Baseball tiebreaker games now a thing of the past

Oct 2, 2022, 11:32 AM | Updated: 11:34 pm
Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley score on a single hit by Travis d'Arnaud in the th...

Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley score on a single hit by Travis d'Arnaud in the third inning of a baseball against the New York Mets, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

(AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

              Milwaukee Brewers' Willy Adames reacts after striking out during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
            
              Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley score on a single hit by Travis d'Arnaud in the third inning of a baseball against the New York Mets, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
            
              Philadelphia Phillies interim manager Rob Thomson manager blows a bubble in the dugout before the beginning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

If baseball’s new tiebreaker rules had been in place years ago, Bucky Dent and Bobby Thomson probably wouldn’t be household names.

With the postseason expanding to 12 teams this year, if two teams end up deadlocked for a division title or playoff spot, there will no longer be a one-game playoff to break those ties. Instead, head-to-head record from the regular season is used to determine the winner — with other tiebreakers possible if head-to-head can’t separate the teams.

The new system made for a suspenseful weekend in Atlanta as the Braves and New York Mets jockeyed not only for first place in the NL East, but for supremacy in their season series. Atlanta swept three games from the Mets to take a two-game lead in the division — and edge New York 10-9 in 19 head-to-head matchups.

So the Braves are now in a commanding position to win the division and knock New York down to a wild card. Atlanta has a two-game lead with three to play — and would still be the NL East champ if the teams end up even.

It’s a similar situation in the race for the final wild card in the National League. Philadelphia leads Milwaukee by two games with three to play, but the fact that the Phillies hold the tiebreaker makes them an even heavier favorite to hold on.

“It does work into our favor,” Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson said. “The rules are the rules. If I were on the flip side of this, it would be a little tough to take, to tell you the truth.”

Eliminating tiebreaker games removes some of the scheduling uncertainty between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason, but it also takes away the drama of one game with everything on the line. If the Brewers and Phillies finish tied, they won’t face each other for the right to make the playoffs. Instead, that will be determined by games they played against each other in April and June.

It’s anticlimactic compared to Dent’s home run, which helped the New York Yankees defeat Boston in a one-game playoff for the 1978 AL East title. In 1951, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers tied for first in the National League. A best-of-three playoff broke that deadlock, with Thomson hitting a pennant-winning homer for the Giants.

Still, there are arguments in favor of the new rules that go beyond scheduling convenience. If two teams finish tied, what’s a better way to separate them — using one game at the end of the season, or a bunch of games they played against each other already?

“You don’t have to have an individual game to decide it,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said before his team secured the tiebreaker over the Mets. “If it’s an in-division opponent, you’ve played them 15 to 20 times or whatever, so kind of let that be the determining factor for who deserves the nod.”

TRIVIA TIME

If those 1951 and 1978 races had been decided with head-to-head tiebreakers, who would have won?

LINE OF THE WEEK

Another phenomenal season for Shohei Ohtani is drawing to a close, and he is still making the most of his opportunities to amaze. On Thursday night, Ohtani took a no-hitter into the eighth inning as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 4-2.

Ohtani ended up allowing two hits and striking out 10 in eight scoreless innings. He also extended his hitting streak to 14 games that night.

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK

Although the week ended in a sour fashion for the Mets, it could have gone even worse. They trailed the Miami Marlins 4-0 in the seventh inning Wednesday night when Eduardo Escobar rallied them.

Escobar hit a two-run homer in the seventh, a two-run single in the eighth and a single in the 10th that gave New York a 5-4 victory.

TRIVIA ANSWER

The Dodgers would have won the 1951 pennant by virtue of a 13-9 record against the Giants, and the Yankees would have won the AL East in 1978 by going 8-7 against the Red Sox.

___

AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and George Henry contributed to this report.

___

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Fire sends smoke over Doha skyline during World Cup in Qatar

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatari authorities say a fire broke out Saturday at an under-construction building in a newly built city where a World Cup match was set to be played later in the evening, but caused no injuries. Qatar’s Interior Ministry said the fire started just after noon local time on an island that’s […]
1 day ago
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne in action during the World Cup group F soccer match between Belgium and C...
Associated Press

De Bruyne, Belgium need 2nd chance to impress at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne knew he didn’t play well in his team’s opening World Cup game. He said as much when he accepted the man of the match award. “I don’t know why I got the trophy,” De Bruyne said. “Maybe it’s because of my name.” With De Bruyne looking […]
1 day ago
Players warm up during Japan official training on the eve of the group E of World Cup soccer match ...
Associated Press

Japan aims for World Cup knockout stage against Costa Rica

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — How big was Japan’s 2-1 upset of Germany in the opening round of the World Cup? Newspapers in Japan used the term “Daikimboshi” from sumo wrestling to describe the magnitude of the surprise: when a low-ranked wrestler overpowers a grand champion. The victory has also been compared to Japan’s 34-32 upset […]
1 day ago
German players gather during a training session at the Al-Shamal stadium on the eve of the group E ...
Associated Press

Germany’s World Cup survival on the line against Spain

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — When the World Cup draw came out in April, one of the highlights of the group stage was Sunday’s Spain vs. Germany match at Al Bayt Stadium. Eight months later, the game between the two former world champions and pre-tournament favorites gained even more prominence thanks to Germany’s surprising loss to […]
1 day ago
Canada's head coach John Herdman talks with his team after their loss in the World Cup group F socc...
Associated Press

Herdman’s inspiration try at World Cup, provokes Croatia

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Canada had just lost its first World Cup match in 36 years, outplaying Belgium for much of a 1-0 defeat, and an emotional John Herdman revealed in the on-field interview what he had just told his players during a postgame huddle. “I told them they belong here. And we’re going to […]
1 day ago
FILE - Palestinian soccer fans wave Qatari and Palestinian flags as they watch a live broadcast of ...
Associated Press

Flashes of Arab unity at World Cup after years of discontent

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For a brief moment after Saudi Arabia’s Salem Aldawsari fired a ball from just inside the penalty box into the back of the net to seal a World Cup win against Argentina, Arabs across the divided Middle East found something to celebrate. Such Arab unity is hard to come by and […]
1 day ago
Baseball tiebreaker games now a thing of the past