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List of Major League Baseball tie-breakers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Several men in white baseball jerseys, some wearing black jackets, congregate around second base on a baseball diamond.
The Chicago White Sox celebrate after defeating the Minnesota Twins 1–0 to win the 2008 American League Central.

A tie-breaker was required in Major League Baseball (MLB) when two or more teams were tied at the end of the regular season for a postseason position such as a league pennant (prior to the introduction of the League Championship Series in 1969), a division title, or a wild card spot. Until 2022, both the American League (AL) and the National League (NL) used a one-game playoff format for tie-breakers, although the NL used a best-of-three series prior to 1969, when the leagues were split into divisions. As these tie-breaker games counted as part of the regular season and MLB teams (American League beginning in 1961, and National League beginning in 1962) have 162-game regular season schedules, the tie-breaker games were sometimes referred to as "Game 163".[1][2] In 2022, as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to end the 2021–22 Major League Baseball lockout, tiebreaker games were replaced with statistical tiebreaker procedures.[3][4][5]

Sixteen tie-breakers – 12 single-game and four series – have been played in MLB history. In baseball statistics, tie-breaker games counted as regular season games with all events in them counted towards regular season statistics. This had implications on statistical races, such as when Matt Holliday won the batting average and runs batted in titles thanks in part to his performance in the 2007 tie-breaker.[6] Home-field advantage for tie-breakers was determined by a coin flip through the 2008 season, after which performance-based criteria, starting with head-to-head record of the tied teams, were put in place.[7]

Although there have been no situations requiring a tie-breaker between more than two teams, it was possible. In 2007, for example, the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks finished the season within two games of one another.[8] The possibility existed for as many as four teams to be locked in a series of tie-breakers that year to decide the NL East, West, and Wild Card.[9] Similarly, late in the 2012 season the possibility existed for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and either the Texas Rangers or Oakland Athletics to all finish with the same record. This could have required the teams to play a complex set of multiple games to determine divisional and wild card winners, a situation which Jayson Stark described as potentially "baseball's worst scheduling nightmare."[10]

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The first tie-breaker, held in 1946, decided the winner of the NL pennant between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Brooklyn Dodgers, who had finished the season tied at 96–58.[11] The Cardinals won the series in two games and went on to win the 1946 World Series,[12] one of four tie-breaker winners who have gone on to win the World Series. Three tie-breaker games have gone into extra innings: the decisive second game of the 1959 series, the 2007 Wild Card tie-breaker, and the 2009 game.[13][14][15] The 2008 tie-breaker, a 1–0 victory for the White Sox, was the lowest scoring game, while the 2007 match-up with 17 total runs was the highest scoring. The Dodgers franchise has participated in six tie-breakers, twice while the team was based in Brooklyn and four times in Los Angeles, the most for any team. Dodger Stadium, Ebbets Field, Fenway Park, the Polo Grounds and Wrigley Field are the only venues which have hosted multiple tie-breaker games. Both games at the Polo Grounds came in the 1951 series.

One of the most famous moments in MLB history came in the final game of the 1951 National League tie-breaker series. Entering the bottom of the ninth inning the New York Giants were trailing the Dodgers 4–1. Al Dark and Don Mueller each singled to put runners on first and third base.[16] Whitey Lockman hit a double, scoring Dark to make the game 4–2. Finally, Bobby Thomson hit a walk-off home run which has come to be known as the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" to give the Giants the 5–4 victory and the National League pennant. ESPN's SportsCentury ranked it as the second greatest game of the 20th century.[17] In 1962, the first season of the NL expanded schedule to 162 games, the only 3 game tie breaker in the 162 game season took place between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers with the Giants winning 2–1. This was the longest regular season schedule ever played by 2 teams at 165 games, a record that will almost certainly never be matched. The 2000s saw three years of consecutive one-run tiebreaker games. The Rockies stormed back from a 2-run deficit in the 13th in 2007, winning 9–8 in a surprising run to the World Series that year. In 2008, a Jim Thome home run and a stellar performance by John Danks helped the White Sox edge out the Twins 1–0. The Twins ended up on the winning side the following year, tying the game in the 10th after going down a run and then walking off in the 12th inning to defeat the Tigers 6–5.

