Tiebreaker possibilities complicate NL Central

Baseball's most competitive division has three teams scratching for top

Tiebreaker possibilities complicate NL Central

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates are in. The Cubs are right on the brink. The Cardinals? They've been in for nearly a week already.

The National League Central's top three teams are all bound for the postseason. It will be a fitting destination for three of the Majors' best teams from what turned out to be the game's most competitive division.

But where exactly will they play? How will they match up? That remains to be seen.

Postseason Picture

Entering a critical three-game series at Wrigley Field this weekend, Pittsburgh holds a 3 1/2-game lead over Chicago for home-field advantage in the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser.

The Cardinals remain the front-runner and favorite to win the NL Central title, carrying a four-game division lead over the Pirates. That would set them up for a NL Division Series matchup with, well, either the Pirates or the Cubs.

But what happens if the Pirates catch the Cardinals before then? What would happen if the Cubs even things up with the Bucs? What if there's somehow a three-way tie?

Let's take a look at each possible tiebreaker scenario.

What if the Pirates and Cubs have the same record?
This is as straightforward as it gets, fortunately. It's possible the Cubs could catch up to the Pirates, ending the season tied for the top Wild Card spot.

In that case, they would play the NL Wild Card Game on Oct. 7 at Wrigley Field. Why? Because the Cubs already clinched the season series over the Bucs, entering the weekend having won 10 of their 16 matchups.

What if the Cardinals and Pirates tie for the division title?
They would play a tiebreaker game on Oct. 5. But where? That depends on the outcome of their three-game series starting Monday at PNC Park. Their season series is currently tied, 8-8.

So whoever wins next week's series would host the tiebreaker game, and the winner would be named the NL Central champion. The loser would head to the NL Wild Card Game.

What if there's a three-way tie?
This is incredibly unlikely at this point, so don't let it make your head spin too much. The Cubs are 7 1/2 games behind the Cardinals with 10 days left in the regular season. That's a long way to climb and not much time to do it.

But if the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates were to all somehow finish the season with identical records, they would each choose or receive Club A, B and C designations.

Those assignments would be based on head-to-head records, followed by combined winning percentages against the other two teams, followed by divisional records, then finally intraleague records.

Eventually, the team with the top "picks" would choose which designations they want, and the third team would receive the final slot. Club A would host Club B, and the loser would become one Wild Card team. The winner would then host Club C, and the winner of that game would be crowned the NL Central champ. The loser would move on to the NL Wild Card Game.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.