Major League Baseball wild-card game

"Wild Card Game" and "Wild Card Playoff" redirect here. For those in the National Football League, see National Football League playoffs § Current playoff system. For general information on wild cards in sports, see Wild card (sports).

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 1994 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 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 (from 1994 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:


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 three of the first six Division Series played under the new format. Of the best-of-five Division Series lost by Wild Card Game winners, two lost in five games and one lost in four games. The 2014 postseason featured the first Series sweeps involving Wild Card Game winners, but they were both in favour 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 eight games played since the new Wild Card system began in 2012, four have been shutouts. In three of the four others, the losing team scored 1, 2, or 3 runs. Only the 2014 AL Wild Card game between the Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics featured high scoring by both teams, with the Royals eventually winning 9-8 in 12 innings. The margin of victory has been four runs or more in five of the eight games played, three runs in two of the games, and one run only once—in the 2014 Royals-Athletics games.


bold Wild Card Game winner
Won World Series
Reached World Series
Reached League Championship Series

The visiting team has won 7 of the 10 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)

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)

Win–loss records by team

Team Win–loss record Appearances
Atlanta Braves 0–1 1
Baltimore Orioles 1–1 2
Cincinnati Reds 0–1 1
Chicago Cubs 1–0 1
Cleveland Indians 0–1 1
Houston Astros 1–0 1
Kansas City Royals 1–0 1
New York Mets 0–1 1
New York Yankees 0–1 1
Oakland Athletics 0–1 1
Pittsburgh Pirates 1–2 3
San Francisco Giants 2–0 2
St. Louis Cardinals 1–0 1
Tampa Bay Rays 1–0 1
Texas Rangers 0–1 1
Toronto Blue Jays 1–0 1

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.
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