In 2018, two tiebreakers were played to conclude the season for the first time in MLB history. The NL West was decided between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies, while the NL Central was decided between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers and Brewers, the winners of these games, advanced to the NLDS, while the losers played each other in the Wild Card game.[1][2]

Despite one team playing on their home field, tie-breakers have not favored the home team statistically, with the home team having gone 11–11 since the first tie-breaker game was played.

Starting with the 2022 season, as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to end the 2021–22 Major League Baseball lockout, MLB added a third wild card team in each league, expanding the playoffs to 12 teams, and the tiebreaker game format was abolished. Ties will only be broken with a set of statistical prodecures.[3][4][5]


Key to the tie-breakers
Title The pennant, division, or Wild Card which the tie-breaker decided. Links to the tie-breaker game or series.
Winning/Losing team The winning and losing team for the tie-breaker (for the overall series in the case of a three-game series)
Score(s) Score of the game, extra innings noted in parentheses
Postseason result (winner) Fate of team winning the tie-breaker in the subsequent postseason
Postseason result (loser) Fate of team losing the tie-breaker in the subsequent postseason (if qualified)
* Team subsequently won the World Series
# Team subsequently lost the World Series
^ Tie-breaker was contested in a three-game series rather than a one-game playoff
Head-to-head Head-to-head win/loss record and winning percentage of the winning vs. losing team during the regular season prior to the tie-breaker itself


Tie-breaker games and series
Title Winning team Score(s) Losing team Site(s) Postseason result Head-to-head Ref.
Winner Loser
1946 NL pennant St. Louis Cardinals 4–2, 8–4^ Brooklyn Dodgers Sportsman's Park (Game 1)
Ebbets Field (Game 2)
Won WS 4–3 (Red Sox)* Did not qualify 14–8 (.636) [18][19]
1948 AL pennant Cleveland Indians 8–3 Boston Red Sox Fenway Park Won WS 4–2 (Braves)* Did not qualify 11–11 (.500) [20]
1951 NL pennant New York Giants 3–1, 0–10, 5–4^ Brooklyn Dodgers Ebbets Field (Game 1)
Polo Grounds (Games 2, 3)
Lost WS 4–2 (Yankees)# Did not qualify 9–13 (.409) [16][21][22]
1959 NL pennant Los Angeles Dodgers 3–2, 6–5 (12)^ Milwaukee Braves County Stadium (Game 1)
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Game 2)
Won WS 4–2 (White Sox)* Did not qualify 12–10 (.545) [13][23]
1962 NL pennant San Francisco Giants 8–0, 7–8, 6–4^ Los Angeles Dodgers Candlestick Park (Game 1)
Dodger Stadium (Games 2, 3)
Lost WS 4–3 (Yankees)# Did not qualify 9–9 (.500) [24][25][26]
1978 AL East New York Yankees 5–4 Boston Red Sox Fenway Park Won ALCS 3–1 (Royals),
Won WS 4–2 (Dodgers)*
Did not qualify 8–7 (.533) [27]
1980 NL West Houston Astros 7–1 Los Angeles Dodgers Dodger Stadium Lost NLCS 3–2 (Phillies) Did not qualify 8–10 (.444) [28]
1995 AL West Seattle Mariners 9–1 California Angels Kingdome Won ALDS 3–2 (Yankees),
Lost ALCS 4–2 (Indians)
Did not qualify 5–7 (.417) [29]
1998 NL Wild Card Chicago Cubs 5–3 San Francisco Giants Wrigley Field Lost NLDS 3–0 (Braves) Did not qualify 6–3 (.667) [30]
1999 NL Wild Card New York Mets 5–0 Cincinnati Reds Cinergy Field Won NLDS 3–1 (Diamondbacks),
Lost NLCS 4–2 (Braves)
Did not qualify 4–5 (.444) [31]
2007 NL Wild Card Colorado Rockies 9–8 (13) San Diego Padres Coors Field Won NLDS 3–0 (Phillies),
Won NLCS 4–0 (Diamondbacks),
Lost WS 4–0 (Red Sox)#
Did not qualify 10–8 (.556) [14]
2008 AL Central Chicago White Sox 1–0 Minnesota Twins U.S. Cellular Field Lost ALDS 3–1 (Rays) Did not qualify 8–10 (.444) [32]
2009 AL Central Minnesota Twins 6–5 (12) Detroit Tigers Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Lost ALDS 3–0 (Yankees) Did not qualify 11–7 (.611) [15][33]
2013 AL Wild Card Tampa Bay Rays 5–2 Texas Rangers Rangers Ballpark in Arlington Won ALWC (Indians),
Lost ALDS 3–1 (Red Sox)
Did not qualify 3–4 (.429) [34]
2018 NL Central Milwaukee Brewers 3–1 Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field Won NLDS 3–0 (Rockies),
Lost NLCS 4–3 (Dodgers)
Lost NLWC (Rockies) 8–11 (.421) [35]
2018 NL West Los Angeles Dodgers 5–2 Colorado Rockies Dodger Stadium Won NLDS 3–1 (Braves),
Won NLCS 4–3 (Brewers),
Lost WS 4–1 (Red Sox)#
Won NLWC (Cubs),
Lost NLDS 3-0 (Brewers)
12–7 (.632) [36]

