The Major League Baseball Wild Card Game is a play-in game which was added to the Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason in 2012, and marks the beginning of the playoffs for both the American League and National League. The addition of a play-in game essentially maintained the three-tiered format used from 1995 through 2011, while adding 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 each league's Wild Card Game advances to face the top-seeded team in that league's Division Series.
The home team for the Wild Card Game is the team with the better regular-season winning percentage; if the two teams have identical winning percentages, MLB tie-breaking procedures are used to determine the home team, with no additional games being played. This is in contrast to teams tied for a division title, which, since the introduction of the Wild Card Game in 2012, do play a one-game tiebreaker for the division title, even if both teams are already qualified for the postseason. This differs from previous tie-breaking; for example, at the conclusion of the 2005 regular season, 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 already qualified for the postseason.
In the Division Series, the winner of the Wild Card Game faces whichever division champion has the best record. Before 2012, a wild-card team could not face the winner of its own division in a Division Series. It is now possible for the two teams with the best record in a league to face each other before the League Championship Series for the first time since 1997, if the Wild Card Game winner has the second-best record in the league and the top seed is from the same division. From 1995 to 1997, the matchups for the Division Series were determined by an annual rotation between divisions.
Through the 2018 postseason, 19 of the 30 MLB franchises have appeared in a Wild Card Game. The New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, and Pittsburgh Pirates have each appeared in a record 3 games. The San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees have won the most Wild Card Games, two each. The Oakland Athletics have lost the most games, losing all three of their Wild Card Game appearances to date.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MLB announced that the Wild Card Series would be played by eight teams in each league. Division champions would be seeded 1 through 3 by record, the second place teams seeded 4 through 6 by record, and the two teams with the next best records remaining seeded 7 and 8.
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.
Through the 2019 postseason, Wild Card Game winners have gone on to compile an overall 7-9 record in League Division Series, with Wild Card Game winners going 3-5 in the ALDS and 4-4 in the NLDS. The 2014 postseason featured the first series sweeps involving a Wild Card Game winner; both in favor of the AL Wild Card Kansas City Royals, who swept the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS and the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. The Royals then met the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 World Series, the second all-Wild Card fall classic, which the Giants won in seven games. The first all-Wild Card World Series had also involved the Giants, who lost 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.[according to whom?] In the sixteen games played since the new Wild Card system began in 2012, five have been shutouts. In eight of the eleven 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,[clarification needed] 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 eight of the sixteen games played, and one run only three times--in the 2014 Royals-Athletics game, the 2018 Rockies-Cubs game, and the 2019 Nationals-Brewers game.
Through the 2019 Wild Card Games, visiting teams have won more games (nine) than home teams have won (seven). There have been five shutouts, each of which has been won by the visiting team (including three consecutive shutouts in the 2014-2016 NL editions). Two of the three extra innings games have been won by the home team.
|bold||Wild Card Game winner|
|2012||Baltimore Orioles||Buck Showalter||5-1||Texas Rangers||Ron Washington|
|2013||Tampa Bay Rays||Joe Maddon||4-0||Cleveland Indians||Terry Francona|
|2014||Oakland Athletics||Bob Melvin||8-9 (12)||Kansas City Royals||Ned Yost|
|2015||Houston Astros||A. J. Hinch||3-0||New York Yankees||Joe Girardi|
|2016||Baltimore Orioles||Buck Showalter||2-5 (11)||Toronto Blue Jays||John Gibbons|
|2017||Minnesota Twins||Paul Molitor||4-8||New York Yankees||Joe Girardi|
|2018||Oakland Athletics||Bob Melvin||2-7||New York Yankees||Aaron Boone|
|2019||Tampa Bay Rays||Kevin Cash||5-1||Oakland Athletics||Bob Melvin|
|2012||St. Louis Cardinals||Mike Matheny||6-3||Atlanta Braves||Fredi González|
|2013||Cincinnati Reds||Dusty Baker||2-6||Pittsburgh Pirates||Clint Hurdle|
|2014||San Francisco Giants||Bruce Bochy||8-0||Pittsburgh Pirates||Clint Hurdle|
|2015||Chicago Cubs||Joe Maddon||4-0||Pittsburgh Pirates||Clint Hurdle|
|2016||San Francisco Giants||Bruce Bochy||3-0||New York Mets||Terry Collins|
|2017||Colorado Rockies||Bud Black||8-11||Arizona Diamondbacks||Torey Lovullo|
|2018||Colorado Rockies||Bud Black||2-1 (13)||Chicago Cubs||Joe Maddon|
|2019||Milwaukee Brewers||Craig Counsell||3-4||Washington Nationals||Dave Martinez|
In 2020, the first round in the postseason consisted of four Wild Card Series in each league, each series being a best-of-three. Eight teams from each league participated: three division winners, three division runners-up, and two wild card teams (the two remaining teams with the best records, based on winning percentage).
