MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Explaining possible postseason tiebreakers

With mere days remaining in the Major League season, the battles for two division championships, two Wild Card spots and home-field advantage are still ongoing. And because even the 162-game schedule has proven unable to settle scores at various points in the game's long history, it's important to understand what would happen in the event of a tie.

So far, we've gotten through five seasons of October expansion and only required one tiebreaker game -- the 2013 tilt between the Rays and Rangers to decide the second AL Wild Card slot. But plenty of tiebreaker possibilities exist here in the home stretch of '17, and the goal here is to lay out the most realistic ones remaining and how they would be settled.

Standings | Wild Card

Scenario: Two teams tie for the second Wild Card spot
This remains a pertinent possibility in both leagues.

If the Twins and Angels tied for the second AL Wild Card spot, they'd have to play each other Oct. 2 for the right to advance to the Wild Card Game. Home-field advantage would go to the team with the better head-to-head record (in this case, the Twins).

Same deal with the Brewers and Rockies and the second NL Wild Card spot. That tiebreaker game would take place at Coors Field because of the Rockies' 4-3 edge in the head-to-head series between those two clubs.

If the Cardinals end up tying the Rockies for the second Wild Card spot, they would host the Rockies in Game 163 since they won the season series (4-2). Should the Cardinals and Brewers finished tied for the second Wild Card spot, home-field advantage for the play-in game won't be decided until the last weekend of the season, when those two clubs play a three-game set. Milwaukee currently have a 9-7 head-to-head-edge over St. Louis.

*Note that if the head-to-head matchup is a draw, home-field advantage in all scenarios listed goes to the team with the better intradivision record or, failing that, the team with the better intraleague record.

Scenario: Two teams tie for the division
Ah, the classic divisional push. It could still happen in the AL East or NL Central.

If the Red Sox and Yankees were to finish the year in a tie atop the AL East, they would play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday, Oct. 2. Home-field advantage would go to the club with the better head-to-head record* (the Yankees won the season series, 11-8). The winner of this game would advance to the Division Series round, while the loser would head to the Wild Card Game.

The Cubs-Brewers head-to-head situation is still unsettled because the two clubs are in the midst of a four-game series this weekend.

*Note that if the head-to-head matchup is a draw, home-field advantage in all scenarios listed goes to the team with the better intradivision record or, failing that, the team with the better intraleague record.

Scenario: Home-field advantage for LCS and DS
The race for best record in the AL - and therefore home-field advantage through the LCS -- remains a close race between the Astros and Indians, and obviously there could be a big difference between facing the AL East champion or facing the winner of the Wild Card Game - a team that will likely have just burned its best available pitcher in the Wild Card Game. In the event of a tie for best record, the No. 1 seed goes to the team with the better head-to-head record. In this case, that would be the Indians, who were 5-1 against the Astros this year and would have the home-field advantage throughout the League Championship Series round.

In the NL, the Dodgers and Nationals split their six games against each other, but the Nationals hold the tiebreaker by virtue of a better intradivision record. (The season isn't over, but Los Angeles' record against the NL West is nowhere near as good was Washington's record against the NL East, and there are not enough games left to close the gap.)

In the ALDS, a Red Sox-Astros tiebreaker could come into play as they finish the season with four games against one another and could then face off in the DS. The Red Sox won two of three from the Astros in June, so they have a slight edge on the still-to-determined season series.

Remember that home-field advantage in the World Series is now determined by best regular-season record, not the All-Star Game result. Speaking of which…

Scenario: The two World Series teams have the same regular-season record
With World Series home-field advantage now tied to regular-season records, this is a new tiebreaker scenario to consider. If the Indians and Dodgers, for example, were to face each other in the World Series and had identical regular-season records, home field would go to the club with the better head-to-head record in 2017. In this case, that would be the Dodgers, who took two of three from the Tribe in June. Had the clubs not met in Interleague Play, the second tiebreaker would be division record. If that were also a tie, the tiebreaker would be intraleague records (the NL club's record vs. NL teams and the AL team's record vs. AL teams).

Scenario: Three teams tie for the division
This doesn't look especially likely, but if the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals all finished with the same record, they would receive an A, B or C designation. Club A would host Club B on Oct. 2, and the winner would host Club C the following day. The winner of that game would be the division champ.

Think of this almost like a draft, and the team with the "first pick" can choose the scenario it likes best. A team might rather play two games than one if it gets to host both, which is why a team might choose to be Club A over Club C. On the other hand, a team could choose Club C designation if it wants to rest a star pitcher and take its chance in one winner-take-all game, even if it is on the road.

Selection order would be based on the head-to-head records.

Also of important note here: If all three of these teams were tied not just for the division but for the second Wild Card spot, then the loser of the second game would be declared the Wild Card club.

Scenario: Three or four teams tie for one Wild Card spot
Now we're talking. And this is still a possibility.

In the three-team tie, we'd have to have the three teams choose/receive A, B and C designations, with Club C traveling to face the winner of the game between Clubs A and B to determine who advances to the Wild Card Game. These designations would be based off winning percentages against the other tied teams. As of this writing (subject to change, because the Brewers and Cardinals face each other in the last series of the season), in the event that the Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals were all tied at season's end, the Brewers (12-11 vs. Cards and Rox) would have their first choice of A, B or C, and the Cardinals (11-11) would choose second (the Rockies went a combined 6-7 vs. the Brewers and Cards).

As noted in the three-team division tie above, a team might rather play two games than one if it gets to host both or it might want to take its chances as Club C if it feels particularly strong about its best available starting pitcher on the road.

In a four-team tie (which is still a mathematical possibility in the AL, if not an especially realistic one), we'd have to add a D designation to the mix. Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D on Oct. 2, and the winners of each of those games would face each other the next day, in the home park of the winner of the game between Club A and Club B, to determine who goes to the Wild Card Game.

A five-team tie? Don't even ask yet. We'll cross that bridge in the unlikely event that we come to it.

Scenario: Two-team tie for the division, plus a tie with a club outside the division for a Wild Card spot
If the Cubs and Brewers finished in a tie atop the NL Central with a third club - the Rockies -- tied with them for the second AL Wild Card spot, the following would happen: The Cubs and Brewers would play a tiebreaker game Oct. 2 (at the home park of the club with the better head-to-head record, which as of this writing is still undecided). The winner is the division champ, and the loser would face the Rockies at Coors Field (in this scenario, MLB has determined that the team from the other division gets home field in the second tiebreaker game, regardless of the head-to-head record) the following day to determine the winner of the second Wild Card spot.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.