Win–loss records by team

Team Win–loss record† Appearances
Atlanta Braves 0–1 1
Boston Red Sox 0–2 2
Chicago Cubs 1–1 2
Chicago White Sox 1–0 1
Cincinnati Reds 0–1 1
Cleveland Indians 1–0 1
Colorado Rockies 1–1 2
Detroit Tigers 0–1 1
Houston Astros 1–0 1
Los Angeles Angels 0–1 1
Los Angeles Dodgers 2–4 6
Milwaukee Brewers 1–0 1
Minnesota Twins 1–1 2
New York Mets 1–0 1
New York Yankees 1–0 1
San Diego Padres 0–1 1
San Francisco Giants 2–1 3
Seattle Mariners 1–0 1
St. Louis Cardinals 1–0 1
Tampa Bay Rays 1–0 1
Texas Rangers 0–1 1

† In cases where a series was played, win–loss total reflects outcome of the series, not individual games.

Team choices on tiebreaker designations

A tiebreaker involving three teams or more would have involved a more complex series of match-ups to determine what team(s) earned what playoff berth(s). This scenario never actually occurred but, on a few occasions, it was close enough that the teams involved selected tiebreaker designation in anticipation of such a scenario.[37]

Three-way tie for one wild card spot

While such a tie had never occurred, teams within range were requested to choose between designations A, B, and C in case. Team A hosted Team B. The winner would then host Team C, with the winner of that game getting the wild card spot.

Year Teams involved 1st Team's choice 2nd Team's choice 3rd Team's designation
2021[38][39] Red Sox, Mariners, Blue Jays Red Sox chose C Mariners chose A Blue Jays given B
Blue Jays, Yankees, Mariners Blue Jays chose C Yankees chose A Mariners given B

Three-way tie for two wild card spots

While such a tie had never occurred, teams within range were requested to choose between designations A, B, and C in case. Team A hosted Team B, with the winner awarded one spot. Team C would host the loser of the first game, with the winner getting the other spot.

Year Teams involved 1st Team's choice 2nd Team's choice 3rd Team's designation
2013[40] Indians, Rays, Rangers Indians chose A Rays chose B Rangers given C
2016[41] Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers Blue Jays chose A Orioles chose C Tigers given B
2021[38][39] Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees Red Sox chose A Blue Jays chose B Yankees given C
Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners Red Sox chose A Yankees chose B Mariners given C

Four-way tie for two wild card spots

While such a tie had never occurred, teams within range were requested to choose between designations A, B, C, and D in case. Team A hosted Team B. Team C hosted Team D. The winners of each game would've been awarded a wild-card spot.

Year Teams within range 1st Team's choice 2nd Team's choice 3rd Team's choice 4th Team's designation
2021[38][39] Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Mariners Red Sox chose A Blue Jays chose C Yankees chose B Mariners given D



  • "Tiebreaker Playoff Games". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  • "Tiebreaker Playoff Results". Associated Press. September 30, 2008. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  • "Playoff and World Series Stats and Results". Retrieved May 8, 2010.


