team: 11, Arizona Diamondbacks vs Colorado Rockies, October 4 in the 2017 NLWC
- Most runs scored, both teams: 19, Colorado Rockies 8–11 Arizona Diamondbacks, October 4 in the 2017 NLWC
- Most hits, one team: 17, Arizona Diamondbacks vs Colorado Rockies, October 4 in the 2017 NLWC
- Most hits, both teams: 30, Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks, October 4 in the 2017 NLWC
- Longest game, by innings: 2018 NLWC, 13 innings (Colorado Rockies 2, Chicago Cubs 1)
- Largest run differential: 8, San Francisco Giants over Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 NLWC
- Jayson Stark (March 2, 2012). "The new MLB postseason". ESPN.com.
- "MLB adopts expanded format for 2012 postseason". Retrieved October 11, 2018.
- Bloom, Barry M. (March 2, 2012). "Addition of Wild Card berths finalized for 2012". MLB.com. MLB.com.
- Game was played "under protest" by the Atlanta Braves regarding a perceived incorrect call regarding the infield fly rule, but shortly after the game Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations, denied the protest, citing umpire's judgment. "Wild-card game stopped after call". Associated Press/ESPN. October 5, 2012.
- "Team Batting Game Finder: In the LWC, From 1903 to 2017, sorted by most recent date". Baseball Reference. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
- Dale, Shane (October 3, 2018). "Rockies beat Cubs in longest winner-take-all game in MLB history". KNXV. Retrieved October 3, 2018.