The Major League Baseball Wild Card Game or Series[a] are games that serve as the opening round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason. A single wild card game was first instituted in 2012; three-game wild card series were adopted for the 2022 season.[1][2]

Under the current playoff structure, there are two series in both the American League (AL) and National League (NL). The lowest-seeded division winner and three wild card teams in each league play in a best-of-three series after the end of the regular season. The winners of each league's wild card rounds advance to face the top two division winners in that league's Division Series. This expansion of the postseason also abolished any regular season extending tie-breaker games.

Format

Under the format adopted in 2022, six teams in each league are assigned seeds for the postseason. The top three seeds in each league are the three division winners. The division winners are always assigned seeds No 1 though No 3, per their relative winning percentages. The wild cards in each league are the three teams with the best winning percentages among non-division winning teams. These wild card teams are assigned seeds No. 4 through No. 6, per their relative winning percentages. Any ties are broken using MLB tie-breaking procedures, no tie-breaking games (colloquially known as "Game 163") are contested.

The top two seeds in each league receive byes and do not play in a wild card series. The remaining four teams, seeds No. 3 through No. 6, play in two wild card series. All games in each wild card series are played at the higher-seeded club's home ballpark. These two series are: No. 3 hosting No. 6, and No. 4 hosting No. 5.

In the Division Series, the winner of the No. 4 vs. No. 5 series faces the No. 1 seed, and the winner of the No. 3. vs. No. 6 series faces the No. 2 seed. The bracket structure in each league looks as follows:

Wild Card Series
Best-of-3
Division Series
Best-of-5
League Championship Series
Best-of-7
1 Division winner
4 Wild Card team  
5 Wild Card team  
 
2 Division winner
3 Division winner  
6 Wild Card team

History

The Wild Card round was initially introduced in 2012 as a single-game playoff between two wild-card teams in each league, with the winner advancing to the Division Series. 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.[3] This format was used through the 2019 season.

For the 2020 postseason, following a shortened 60-game regular season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB held Wild Card Series with eight teams in each league, thus a total of 16 playoff teams. Division champions were seeded 1-3 by record, the second-place teams seeded 4-6 by record, and the two teams with the next-best records were seeded seventh and eighth.[4] Matchups were contested as best-of-three series rather than individual games. MLB returned to the previous format of one Wild Card Game per league for the 2021 postseason, before it changed to two best-of-three Wild Card series per league the next year.

As of the beginning of the 2021 postseason, 26 of the 30 MLB franchises have reached the Wild Card round of the postseason (either a Wild Card Game or the 2020 Wild Card Series). The New York Yankees have the most appearances with five. The Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays have the most wins during the Wild Card round with three each. The Oakland Athletics have the most losses during the Wild Card round, having lost three of their four appearances.

The 2014 San Francisco Giants won the National League Wild Card Game and went on to win that season's World Series.
The 2014 San Francisco Giants won the National League Wild Card Game and went on to win that season's World Series.

Through the 2021 postseason, Wild Card Game winners have gone on to compile an overall 9–9 record in League Division Series, with Wild Card Game winners going 4–5 in the ALDS and 5–4 in the NLDS. Two Wild Card Game winners have gone on to win the World Series (the 2014 Giants and the 2019 Nationals). 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.

In the sixteen games played since the new Wild Card system began in 2012, five have been shutouts. In eight of the eleven others, the losing team scored three 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 eight of the sixteen games played, and one run only three times—in the 2014 Royals-Athletics game, the 2018 Rockies-Cubs game, and the 2019 Nationals-Brewers game.

Results

Through the 2021 postseason, visiting teams and home teams have each won nine of the 18 games played. 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. Three games have ended in walk-off victory for the home team, with the 2021 NL edition being the only one in regulation.