  1. ^ a b Lacques, Gabe. "Game 163! Historic Day on Tap as Dodgers-Rockies, Cubs-Brewers Set for NL Tiebreakers Monday". USA Today. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Lacques, Gabe. "Game 163! Historic day on tap as Dodgers-Rockies, Cubs-Brewers set for NL tiebreakers Monday". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  3. ^ a b "MLB lockout: 10 important under-the-radar changes in CBA, including new schedule format and loss of Game 163". Retrieved 2022-04-29.
  4. ^ a b Lacques, Gabe. "RIP Game 163: MLB's new postseason system ends storied one-game tiebreaker. A 'bummer' for baseball?". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  5. ^ a b "2022 MLB playoffs: New postseason format explained, and why there are no more Game 163 tiebreakers". Retrieved 2023-02-13.
  6. ^ "Holliday comes through big to take first batting title". October 2, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  7. ^ "Ownership approves two major rules amendments". Retrieved 2021-04-09.
  8. ^ "Standings on Sunday, September 30, 2007". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  9. ^ Stark, Jayson (September 28, 2007). "NL could be in playoff tiebreakers until Thursday". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  10. ^ Stark, Jayson (September 25, 2012). "October scheduling nightmares: Part 896". Retrieved September 25, 2012.
  11. ^ "Standings on Sunday, September 29, 1946". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  12. ^ "1946 World Series". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  13. ^ a b "September 29, 1959 Milwaukee Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  14. ^ a b "October 1, 2007 San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  15. ^ a b "October 6, 2009 Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  16. ^ a b "Game of Wednesday, 10/3/1951 – Brooklyn at New York (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  17. ^ MacCambridge, Michael (ed.). ESPN SportsCentury [1951 National League Playoff]. New York: Hyperion ESPN Books. p. 171.
  18. ^ "Game of Tuesday, 10/1/1946 – Brooklyn at St. Louis (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Archived from the original on May 14, 2010. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  19. ^ "Game of Thursday, 10/3/1946 – St. Louis at Brooklyn (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  20. ^ "Game of Monday, 10/4/1948 – Cleveland at Boston (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  21. ^ "Game of Monday, 10/1/1951 – New York at Brooklyn (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  22. ^ "Game of Tuesday, 10/2/1951 – Brooklyn at New York (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  23. ^ "September 28, 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Braves Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  24. ^ "Monday, October 1, 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Play by Play and Box Score". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  25. ^ "Tuesday, October 2, 1962 San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Play by Play and Box Score". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  26. ^ "Wednesday, October 3, 1962, 1962 San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Play by Play and Box Score". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  27. ^ "Monday, October 2, 1978 New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  28. ^ "Monday, October 6, 1980 Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  29. ^ "Monday, October 2, 1995 California Angels at Seattle Mariners Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  30. ^ "Monday, September 28, 1998 San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  31. ^ "October 4, 1999 New York Mets at Cincinnati Reds Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 6, 2010.
  32. ^ "September 30, 2008 Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox Box Score and Play by Play". Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  33. ^ "Never-give-up Twins win AL Central title". Major League Baseball. October 6, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  34. ^ "September 30, 2013 Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers Box Score". Major League Baseball. Retrieved September 30, 2013.
  35. ^ "Yelich, Brewers Beat Cubs 3–1 for NL Central Title". ESPN. Associated Press. October 1, 2018. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  36. ^ "Buehler, Dodgers Top Rockies 5-2; 6th Straight NL West Title". ESPN. Associated Press. October 1, 2018. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  37. ^ "Playoff tiebreaker rules". September 2, 2014. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  38. ^ a b c "Explaining AL Wild Card tiebreaker scenarios". Retrieved 2021-10-16.
  39. ^ a b c "Potential AL tiebreaker matchups, locations". MLB. October 3, 2021. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  40. ^ Axisa, Mike (September 27, 2013). "MLB announces tiebreaker sequence for AL wild-card, if necessary". CBS Sports. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  41. ^ Nightengale, Bob (October 1, 2016). "Blue Jays, Orioles, Tigers pick tiebreaker options for AL wild-card berth". USA Today. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
This page was last edited on 15 July 2023, at 05:25
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