One game to go on the schedule, and the contestants for both wild card games are still to be determined. The only certainty is the St. Louis Cardinals will be the visiting team in the NL contest. All the combinations and permutations are after the jump.
Let’s start with the NL, just because it’s easier. If the Giants win, or if the Dodgers lose, then it will be the Dodgers hosting the Cardinals in the NL wildcard game, with the winner to face the Giants in the NLDS. But, if the Dodgers win and the Giants lose, then those two will play game 163 in San Francisco. The winner of that game goes to the NLDS round against the wildcard game winner, while the loser hosts the Cardinals in that wildcard game.
The AL is rather more complicated, and will require some visual aids. To wit, please kindly peruse the table below.
In scenario 1, wins by the Yankees and Red Sox eliminate the Blue Jays and Mariners, with the Red Sox hosting the wildcard game by dint of winning the season series against the Yankees.
The Blue Jays and Mariners are also both eliminated if both lose (scenarios 2, 3 and 4), with the Red Sox or Yankees hosting the wildcard game depending on their game 162 result.
Scenarios 5, 6, 7 and 8 have either the Red Sox or Yankees taking the first wildcard position and hosting the wildcard game. Their opponent would be determined by a game 163 between the two teams tied for the second wildcard position, with the home team for that game determined by head-to-head record, as indicated.
The remaining scenarios involve either a 3-way or 4-way tiebreak, whereby the tied teams choose their designation (as Team A, B, C or D). The order of choosing would be Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Mariners, based on their overall records in games played among the four clubs.
Scenarios 9 and 10 have 3 teams (the Red Sox, Yankees and either the Blue Jays or Mariners) tied for the two wildcard positions. Having the first choice for tiebreak designation, the Red Sox would have to decide whether they would prefer having two chances to win one game (as Team A) or one chance to win at home (as Team C).
In scenarios 11 and 12, the Red Sox or Yankees claim the first wildcard position and host the wildcard game. The other three teams finish tied and go into the 3-way tiebreak shown. The team having the first choice of tiebreak designation (either the Red Sox or Blue Jays) would have to decide whether they prefer having to win twice at home (as Team A) or once on the road (as Team C).
Scenario 13 is the four-way tie for the two wildcard positions. Almost certainly, it would be the Red Sox and Blue Jays hosting the two Game 163 contests, with the Yankees choosing which opponent it would prefer to face.
Let the fun begin.
The front-runners took care of business to end the season, with the Giants (and the Dodgers) winning convincingly, and the Red Sox and Yankees winning a pair of games decided in the 9th inning. For the Dodgers, their 106 wins are the most by any team failing to win a division (they and the Giants are only the 22nd and 23rd teams since 1901 to win that many games). At sixteen more wins than their wildcard opponent Cardinals, it’s one of the larger disparities in a post-season matchup, but certainly not a record (to name two larger margins, the 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners each won 25 more games than their ALDS opponents, the Indians in both instances).
The Blue Jays fail to advance despite scoring 183 more runs than they allowed, becoming only the third team (of 57) in the division era to miss the post-season with a 180+ run differential (the first two were the 1987 Blue Jays, who closed the season 0-7 to cough up a 3½ game lead, and the 2002 Red Sox, ten games back of the Yankees in a season with the AL wildcard entry Angels winning 99 games and the World Series). Had the Mariners advanced, they would have been one of the few teams to do so with a negative run differential (the 2005 Padres are the most recent, albeit with only 82 wins); as it was, Seattle’s -51 run differential translated into 90 wins, 14 more than their Pythagorean projection.
So, on to the wildcard games. This the 10th season with a wildcard round preceding the league division series, but the first to feature games between this year’s set of opponents. The Yankees and Red Sox have met in four previous post-season series, in a pair of 7-game ALCS tilts in 2003 (won by the Yankees) and 2004 (won by the Red Sox, coming back from 3-0 down), and in ALDS matchups in 1999 (won by the Yankees) and 2018 (won by the Red Sox). The Dodgers and Cardinals have met in five previous post-season series, four of them won by St. Louis (in the NLCS in 1985 and 2013, and in the NLDS in 2004 and 2014), with the Dodgers’ lone triumph coming in the 2009 NLDS.
In previous matchups in winner-take-all scenarios to advance to the post-season, the Yankees have won twice, prevailing at Fenway in a play-in game in 1978 on Bucky Dent‘s 7th inning 3-run home run, and winning at home on the final day in 1949, breaking open a 1-0 game in the 8th inning against reliever Mel Parnell, the previous day’s starter. Not quite winner-take-all, but close, was the 2-game set at the Stadium to close out the 1948 season. The perennial rivals went into the series tied and one game back of the Indians. Boston won the first of those games while Cleveland won its game, knocking out the Yankees. On the last day, another Red Sox win and an Indian loss set up a play-in game at Fenway won in an Indian ambush of 8 runs (despite going 1 for 10 with RISP) and 13 hits, including 6 for extra bases.
The Cardinals and Dodgers played a best-of-3 series for the NL pennant in 1946, with St. Louis winning at home in game 1 on the strength of a pair of 2-out RBI singles by Joe Garagiola, and thrashing the Dodgers in Brooklyn in game 2 with three triples, one of them by starter Murry Dickson supporting his 8 solid innings of 3-hit 1-run ball (before being roughed up a bit in the 9th).