Key
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

American League Wild Card Game

Year Visitor Manager Score Host Manager
2012 Baltimore Orioles Buck Showalter 5–1 Texas Rangers Ron Washington
2013 Tampa Bay Rays Joe Maddon 4–0 Cleveland Indians Terry Francona
2014 Oakland Athletics Bob Melvin 8–9 (12) Kansas City Royals Ned Yost
2015 Houston Astros A. J. Hinch 3–0 New York Yankees Joe Girardi
2016 Baltimore Orioles Buck Showalter 2–5 (11) Toronto Blue Jays John Gibbons
2017 Minnesota Twins Paul Molitor 4–8 New York Yankees Joe Girardi
2018 Oakland Athletics Bob Melvin 2–7 New York Yankees Aaron Boone
2019 Tampa Bay Rays Kevin Cash 5–1 Oakland Athletics Bob Melvin
2021 New York Yankees Aaron Boone 2–6 Boston Red Sox Alex Cora

National League Wild Card Game

Year Visitor Manager Score Host Manager
2012 St. Louis Cardinals Mike Matheny 6–3 Atlanta Braves Fredi González
2013 Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker 2–6 Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Hurdle
2014 San Francisco Giants Bruce Bochy 8–0 Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Hurdle
2015 Chicago Cubs Joe Maddon 4–0 Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Hurdle
2016 San Francisco Giants Bruce Bochy 3–0 New York Mets Terry Collins
2017 Colorado Rockies Bud Black 8–11 Arizona Diamondbacks Torey Lovullo
2018 Colorado Rockies Bud Black 2–1 (13) Chicago Cubs Joe Maddon
2019 Milwaukee Brewers Craig Counsell 3–4 Washington Nationals Dave Martinez
2021 St. Louis Cardinals Mike Shildt 1–3 Los Angeles Dodgers Dave Roberts

2020 Wild Card Series

After the shortened 60-game regular season of 2020, the first round of the MLB postseason consisted of four Wild Card Series in each league, each series being a best-of-three hosted by the higher seed. Eight teams from each league participated: three division winners, three division runners-up, and two wild card teams (the two remaining teams with the best records, based on winning percentage). Thus, while each league's Wild Card Series featured a total of eight teams, there were still only two wild card qualifiers per league.

Key
E1 C1 W1 Division winners for East, Central, West
E2 C2 W2 Division runners-up for East, Central, West
WC Wild card teams
bold Wild Card Series winner

2020 American League Wild Card Series

Higher seeded team Manager Games Lower seeded team Manager
Tampa Bay RaysE1 Kevin Cash 2–0 Toronto Blue JaysWC Charlie Montoyo
Oakland AthleticsW1 Bob Melvin 2–1 Chicago White SoxWC Rick Renteria
Minnesota TwinsC1 Rocco Baldelli 0–2 Houston AstrosW2 Dusty Baker
Cleveland IndiansC2 Sandy Alomar Jr.[b] 0–2 New York YankeesE2 Aaron Boone

2020 National League Wild Card Series

Higher seeded team Manager Games Lower seeded team Manager
Los Angeles DodgersW1 Dave Roberts 2–0 Milwaukee BrewersWC Craig Counsell
Atlanta BravesE1 Brian Snitker 2–0 Cincinnati RedsWC David Bell
Chicago CubsC1 David Ross 0–2 Miami MarlinsE2 Don Mattingly
San Diego PadresW2 Jayce Tingler 2–1 St. Louis CardinalsC2 Mike Shildt

Appearances by team

In the sortable tables below, teams are ordered first by number of wins, then by number of appearances, and finally by year of first appearance. These records reflect series outcomes of the 2020 Wild Card Series, not individual games. In the "Season(s)" column, bold years indicate winning appearances.

American League

Apps Team Wins Losses Win % Season(s)
5 New York Yankees 3 2 .600 2015, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021
3 Tampa Bay Rays 3 0 1.000 2013, 2019, 2020
2 Houston Astros 2 0 1.000 2015, 2020
4 Oakland Athletics 1 3 .250 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020
2 Baltimore Orioles 1 1 .500 2012, 2016
2 Toronto Blue Jays 1 1 .500 2016, 2020
1 Kansas City Royals 1 0 1.000 2014
1 Boston Red Sox 1 0 1.000 2021
2 Cleveland Indians 0 2 .000 2013, 2020
2 Minnesota Twins 0 2 .000 2017, 2020
1 Texas Rangers 0 1 .000 2012
1 Chicago White Sox 0 1 .000 2020

