List of Major League Baseball tie-breakers
A tie-breaker is required in Major League Baseball (MLB) when two or more teams are tied at the end of the regular season for a playoff position including a pennant (prior to the introduction of the League Championship Series in 1969), a division title, or a Wild Card spot. Both the American (AL) and National Leagues (NL) currently use 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. Fourteen tie-breakers—ten single-game and four series—have been played in MLB history. In baseball statistics, tie-breaker games count as regular season games with all events in them counted towards regular season statistics. This can have 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. Home-field advantage for tie-breakers was determined by a coin flip through the 2008 season, after which performance-based criteria, such as head-to-head record of the tied teams, were put in place.
Although there have been no situations requiring a tie-breaker between more than two teams it is 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. 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. 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."
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. The Cardinals won the series in two games and went on to win the 1946 World Series, 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. The 2008 tie-breaker, which saw only one combined run score, was the lowest scoring game while the 2007 match-up with 17 total runs was the highest scoring. The Dodgers franchise has participated in five tie-breakers, twice while the team was based in Brooklyn and three times in Los Angeles, the most for any team. Dodger Stadium, Ebbets Field, Fenway Park, and the Polo Grounds are the only venues which have hosted multiple tie-breaker games (the Polo Grounds hosted two of the three games in the 1951 series).
One notable moment in MLB tie-breaker history came in the final game of the 1951 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 at the corners. 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.
|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|
|Playoff results||Fate of the tie-breaker winner in the subsequent playoffs|
|*||Tie-breaker winner won the World Series|
|#||Tie-breaker winner lost the World Series|
|^||Tie-breaker was contested in a three-game series rather than a one-game playoff|
- "Holliday comes through big to take first batting title".
- "Ownership approves two major rules amendments".
- "Standings on Sunday, September 30, 2007".
- Stark, Jayson (September 28, 2007). "NL could be in playoff tiebreakers until Thursday".
- Stark, Jayson (September 25, 2012). "October scheduling nightmares: Part 896".
- "Standings on Sunday, September 29, 1946".
- "1946 World Series".
- "September 29, 1959 Milwaukee Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers Box Score and Play by Play".
- "October 1, 2007 San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies Box Score and Play by Play".
- "October 6, 2009 Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins Box Score and Play by Play".
- "Game of Wednesday, 10/3/1951 – Brooklyn at New York (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "Baseball Giant Whitey Lockman Dead at 82". nbcnewyork.com. NBC New York. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
- MacCambridge, Michael (ed.). ESPN SportsCentury [1951 National League Playoff]. New York: Hyperion ESPN Books. p. 171.
- "Game of Tuesday, 10/1/1946 – Brooklyn at St. Louis (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "Game of Thursday, 10/3/1946 – St. Louis at Brooklyn (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "Game of Monday, 10/4/1948 – Cleveland at Boston (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "Game of Monday, 10/1/1951 – New York at Brooklyn (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "Game of Tuesday, 10/2/1951 – Brooklyn at New York (D)". Retrosheet, Inc. Retrieved May 6, 2010.
- "September 28, 1959 Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Braves Box Score and Play by Play".
- "Monday, October 1, 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants Play by Play and Box Score".
- "Tuesday, October 2, 1962 San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Play by Play and Box Score".
- "Wednesday, October 3, 1962, 1962 San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Play by Play and Box Score".
- "Monday, October 2, 1978 New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Box Score and Play by Play".
- "Monday, October 6, 1980 Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Box Score and Play by Play".
- "Monday, October 2, 1995 California Angels at Seattle Mariners Box Score and Play by Play".
- "Monday, September 28, 1998 San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs Box Score and Play by Play".
- "October 4, 1999 New York Mets at Cincinnati Reds Box Score and Play by Play".
- "September 30, 2008 Minnesota Twins at Chicago White Sox Box Score and Play by Play".
- "Never-give-up Twins win AL Central title".
- "September 30, 2013 Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers Box Score".