National League Wild Card
SportMajor League Baseball
LeagueNational League
Established1994 (1 team)
Expanded2012 (2 teams)
Most times5: Colorado Rockies
Most recent2021: Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals

The wild card was established for Major League Baseball's playoffs in 1994 with the intention of helping the best teams that did not win their division to still have a chance to win the World Series.[1] The restructuring of both the American League and National League from two to three divisions each made it necessary to either give one team a bye in the first round of playoffs, or create the wild card for the best second-place team. In addition, the wild card guaranteed that the team with the second-best record in each league would qualify for the playoffs, even if they were in the same division with the team having the best record. As the 1994 postseason was canceled due to the 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike, 1995 was the first postseason with a wild card team.

Beginning in 2012, a second wild card team was added to each league.[2] The two wild card teams in each league face each other in a one-game playoff, the Wild Card Game, with the winner advancing to meet the number one seed in the Division Series.

For the 2020 postseason only, the field expanded to include three second-place teams per division, followed by the wild card teams represented by the next two best records from each league.[3] All eight teams played in a best-of-three Wild Card Series.[3]

NL Wild Card qualifiers by year

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Through the 2021 postseason, the Colorado Rockies have been a wild card qualifier an NL record five times, while the Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres are the only NL teams that have never qualified as a wild card.

Through the 2020 postseason, five NL wild card teams have gone on to win the World Series (Florida in 1997 and 2003, St. Louis in 2011, San Francisco in 2014 and Washington in 2019). Four teams won the NL pennant but lost the World Series (New York in 2000, San Francisco in 2002, Houston in 2005, and Colorado in 2007). Four other teams won a division series but lost the championship series, most recently Chicago in 2015.

Year Winner Record % Playoff Results
Original Format
1995 Colorado Rockies 77–67 .535 Lost NLDS (Braves) 3–1
1996 Los Angeles Dodgers 90–72 .556 Lost NLDS (Braves) 3–0
1997 Florida Marlins 92–70 .568 Won NLDS (Giants) 3–0
Won NLCS (Braves) 4–2
Won World Series (Indians) 4–3
1998 Chicago Cubs 90–73 .552 Lost NLDS (Braves) 3–0
1999 New York Mets 97–66 .595 Won NLDS (Diamondbacks) 3–1
Lost NLCS (Braves) 4–2
2000 New York Mets 94–68 .580 Won NLDS (Giants) 3–1
Won NLCS (Cardinals) 4–1
Lost World Series (Yankees) 4–1
2001 St. Louis Cardinals 93–69 .574 Lost NLDS (Diamondbacks) 3–2
2002 San Francisco Giants 95–66 .590 Won NLDS (Braves) 3–2
Won NLCS (Cardinals) 4–1
Lost World Series (Angels) 4–3
2003 Florida Marlins 91–71 .562 Won NLDS (Giants) 3–1
Won NLCS (Cubs) 4–3
Won World Series (Yankees) 4–2
2004 Houston Astros 92–70 .568 Won NLDS (Braves) 3–2
Lost NLCS (Cardinals) 4–3
2005 Houston Astros 89–73 .549 Won NLDS (Braves) 3–1
Won NLCS (Cardinals) 4–2
Lost World Series (White Sox) 4–0
2006 Los Angeles Dodgers 88–74 .543 Lost NLDS (Mets) 3–0
2007 Colorado Rockies 90–73* .552 Won NLDS (Phillies) 3–0
Won NLCS (Diamondbacks) 4–0
Lost World Series (Red Sox) 4–0
2008 Milwaukee Brewers 90–72 .556 Lost NLDS (Phillies) 3–1
2009 Colorado Rockies 92–70 .568 Lost NLDS (Phillies) 3–1
2010 Atlanta Braves 91–71 .562 Lost NLDS (Giants) 3–1
2011 St. Louis Cardinals 90–72 .556 Won NLDS (Phillies) 3–2
Won NLCS (Brewers) 4–2
Won World Series (Rangers) 4–3
Expanded Format
2012 Atlanta Braves 94–68 .580 Lost NLWC (Cardinals)
St. Louis Cardinals 88–74 .543 Won NLWC (Braves)
Won NLDS (Nationals) 3–2
Lost NLCS (Giants) 4–3
2013 Pittsburgh Pirates 94–68 .580 Won NLWC (Reds)
Lost NLDS (Cardinals) 3–2
Cincinnati Reds 90–72 .556 Lost NLWC (Pirates)
2014 Pittsburgh Pirates 88–74 .543 Lost NLWC (Giants)
San Francisco Giants 88–74 .543 Won NLWC (Pirates)
Won NLDS (Nationals) 3–1
Won NLCS (Cardinals) 4–1
Won World Series (Royals) 4–3
2015 Pittsburgh Pirates 98–64 .605 Lost NLWC (Cubs)
Chicago Cubs 97–65 .599 Won NLWC (Pirates)
Won NLDS (Cardinals) 3–1
Lost NLCS (Mets) 4–0
2016 New York Mets 87–75 .537 Lost NLWC (Giants)
San Francisco Giants 87–75 .537 Won NLWC (Mets)
Lost NLDS (Cubs) 3–1
2017 Arizona Diamondbacks 93–69 .574 Won NLWC (Rockies)
Lost NLDS (Dodgers) 3–0
Colorado Rockies 87–75 .537 Lost NLWC (Diamondbacks)
2018 Chicago Cubs 95–68 .583 Lost NLWC (Rockies)
Colorado Rockies 91–72 .558 Won NLWC (Cubs)
Lost NLDS (Brewers) 3–0
2019 Washington Nationals 93–69 .574 Won NLWC (Brewers)
Won NLDS (Dodgers) 3–2
Won NLCS (Cardinals) 4–0
Won World Series (Astros) 4–3
Milwaukee Brewers 89–73 .549 Lost NLWC (Nationals)
2020 Cincinnati Reds 31–29 .517 Lost NLWC (Braves) 2–0
Milwaukee Brewers 29–31 .483 Lost NLWC (Dodgers) 2–0
2021 Los Angeles Dodgers 106–56 .654 Won NLWC (Cardinals)
Won NLDS (Giants) 3–2
Lost NLCS (Braves) 4–2
St. Louis Cardinals 90–72 .556 Lost NLWC (Dodgers)

Most NL Wild Card appearances

Rank Team Total Year(s)
1 Colorado Rockies 5 1995, 2007, 2009, 2017–2018
2 St. Louis Cardinals 4 2001, 2011–2012, 2021
T-3 Chicago Cubs 3 1998, 2015, 2018
T-3 Los Angeles Dodgers 3 1996, 2006, 2021
T-3 Milwaukee Brewers 3 2008, 2019–2020
T-3 New York Mets 3 1999–2000, 2016
T-3 Pittsburgh Pirates 3 2013–2015
T-3 San Francisco Giants 3 2002, 2014, 2016
T-9 Cincinnati Reds 2 2013, 2020
T-9 Houston Astros 2 2004–2005
T-9 Atlanta Braves 2 2010, 2012
T-9 Miami Marlins 2 1997, 2003
T-13 Arizona Diamondbacks 1 2017
T-13 Washington Nationals 1 2019

Notes:

See also

References

  1. ^ Jayson Stark (March 2, 2012). "The new MLB postseason". ESPN.com.
  2. ^ "Year In Review : 2012 American League". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "MLB expands playoffs to 16 teams for shortened 2020 season, adds best-of-three Wild Card Series". CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2020-07-24.