RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Wild Card race could present some crazy tiebreaking scenarios

RED SOX INSIDER

Forty-three years ago, the Red Sox and Yankees decided who'd advance to the American League Championship Series with the most famous -- or infamous, depending on your perspective -- one-game playoff in baseball history.

The Yankees prevailed on a home run by Bucky Bleeping Dent, turning a light-hitting shortstop into a power-hitting folk hero. That 1978 game cemented Dent's legend far more than the World Series MVP he'd win just a couple of weeks later by hitting .417 vs. the Dodgers.

As the baseball season enters its home stretch, there's the possibility of history repeating itself. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees reside within a half game of each other for the two wild card spots. If there's a tie, fans might wonder how it's broken.

Tomase: Red Sox calling all fans this weekend at Fenway against the O's

In the spirit of a sport that decides its standings only after 162 games, it should come as little surprise that no one's advancing to the postseason on a tie-breaker. They're going to have to play their way in.

The exception would be if two teams tie for both wild card spots. In that case, rather than play a game to determine home-field advantage, the home team will be decided by head-to-head record. The Red Sox, by virtue of their 10 wins against New York and Toronto, are already guaranteed to host either of them in the official wild card game on Oct. 5.

 

The real fun starts if all three teams finish tied or if one club claims the first wild card and the other two tie for the second. Then we're looking at bonus baseball. (And for the purposes of this exercise, we're writing off the A's and Mariners, who play tougher schedules down the stretch than anyone in the AL East).

In the case of a three-way tie for both spots, the clubs will choose from designations A, B, and C. Club A would host Club B, with the winner receiving the first wild card. The loser would then visit Club C for the second wild card. (If a fourth team somehow snuck in, then A would host B for one wild and C would host D for the other. And if four teams somehow tied for only the second wild card, the winners of the two games would play each other for the right to advance).

Because of their head-to-head wins against New York and Toronto, the Red Sox would choose their designation first. The conundrum would be A vs. C. The former provides two cracks at reaching the playoffs, while the latter guarantees a winner-take-all home game that could leave your pitching better aligned for the Division Series.

If two clubs tie for the second wild card, then they'll play a one-game playoff, with home-field advantage determined by head-to-head record. The Red Sox would host either the Yankees or Jays, while the Jays would host New York.

The odds of these hypotheticals coming to pass are low. Only once has a team needed to play its way into the wild card round, and that came in 2013, when the Rays beat the Rangers in a one-game playoff and then defeated the Indians in the wild card game for the right to be pasted by the Red Sox in the ALDS.

This time around, the Red Sox would ideally win the wild card outright and then watch the Yankees and Jays play to see who comes to Fenway. And who knows -- maybe the Sox will even have an opportunity to exorcise an old demon.