|bold||Wild Card Series winner|
|Higher seeded team||Manager||Games||Lower seeded team||Manager|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Kevin Cash||2-0||Toronto Blue Jays||Charlie Montoyo|
|Oakland Athletics||Bob Melvin||2-1||Chicago White Sox||Rick Renteria|
|Minnesota Twins||Rocco Baldelli||0-2||Houston Astros||Dusty Baker|
|Cleveland Indians||Sandy Alomar Jr.[nb 1]||0-2||New York Yankees||Aaron Boone|
|Higher seeded team||Manager||Games||Lower seeded team||Manager|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Dave Roberts||2-0||Milwaukee Brewers||Craig Counsell|
|Atlanta Braves||Brian Snitker||2-0||Cincinnati Reds||David Bell|
|Chicago Cubs||David Ross||0-2||Miami Marlins||Don Mattingly|
|San Diego Padres||Jayce Tingler||2-1||St. Louis Cardinals||Mike Shildt|
Updated through 2019 results; table only includes MLB teams that have appeared in a Wild Card Game.
|Team||League||Win-loss record||Apps||Winning Pct|
|Kansas City Royals||AL||1-0||1||1.000|
|New York Mets||NL||0-1||1||.000|
|New York Yankees||AL||2-1||3||.667|
|San Francisco Giants||NL||2-0||2||1.000|
|St. Louis Cardinals||NL||1-0||1||1.000|
|Tampa Bay Rays||AL||2-0||2||1.000|
|Toronto Blue Jays||AL||1-0||1||1.000|
The following current MLB teams have not yet appeared in a Wild Card Playoff:
In the sortable table below, teams are ordered first by number of wins, then by number of appearances, and finally by year of first appearance. In the "Season(s)" column, bold years indicate winning appearances.
|4||New York Yankees||3||1||.750||2015, 2017, 2018, 2020|
|3||Tampa Bay Rays||3||0||1.000||2013, 2019, 2020|
|2||Houston Astros||2||0||1.000||2015, 2020|
|4||Oakland Athletics||1||3||.250||2014, 2018, 2019, 2020|
|2||Baltimore Orioles||1||1||.500||2012, 2016|
|2||Toronto Blue Jays||1||1||.500||2016, 2020|
|1||Kansas City Royals||1||0||1.000||2014|
|2||Cleveland Indians||0||2||.000||2013, 2020|
|2||Minnesota Twins||0||2||.000||2017, 2020|
|1||Chicago White Sox||0||1||.000||2020|
|2||San Francisco Giants||2||0||1.000||2014, 2016|
|3||Pittsburgh Pirates||1||2||.333||2013, 2014, 2015|
|3||Chicago Cubs||1||2||.333||2015, 2018, 2020|
|2||Atlanta Braves||1||1||.500||2012, 2020|
|2||St. Louis Cardinals||1||1||.500||2012, 2020|
|2||Colorado Rockies||1||1||.500||2017, 2018|
|1||Los Angeles Dodgers||1||0||1.000||2020|
|1||San Diego Padres||1||0||1.000||2020|
|2||Cincinnati Reds||0||2||.000||2013, 2020|
|2||Milwaukee Brewers||0||2||.000||2019, 2020|
|1||New York Mets||0||1||.000||2016|