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MLB’s Crazy Last Day Playoff Scenarios

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You might want to take notes.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

All of Sunday’s games begin at (approximately) the same time, from 2:05 to 2:15 p.m. CT.

This is a really good idea that MLB came up with a couple of years ago in order to not give any advantage to playoff contenders playing on the East Coast compared to West Coast contenders starting a few hours later.

It’ll mean a lot of flipping back and forth between games if you want to watch parts of all of them, keeping track of the various playoff scenarios, and there are perhaps more this year than any other year in recent history, or maybe ever.

Let’s start with the easy one.

National League

The Giants will host the Dodgers Sunday afternoon. If they win, they’re the second wild card and will face the Mets in New York on Wednesday for the right to face the Cubs in the division series. The Mets clinched the first wild card and being the host for the wild-card game when they defeated the Phillies Saturday.

If the Giants lose, they can still get in if the Cardinals also lose to the Pirates. But if the Giants lose and the Cardinals win, they’d tie for the spot at 86-76. In that case, those teams would play a tiebreaker game in St. Louis Monday, with the winner going to New York Wednesday.

Now it gets more complex.

American League

As complicated as what you are about to read is, it would have been even more so if the Mariners had won Saturday. Seattle trailed the Athletics 7-4 in the seventh inning Saturday night, tied the game 8-8, then lost in extra innings. Sorry, Mariners, you don’t get to be part of this fun.

Here’s where the three remaining wild-card contenders stand as of Sunday morning:

Orioles 88-73
Blue Jays 88-73
Tigers 86-74

If both the Orioles and Blue Jays win, they will be the wild cards, and would play the wild-card game in Toronto Tuesday, as the Jays won the season series from the Orioles. That seems simple, but even though the Tigers would be eliminated under that scenario, they still might have to make up their rained-out game against the Indians from last Thursday if the Indians also lose Sunday to the Royals. In that case both the Indians and Red Sox would have 93 wins and Cleveland would need to play the makeup game to determine who gets home field in the Red Sox/Indians division series. (If Cleveland and Boston wind up tied, the Red Sox get home field, since they won the season series from the Indians.)

Confused yet? Oh, but I have just begun.

If only one of Baltimore or Toronto wins, they would become the first wild card and host the wild-card game... sometime, because the other team would then have 74 losses, the same as the Tigers have going into Sunday. If the Tigers then lose to Atlanta, the losing team among the Orioles or Blue Jays (in this scenario) gets the second wild card and plays the wild-card game on the road.

But if the Tigers then win in that scenario... the Tigers then have to play their makeup game Monday. They then would play whoever loses Sunday in a tiebreaker on the road — they lost the season series to both the Jays and Orioles. That game would be Tuesday. The winner of said tiebreaker plays the first wild card on Wednesday, the A.L. wild-card game in that case pushed back a day.

But wait! There’s more!

If the Blue Jays and Orioles both lose, they could still get the two wild card spots and play the wild-card game in Toronto Tuesday — but only if the Tigers also lose.

If Toronto and Baltimore lose and Detroit wins, all three teams would have 74 losses, but the Tigers would then have to play their makeup game to see if they could tie the other two at 88-74. That would cause... a mess.

There has never been a three-way tie for any postseason spot in major-league history. If it happens this year... well, just read this:

Without getting into the grim details just yet, there is still a three-team tiebreaker scenario alive in which, starting today, the Tigers play six games in six cities in six days -- never against the same team or in the same city on consecutive days.

Assuming they win in Atlanta today and in Detroit on Monday, according to's Jon Paul Morosi, they would play in Toronto on Tuesday. With a loss, they would also need to play in Baltimore on Wednesday and win to advance to the Wild Card Game on Thursday in Toronto. With a win Tuesday, they would get a much-needed Wednesday off before hosting the Wild Card Game on Thursday against the Orioles or Blue Jays. Then it's off to Arlington on Friday to play the Rangers if they advance to the ALDS.

Yikes. There’s a lot more on all these scenarios in the linked article above. And there’s more on tiebreakers here — pretty complicated stuff. It’ll all be sorted out by the end of Sunday... probably.

And beyond all that, you might want to tune in on MLB Network for the end of the Giants/Dodgers game even if the N.L. wild-card race has already been decided, because it will be Vin Scully’s final baseball broadcast after 67 years. It surely will be worth hearing his final innings and sign-off.

What a great day of baseball awaits us. And then... the postseason! Enjoy.