Coins flipped in case of ties

Coins flipped in case of ties

The Astros' hot streak may not get them into the playoffs, but at least it earned them a coin flip.

In the event of a tie between the Cardinals and Astros -- who swept the NL Central leaders in a four-game weekend set -- a one-game playoff would be held at Houston's Minute Maid Park on Oct. 3. In order for such a tiebreaker to be necessary, a make-up of the Sept. 17 game between the Cardinals and the Giants at Busch Stadium would first have to be played on Monday, Oct. 2. If the Reds and Astros end up tied for the Central lead, Cincinnati will host Houston on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

A week earlier, the Dodgers' perfect record of making the right calls ended, when MLB's practice of resolving sites for possible tie-breaker games first went into extra-flippings.

In a flip in addition to the original 22 a week earlier, the Phillies won the right to be hosts against the Dodgers if the two teams have to play a 163rd game to determine the NL Wild Card berth.

Should they be involved in an NL Wild Card tiebreaker against other teams, the Phillies were already in line to host either the Padres or the Marlins in the Oct. 2 game at Citizens Bank Park.

According to results of a series of coin flips conducted by conference call on Tuesday, Oct. 12, the Dodgers had earned home-field edge in a possible one-game playoff to determine the NL West champion against either the Padres or the Giants.

Deciding sites for division tie-breakers was relatively simple compared to untangling all contingencies in the NL Wild Card pretzel. With six teams bunched within 4 1/2 games, a series of 15 coin flips were originally needed to resolve possible playoff locations.

The big winner: Houston, which would host playoffs against all the other contenders with the exception of the Florida Marlins and Cincinnati Reds.

Detroit won the flip against the Twins in the AL Central.

Tiebreaker Scenarios

A series of coin tosses was conducted Tuesday to determine the sites for various potential two-team tie-breakers that could impact the 2006 postseason.

AL CENTRAL TITLE
DET vs. MIN: Comerica Park, Detroit
NL CENTRAL TITLE
STL vs. HOU: Minute Maid Park, Houston
STL vs. CIN: Busch Stadium, St. Louis
HOU vs. CIN: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati
NL WEST TITLE
LA vs. SD: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
NL WILD CARD
SD vs. PHI: Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia
SD vs. CIN: PETCO Park, San Diego
SD vs. HOU: Minute Maid Park, Houston
PHI vs. CIN: Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati
PHI vs. HOU: Minute Maid Park, Houston
CIN vs. HOU: Minute Maid Park, Houston

NOTES:
• If two clubs from the same division are tied but both assured of participating in the postseason, then the first tie-breaker would be their 2006 season-series to determine which club is the division champion and which club is the Wild Card.
• If three clubs finish the season with the same winning percentage and one team will be a division winner and another will be the Wild Card, the games will be played as follows:
  » The two teams tied for the division lead will play the one-game tie-breaker, with the winner being declared the division champion.
  » The losing team will then play the club from the other division for the Wild Card.

In the event tie-breaking games do have to be played, how consequential were Tuesday's coin flips?

Oddly, not too. Historically, six one-game playoffs whose sites were determined by coin-flips have actually been played -- and visitors won four of them.

The, arguably, most famous example is 1978's ultimate game, in which Bucky Dent's home run into the Fenway Park netting beat Boston, 5-4, to send the Yankees to the AL Championship Series.

Other teams to lose coin-flips but win games were the 1948 Indians (also in Boston), the 1980 Astros (in Dodger Stadium) and the 1999 Mets, who won at Cincinnati to claim the NL Wild Card.

The only two teams to make good of this home-field advantage thus were the 1995 Mariners, who won the AL West with a 9-1 trouncing of the Angels in the Kingdome, and the 1998 Cubs, who claimed the NL Wild Card in Wrigley Field with a 5-3 victory over the Giants.

The coin flips do not address two other possible scenarios: Three-way ties, and ties involving two teams from the same division already assured of postseason participation.

In the latter event, the first tie-breaker would be the head-to-head regular-season series between the teams to determine which club is the Division Champion and which club is the Wild Card.

Should three clubs finish the season with the same winning percentage, one of which as a division winner and the other as a Wild Card, playoff games would be played as follows:

• The two teams tied for the division lead play the one-game tie-breaker, with the winner being declared the division champion.

• The losing team in that game then play the club from the other division for the Wild Card.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.