Joe Sheehan made a comment tonight about how he hoped that the Dodgers would beat the Rockies, because this would preserve the possibility of a five-way tie. I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about at first, but here’s the deal … the Diamondbacks enter the last weekend of the season with 89 wins, and the Rockies 87. So, the Rockies would need to gain exactly two games on the Diamondbacks to facilitate the five-way tie. The problem is that the two teams play one another this weekend, and there is no way to wind up with a +2 swing for the Rockies. If the Rockies sweep the series, that’s a +3, and they’ll finish a game up on the Diamondbacks. And if they win two out of three, that’s a +1, and they’ll finish one game behind. So the possibility of the five-way tie is dead.
NOTE: everything you see from this point onward is based on a false premise because of an MLB rule change. Please see this post, which explains and amends the error.
In fact, the fact that the Diamondbacks and the Rockies cannot finish with the same record is also rather detrimental to the prospect of a “true” four-team tie. For example, let’s say that the following happens:
Padres go 1-2, finish at 89-73
Phillies go 2-1, finish at 89-73
Mets go 2-1, finish at 89-73
Rockies (playing Diamondbacks) go 2-1, finish at 89-73
Diamondbacks (playing Rockies) go 1-2, finish at 90-72
That creates four teams tied at 89-73 … but in Major League Baseball’s eyes, this represents two two-way ties rather than one four-way tie. The Phillies play the Mets for the NL East title. The loser of that game is at 89-74, and therefore is no longer tied for the Wild Card. So you simply have the Padres and Rockies, both 89-73, in a one-game playoff for the Wild Card slot.
The only remaining scenario for a “true” four-team tie is if exactly the following happens:
Padres go 2-1, finish at 90-72
Phillies go 3-0, finish at 90-72
Mets go 3-0, finish at 90-72
Rockies (playing Diamondbacks) go 3-0, finish at 90-72
Diamondbacks (playing Rockies) go 0-3, finish at 89-73
If that happens, you have playoff games in the East and West on Monday, and then the losers have a consolation game to determine the Wild Card on Tuesday. By the way, this scenario would eliminate the possibility of a tie in the NL Central, because the Padres are playing the Brewers and the Brewers need to win at least 2 out of 3 games to have a shot at tying the Cubs. So the highest conceivable number of playoff games is three.
There remain, rest assured, several quite plausible possibilities involving a three-way tie for the Wild Card.