It’s officially the home stretch of the 2021 MLB season.
The final week of regular season play is here, teams are fighting to guarantee their spots in the postseason and fans are on the edge of their seats.
The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays have been neck and neck for spots in the American League Wild Card Game, with the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s not far behind. The National League West is still anyone’s division between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.
But what happens if there are ties at the end of 162 games? It doesn’t happen often, but there is a possibility that teams will have identical records at the conclusion of the 2021 MLB regular season.
Here are some possible scenarios between two or more teams that could require a tiebreaker for the postseason to take shape:
Two teams are tied as the division winner
If two teams end up with the same record atop their division, a one-game tiebreaker would occur. Home-field advantage would go to the team that won the season series.
In the case of the National League West, we could see the Giants and Dodgers play a tiebreaker to determine the division winner. Because the Giants won the regular season series 10-9, they would host the Dodgers.
The winner of this game would be dubbed the NL West champ and would advance to the Division Series round, earning home-field advantage. The loser would host the National League Wild Card Game, and could ultimately face the same team they tied with in the NLDS if they win.
Two teams are tied for two Wild Card spots
If the two Wild Card teams have the same record, it won’t require any additional games. The two clubs will simply face each other in their league’s Wild Card Game.
Because they have identical records, home-field advantage would go to the team with a better head-to-head record. In the case of the American League, the Yankees and Red Sox have just one game between them for the top Wild Card spot. If the division rivals end the regular season with the same record, the Wild Card Game would be played in Boston because the Red Sox won the season series against the Yankees 10-9.
Three teams are tied for two spots in a Wild Card Game
In the case that three teams tie for the spots in a Wild Card Game, that’s where things get fun. The three tied teams would choose or receive A, B and C designations. Once the clubs are designated, two games will take place:
- Club A would host Club B for one game. The winner would earn one of the Wild Card Game spots.
- Club C would host the loser of the Club A/B game. The winner would earn the second Wild Card Game spot.
The Team A, B and C designations are decided by this season’s head-to-head records. This scenario is still a real possibility in the American League. In addition to the Red Sox and Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays are still in the mix.
Because the Red Sox went 10-9 against both the Yankees and Blue Jays this season, they would have first pick of designation. Even if the Yankees sweep their upcoming three-game series against the Blue Jays, Toronto will have won the season series, giving them the second pick. The Yankees would then take whichever designation is left. Essentially, the choices come down to playing up to two games (Club A or B) or risking it as the home team in a single elimination game (Club C).
If there is a fourth team added to the mix -- ahem, Mariners and A’s -- two head-to-head matchups would take place to determine the two Wild Card teams.
Two teams are tied for the second spot in a Wild Card Game
To resolve a tie for the second Wild Card Game spot, the teams would simply play a game against one another to determine who advances.
The team with a better head-to-head record for the 2021 season would get home-field advantage. For example, if the Yankees stay ahead in the AL race while the Red Sox and Blue Jays end up tied, a game in Boston will determine who faces New York in the Wild Card Game.
Three teams are tied for the second Wild Card spot
In the event of a three-team tie for just one Wild Card Game spot, teams would still choose or receive A, B and C designations. Club A would host Club B, and the winner of that matchup would face Club C to determine who advances to the Wild Card Game.