Major League Baseball Wild Card Game

The Major League Baseball Wild Card Game is a play-in game which was added to the Major League Baseball postseason in 2012.[1] The addition keeps the playoff format similar to the three-tiered postseason format used from 1995 through 2011, but adds a second wild-card team. Two wild-card teams in each league play each other in a single-game playoff after the end of the regular season. The winner of the game advances to face the 1st seeded team in the Division Series. The home team for the wild-card game is the team with the better regular-season record (4th Seed).

If both teams have the same number of wins and losses, tie-breaking procedures are used, with no additional games being played. On the other hand, teams tied for the division title will now always play a one-game playoff for the division title, even if both teams are already qualified for the postseason. This is in contrast to the earlier wild card format used, for example in the 2005 season when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox tied for first place in their division but did not play an additional game as both teams were qualified for the postseason in any event.

In the division series, the winner of the wild-card game will always face whichever division champion has the best record. All division winners receive a bye as they await the result of the game. Previously, a wild-card team could not face the champion of its own division. This change makes it possible for the two teams with the best record in the league to face each other before the League Championship Series for the first time since 1997, if the wild card winner has the second-best record only to its own division's champion. From 1995 to 1997 the matchups for the division series were determined by annual rotation between the west, central and east divisions.


The addition of a second wild-card team to each league was completed for multiple reasons:

  • Added importance to division races. Before 1994, only division-winning teams advanced to the playoffs, creating excitement when teams within a division competed for the best record in that division. From 1994 to 2011, the urgency of a division race was reduced when the second place team also made the playoffs as a wild card. In addition, the winner of the wild-card game is at a disadvantage in the next series, due to having to make strategic decisions to avoid immediate elimination, such as play its best pitchers available, without regard for future playoff games.
  • Wild-card teams are penalized. In the four-team format from 1994 to 2011, the wild-card team had to win just as many postseason games as a division winner in order to reach the World Series. Now the winner of the wild-card game is at a disadvantage because it has to play an extra game.
  • Increases postseason interest and revenue, with the tension of a sudden-death match at the start of the playoffs, similar to tie-breaker games held to resolve regular season ties. Recent examples of this were seen in tie-breaking games in 2007, 2008, and 2009, as well as the final day of the 2011 regular season.
  • With an additional playoff spot at stake, more teams are competing at the end of the regular season for a place in the playoffs.


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.[2]

Even though one of the stated purposes of the Wild Card game was to create disadvantages for Wild Card teams in the postseason,[3] Wild Card Game winners have won six of the first twelve Division Series played under the new format. Of the best-of-five Division Series lost by Wild Card Game winners, three lost in five games, two lost in four games, and only one team has been swept. The 2014 postseason featured the first Series sweeps involving Wild Card Game winners, but they were both in favor of the AL Wild Card Kansas City Royals who swept both the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Baltimore Orioles en route to the second World Series featuring both NL and AL Wild Card Game winners, with the San Francisco Giants defeating the Royals in seven games. The first all Wild Card World Series also involved the Giants, but they were on the losing end, losing the 2002 World Series to the then Anaheim Angels in seven games.

The one-game, win-or-go-home Wild Card format favors teams with at least one dominant pitcher. In the twelve games played since the new Wild Card system began in 2012, five have been shutouts. In four of the seven others, the losing team scored 3 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, 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 six of the twelve games played, and one run only once—in the 2014 Royals-Athletics games.


boldWild Card Game winner
Won World Series
Reached World Series
Reached League Championship Series

The visiting team has won 7 of the 12 games played.

American League

Year Visitor Manager Score Host Manager Winner's postseason performance
2012 Baltimore Orioles Buck Showalter 5–1 Texas Rangers Ron Washington Lost ALDS 3–2 (Yankees)
2013 Tampa Bay Rays Joe Maddon 4–0 Cleveland Indians Terry Francona Lost ALDS 3–1 (Red Sox)
2014 Oakland Athletics Bob Melvin 8–9
(12 inn.)
Kansas City Royals Ned Yost Won ALDS 3–0 (Angels), Won ALCS 4–0 (Orioles), Lost WS 4–3 (Giants)
2015 Houston Astros A. J. Hinch 3–0 New York Yankees Joe Girardi Lost ALDS 3–2 (Royals)
2016 Baltimore Orioles Buck Showalter 2–5
(11 inn.)
Toronto Blue Jays John Gibbons Won ALDS 3–0 (Rangers), Lost ALCS 4–1 (Indians)
2017 Minnesota Twins Paul Molitor 4–8 New York Yankees Joe Girardi Won ALDS 3–2 (Indians), Lost ALCS 4–3 (Astros)

National League

Year Visitor Manager Score Host Manager Winner's postseason performance
2012 St. Louis Cardinals Mike Matheny 6–3[4] Atlanta Braves Fredi González Won NLDS 3–2 (Nationals), Lost NLCS 4–3 (Giants)
2013 Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker 2–6 Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Hurdle Lost NLDS 3–2 (Cardinals)
2014 San Francisco Giants Bruce Bochy 8–0 Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Hurdle Won NLDS 3–1 (Nationals), Won NLCS 4–1 (Cardinals), Won WS 4–3 (Royals)
2015 Chicago Cubs Joe Maddon 4–0 Pittsburgh Pirates Clint Hurdle Won NLDS 3–1 (Cardinals), Lost NLCS 4–0 (Mets)
2016 San Francisco Giants Bruce Bochy 3–0 New York Mets Terry Collins Lost NLDS 3–1 (Cubs)
2017 Colorado Rockies Bud Black 8–11 Arizona Diamondbacks Torey Lovullo Lost NLDS 3–0 (Dodgers)

Win–loss records by team

Team Win–loss record Appearances
Arizona Diamondbacks 1–01
Atlanta Braves 0–11
Baltimore Orioles 1–12
Cincinnati Reds 0–11
Chicago Cubs 1–01
Cleveland Indians 0–11
Colorado Rockies 0–11
Houston Astros 1–01
Kansas City Royals 1–01
Minnesota Twins 0-11
New York Mets 0–11
New York Yankees 1–12
Oakland Athletics 0–11
Pittsburgh Pirates 1–23
San Francisco Giants 2–02
St. Louis Cardinals 1–01
Tampa Bay Rays 1–01
Texas Rangers 0–11
Toronto Blue Jays 1–01


See also


  1. Jayson Stark (2012-03-02). "The new MLB postseason".
  2. Bloom, Barry M. (March 2, 2012). "Addition of Wild Card berths finalized for 2012".
  3. "Fixing the Wild Card". September 26, 1999.
  4. Game was played "under protest" by the Atlanta Braves regarding a perceived incorrect call regarding the infield fly rule, but shortly after the game Joe Torre, MLB executive vice president for baseball operations, denied the protest, citing umpire's judgment. "Wild-card game stopped after call". Associated Press/ESPN. October 5, 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Team Batting Game Finder: In the LWC, From 1903 to 2017, sorted by most recent date". Baseball Reference. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
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