MLB Postseason Tiebreakers 2021: Key Details About Red Sox Playoff Push

Boston is fighting for a spot in the American League Wild Card Game

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The American League wild-card race is coming down to the wire, with the Boston Red Sox jockeying for position. So, it’s important to keep in mind how Major League Baseball is approaching potential playoff tiebreaker scenarios for the 2021 season.

The Tampa Bay Rays already have clinched the American League East, so advancing to the AL Wild Card Game is Boston’s only path to the 2021 MLB postseason. Boston needs to finish with one of the two best records among non-AL division winners to potentially participate in the one-game showdown scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 5.

The winner of the AL Wild Card Game, of course, advances to the American League Division Series, where it’ll play the AL’s No. 1 seed.

To make life easier, let’s tackle this subject by answering a few questions you might have about the upcoming postseason as it relates to the Red Sox and their possible inclusion in the AL Wild Card Game.

What if the Red Sox tie with one team for the top wild-card spot?

The Red Sox would advance to the AL Wild Card Game, with home-field advantage determined by head-to-head record during the regular season. (An extra game to determine home-field advantage would not be necessary.)

Here are Boston’s head-to-head records vs. teams still in the wild-card hunt:

New York Yankees: 10-9
Toronto Blue Jays: 10-9
Seattle Mariners: 4-3
Oakland Athletics: 3-3

As you can see, the Red Sox are in good shape if they finish atop the wild-card standings alongside another team. They’d own home-field advantage over the Yankees, Mariners and Blue Jays by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

And even though the Red Sox split their six-game season series against the A’s, the next tiebreaker is based on winning percentage in intradivision games. Boston entered Wednesday with a 40-34 record against AL East opponents, whereas Oakland is 36-36 against AL West opponents.

The next tiebreakers are determined by winning percentage in intraleague games, then winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games.

What if the Red Sox tie with one team for the second wild-card spot?

The Red Sox and the other team would face each other in a one-game playoff Monday, Oct. 4, for the right to advance to the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct 5. Home-field advantage for Monday’s one-game playoff would go to the team with the better head-to-head record.

What if the Red Sox tie with two teams for two wild-card spots?

Each of the three teams would choose a designation (A, B, C), with the order of selections based on head-to-head records. Team A would host Team B in a one-game playoff. The winner would earn the top wild-card spot, while the loser would travel to face Team C in a one-game playoff to determine the second wild-card spot.

Let’s say the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays finish with identical records, atop the AL wild-card standings. The Red Sox, by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker, would have the first pick of designation.

What if the Red Sox tie with two teams for the second wild-card spot?

The team atop the wild-card standings would host the AL Wild Card Game.

Each of the three teams tied for the second wild-card spot would receive a designation (A, B, C). Team A would host Team B in a one-game playoff. The winner then would host Team C in a one-game playoff to determine the second wild-card spot.

Let’s say the Red Sox, Blue Jays and Mariners finish with identical records, behind only the Yankees in the AL wild-card standings. The Red Sox, again thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker, would have the first pick of designation.

What if the Red Sox tie with three teams for the second wild-card spot?

The team atop the wild-card standings would host the AL Wild Card Game.

Each of the four teams tied for the second wild-card spot would receive a designation (A, B, C, D). Team A would host Team B in a one-game playoff, and Team C would host Team D in a one-game playoff. The winners then would face each other — in the home park of the Team A vs. Team B winner — in a one-game playoff to determine the second wild-card spot.

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