Clearly, 161 regular season games was not enough to determine a large portion of the American and National League playoff pictures. Four of MLB’s 10 playoff spots have yet to be decided with only one game remaining.
The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays are all still alive for the two Wild Card spots. Any combination of those two teams could ultimately face off in the one-game playoff. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are still in a heated race to win the NL West or be the first Wild Card team.
Here, we’ll break down all of the important scenarios and tiebreakers to watch for as Game 162 unfolds league-wide on Sunday afternoon.
NL West and Wild Card
The Giants have — to the surprise of many — been the best team in baseball all season long. Now, at 106-55, they hold a one-game advantage over the Dodgers, who are 105-56.
This race is much simpler than the AL one. If the Giants defeat the San Diego Padres, they will win the division and the Dodgers will be the first Wild Card and face the St. Louis Cardinals.
If the Dodgers lose to the Milwaukee Brewers, then the same fate awaits them. However, if the Dodgers win and the Giants lose, the two will play a Game 163 in San Francisco to determine who wins the NL West and who hosts the Cardinals in the Wild Card Game.
AL Wild Card
This is where things get a bit more complicated. The Yankees and Red Sox are currently 91-70, while the Blue Jays and Mariners are 90-71. If the Yankees defeat the Tampa Bay Rays and the Red Sox defeat the Washington Nationals, then New York will host Boston in a classic rivalry game to determine who moves on to the ALDS.
However, either or both of those teams losing opens the door for chaos. If the Mariners and Blue Jays win their respective matchups — and the Yankees and Red Sox lose — there would be a four-way tie. This sets up two Game 163’s, where the Red Sox and Blue Jays would host either the Yankees or the Mariners. Winner of each game becomes the Wild Card teams.
This is — somehow — the simplest tying scenario. There are four different three-way ties at play, and those could either be for one Wild Card spot or both.
If it’s one Wild Card spot, the three tied teams would go in order choosing to be Team A, B, or C. This order would be decided by in-season tiebreakers such as head-to-head record. Team A hosts Team B in Game 163. The winner of that game would host Team C, and the winner of that game would get the one Wild Card spot. In this scenario, the team with the first choice would likely choose to be Team C, since they only have to win one game instead of two.
If it’s two spots on the line in a three-way tie, then Team A hosts Team B, with the winner getting the first Wild Card spot. Team C would then host the loser for a shot at the second spot. In this scenario, the team with the first choice would like choose Team A, as they get two chances to win and host one game.
For a more visual look at all the possible scenarios, Jeff Passan of ESPN provided an in-depth chart.
There are 16 permutations for Game 162 in the AL wild card race. @WesleyJ_14 put together this handy primer for all of it. Bravo to him. Let this be your guide for Sunday.
Every game starts just after 3 p.m. ET. Buckle up. pic.twitter.com/lR18NHd6mJ
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 3, 2021
Games to Watch on Sunday
NL West and Wild Card: San Diego Padres @ San Francisco Giants
12:05 p.m. PT, Reiss Knehr (1-1, 4.85 ERA) vs. Logan Webb (10-3, 2.93 ERA)
NL West and Wild Card: Milwaukee Brewers @ Los Angeles Dodgers
12:10 p.m. PT, Brett Anderson (4-9, 4.26 ERA) vs. Walker Buehler (15-4, 2.49 ERA)
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox @ Washington Nationals
12:05 p.m. PT, Chris Sale (5-1, 2.90 ERA) vs. Joan Adon (MLB Debut)
AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays @ New York Yankees
12:05 p.m. PT, Michael Wacha (3-5, 5.26 ERA) vs. Jameson Taillon (8-6, 4.40 ERA)
AL Wild Card: Baltimore Orioles @ Toronto Blue Jays
12:07 p.m. PT, Bruce Zimmerman (4-4, 4.66 ERA) vs. Hyun Jin Ryu (13-10, 4.39 ERA)
AL Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels @ Seattle Mariners
12:10 p.m. PT, Reid Detmers (1-3, 7.11 ERA) vs. Tyler Anderson (2-2, 4.50 ERA)