National League

Apps Team Wins Losses Win % Season(s)
2 San Francisco Giants 2 0 1.000 2014, 2016
2 Los Angeles Dodgers 2 0 1.000 2020, 2021
3 Pittsburgh Pirates 1 2 .333 2013, 2014, 2015
3 Chicago Cubs 1 2 .333 2015, 2018, 2020
3 St. Louis Cardinals 1 2 .333 2012, 2020, 2021
2 Atlanta Braves 1 1 .500 2012, 2020
2 Colorado Rockies 1 1 .500 2017, 2018
1 Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000 2017
1 Washington Nationals 1 0 1.000 2019
1 Miami Marlins 1 0 1.000 2020
1 San Diego Padres 1 0 1.000 2020
2 Cincinnati Reds 0 2 .000 2013, 2020
2 Milwaukee Brewers 0 2 .000 2019, 2020
1 New York Mets 0 1 .000 2016

Game results by team

Updated through the 2021 postseason. These records reflect individual game results of the 2020 Wild Card Series.

Joe Maddon has managed both the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs to Wild Card Game victories.
Joe Maddon has managed both the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs to Wild Card Game victories.
Team League Appearances Individual games
Games Series Win–loss record Winning pct.
Arizona Diamondbacks NL 1 0 1–0 1.000
Atlanta Braves NL 1 1 2–1 .667
Baltimore Orioles AL 2 0 1–1 .500
Boston Red Sox AL 1 0 1–0 1.000
Cincinnati Reds NL 1 1 0–3 .000
Chicago Cubs NL 2 1 1–3 .250
Chicago White Sox AL 0 1 1–2 .333
Cleveland Indians AL 1 1 0–3 .000
Colorado Rockies NL 2 0 1–1 .500
Houston Astros AL 1 1 3–0 1.000
Kansas City Royals AL 1 0 1–0 1.000
Los Angeles Dodgers NL 1 1 3–0 1.000
Miami Marlins NL 0 1 2–0 1.000
Milwaukee Brewers NL 1 1 0–3 .000
Minnesota Twins AL 1 1 0–3 .000
New York Mets NL 1 0 0–1 .000
New York Yankees AL 4 1 4–2 .667
Oakland Athletics AL 3 1 2–4 .333
Pittsburgh Pirates NL 3 0 1–2 .333
San Diego Padres NL 0 1 2–1 .667
San Francisco Giants NL 2 0 2–0 1.000
St. Louis Cardinals NL 2 1 2–3 .400
Tampa Bay Rays AL 2 1 4–0 1.000
Texas Rangers AL 1 0 0–1 .000
Toronto Blue Jays AL 1 1 1–2 .333
Washington Nationals NL 1 0 1–0 1.000

The following current MLB teams have not yet appeared in a Wild Card playoff:

American League: Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners
National League: Philadelphia Phillies

Records

Single team
Both teams
Other

See also

Notes

  1. ^ As of April 2022, MLB has not announced a formal name for the best-of-three wild card series to be contested during the postseason.
  2. ^ In 2020, Alomar was designated as Cleveland's interim manager in lieu of Terry Francona who missed the postseason due to health concerns.

References

  1. ^ Jayson Stark (March 2, 2012). "The new MLB postseason". ESPN.com.
  2. ^ "Everything you need to know about '22 season". MLB.com. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  3. ^ Bloom, Barry M. (March 2, 2012). "Addition of Wild Card berths finalized for 2012". MLB.com.
  4. ^ "MLB expands playoffs to 16 teams for shortened 2020 season, adds best-of-three Wild Card Series". CBSSports.com. Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Team Batting Game Finder: In the LWC, from 1995 to 2020, sorted by greatest Runs Scored". stathead.com. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Team Batting Game Finder: In the LWC, from 1995 to 2020, sorted by greatest Hits". stathead.com. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  7. ^ "Team Batting Game Finder: In the LWC, from 1995 to 2020, sorted by greatest Rdiff". stathead.com. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  8. ^ "Team Batting Game Finder: In the LWC, from 1995 to 2020, sorted by greatest GmLen". stathead.com. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  9. ^ Dale, Shane (October 3, 2018). "Rockies beat Cubs in longest winner-take-all game in MLB history". KNXV. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  10. ^ "2020 National League Wild Card Series (NLWC) Game 1, Cincinnati Reds at Atlanta Braves, September 30, 2020".