Here is what happens if the Mets, Cardinals, and Giants all tie for the 2 Wild Card spots in the National League

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With all six of MLB's divisional races already wrapped up with ten days to go, all of the playoff drama is falling on the Wild Card races, and boy are they a couple of doozies.

Things are still pretty complicated in the American League Wild Card race, where six teams (Blue Jays, Tigers, Orioles, Astros, Mariners, and Yankees, barely) are fighting for the two spots. But in the National League, we have a clear picture, and yet it still could end in a complete mess.

Prior to Thursday night's games, all three teams in the NL Wild Card race — the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, and St. Louis Cardinals — were tied for the two Wild Card spots.

According to Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, prior to Thursday's games, there was a 10% chance that those three teams would finish the season tied.

So what happens if the Mets, Giants, and Cardinals do finish tied for both Wild Card spots? The best way to describe it is "chaos." But there is a method to the madness.

There would be two play-in games that would almost certainly look like this:

Game 1 : Mets at Cardinals on Monday — The winner is in the playoffs and would host the Wild Card Series game.

Game 2: [the loser of Game 1] at the Giants on Tuesday — The winner is in the playoffs and would be the road team in the Wild Card Series game.

Jayson Stark of ESPN broke down how we end up at this scenario. It goes like this:

First we need to determine who plays when. Based on tiebreakers, the teams get to choose which scenario they want. So there is some strategizing to be done.

The two teams in the first game actually get two shots to advance. If they lose the first game, they get to play in Game 2. Meanwhile, the third team just gets the one game.

However, the third team does get the advantage of having a game at home, with an extra day of rest, and possibly a lesser opposing pitcher. The road team in the first game may get two games, but they would have to play both games on the road on back-to-back days.


Ranking MLB stadiums
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Ranking MLB stadiums

30. Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay Rays

The playing surface is a mixture of grass and artificial turf, and there are fire inspection rings in play over head. Must be a joy to play in.

(AP Photo)

29. Rogers Centre, Toronto Blue Jays

The only things worse than this warehouse-looking place are the metric measurements on the outfield walls.


28. Coliseum, Oakland A's

Any place sewage seeps back through the clubhouse drains probably isn’t a suitable location for pro sports.

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

27. Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas Rangers

Remember when this place was state of the art? Neither do we.

(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)

26. U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago White Sox

What’s more bland than the Chicago White Sox? Their uniforms. What’s worse than that? The stadium.

(AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

25. Turner Field, Atlanta Braves

This place won’t live to see its 20th birthday. Good luck to the Braves’ next home, which will probably still always be empty, too.

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

24. Marlins Park, Miami Marlins

Makes perfect sense for an orange and teal team to play in a stadium with neon green everything. Also, has anyone ever figured out what exactly this is? 

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

23. Angel Stadium, Los Angeles Angels

Nothin’ like some fake rocks in center field to really set the mood for a baseball game.


22. Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians

The fact that it’s no longer Jacobs Field bumps this down at least five spots.


21. Busch Stadium, St. Louis Cardinals

Can this place just stay out of the playoffs just once?


20. Great American Ballpark, Cincinnati Reds

How cheap is that wind tunnel?

 (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

19. Chase Field, Arizona Diamondbacks

Center field is the deepest part of the stadium, guys. The wall doesn’t need to be that high.

Clintus McGintus/Flickr

18. Yankee Stadium, New York Yankees

Great place to see the best baseball players of the 20th century.

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

17. Miller Park, Milwaukee Brewers

Bernie sliding down that slide for every home run is ridiculous and awesome at the same time. Every time.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

16. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia Phillies

Once you get over the fact that some little league parks have deeper fences? Cool place to catch a game.

 (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

15. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles Dodgers

They should probably just name it Vin Scully Stadium at this point. Might help them out in these rankings.

 (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

14. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City Royals

The scoreboard being shaped like a long crown is a bit odd, but you can’t blame them for playing up the whole royalty thing.

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

13. Coors Field, Colorado Rockies

If it’s not a blizzard in Denver, Coors Field is still pretty impressive. But let’s lose those humidors and get these balls flying like its 2001. 

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

12. Comerica Park, Detroit Tigers

Credit to the grounds crew for making sure the infield didn’t collapse through the ground while Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera manned the corners. That approached a good 600 pounds of man.

 (AP Photo/Matt Halip)

11. Minute Maid Park, Houston Astros

Get back to us next year, once that ridiculous hill and flag pole are scrapped.

(AP Photo/Bob Levey)

10. Target Field, Minnesota Twins

You probably won’t want to sit outside in Minnesota until about mid-June, but after that, Target Field is tough to beat.

 (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

9. Citi Field, New York Mets

Ownership may be fresh out of cash, but at least its stadium has an awesome selection of $12 beers. 

(AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

8. Nationals Park, Washington Nationals

It’s been seven years, and the team just can’t sell these naming rights. Strangely, this makes the park even cooler.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

7. Safeco Field, Seattle Mariners

For a stadium that opened up in 1999, the Mariners’ digs have held up pretty well -- even when their roster hasn’t.

 (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

6.. Petco Park, San Diego Padres

Fun fact: An old candy factory building was physically moved to make room for the stadium. 

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

5. Fenway Park, Boston Red Sox

Relax, Fenway is definitely an amazing place to watch a game. But sitting directly behind a pole and/or facing the left-center field wall just isn’t always appealing.


4. Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs

We’re glad the Cubs decided to keep their old home intact, but there’s no two ways about it: Until renovation is complete, Wrigley is a dump.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh Pirates

After two decades under .500, the Pirates are finally playing some winning ball again. Good thing, because their park deserves as many games as possible.

 (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

2. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore Orioles

Still as beautiful as the day it opened in 1992, Camden Yards is headed toward becoming the next legendary American ballpark. 

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

1. AT&T Park, San Francisco Giants

Already 15 years and three names later, AT&T Park remains the best place to watch a Major League Baseball game. Between the amazing food, packed-out stands and the glistening bay in right field, San Francisco is lucky to call it home. 

(AP Photo)


Next up is determining tiebreakers to decide who gets to pick their scenario first:

According to Stark, the Cardinals hold the tiebreaker over the other two teams, based on head-to-head record with the Giants and better divisional record than the Mets (the Cardinals and Mets split their season series).

The Mets hold the tiebreaker over the Giants based on winning the season series.

This means that the Cardinals get first dibs on which scenario they would want and the Mets would have first choice of the two that are left over.

As Stark notes, it makes sense for the Cardinals to choose to be the home team in the first game. This way they have a home game and they get the fallback of having a second game if they lose.

The Mets would then presumably choose to be the road team in the first game. Homefield advantage in MLB is not that big. Mathematically, it is more likely to go 1-1 on the road than 1-0 at home.

This would leave the Giants to host the second game in a winner-take-all contest.

It is not out of the question that the Mets would choose to host the second game over playing two games on the road. Depending on how the pitching matchups line up, they may feel it is better to get a day of rest and play at home with a better pitching matchup, over the possibility of playing three games in three days in three cities.

Things can get hairy because of these games. Stark paints one scenario where the Mets could end up with a lot of traveling depending on how the games break down. It would start with their regular-season finale against the Phillies and ends with Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cubs.

"It's possible they could play Sunday (Oct. 2) in Philadelphia, Monday in St. Louis, Tuesday in San Francisco, Wednesday in St. Louis and Friday in Chicago. That's five games in four cities, with none of them in the same locale two days in a row."

That sounds painful. But I'm sure the Mets would take it.

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