After a long road through 162 games on the schedule, the Major League Baseball season needs Game 163 to finish off the National League playoff bracket. For the first time in MLB history, two tiebreaker games will be played on the Monday after the season ended to decide the division winners for the NL Central and NL West.
This is the first tiebreaker game since the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers played in 2013 to decide the American League’s second wild card. In these new matchups, the Milwaukee Brewers will face off against the Chicago Cubs for the National League Central, while the Los Angeles Dodgers will play the Colorado Rockies for the National League West.
For the teams that win, it means a ticket to the National League Division Series as division champions, while the losers will face off in the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday. The winner of that game will then go on to face one of the winning teams in the NLDS starting on Thursday.
Here’s a look at everything you need to know about the MLB’s tiebreaker games, and some predictions about how they’ll turn out.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs
How to watch: The Cubs are hosting the Brewers at Wrigley Field for this tiebreaker game, and the first pitch will be at 1:05 p.m. E.T. with TV coverage on ESPN.
The pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin (15-8, 3.56 ERA) will be starting for the Brewers, while Jose Quintana (13-11, 4.09 ERA) will take the mound for the Cubs. Quintana has been strong against the Brewers this season, going 4-1 in six starts with a 2.17 ERA, according to MLB.com. The Cubs have to feel good about putting Quintana on the mound at home after he shut down the Brewers earlier in September with 6 2/3 scoreless innings at Wrigley. Even better for the Cubs: The Brewers’ budding superstar Christian Yelich, who nearly won the Triple Crown this year, is just 1-for-11 vs. Quintana.
How the matchup happened: The Brewers and Cubs have been battling for the division for most of the season, and Yelich helped power Milwaukee to a strong finish by hitting for a .352 average. 10 HR, and 33 RBIs in 26 games in September, according to ESPN. Yelich likely will win the National League MVP after his performance this year, and he’s hoping to help the team win a division title, too.
Battle tested: These teams have already played 19 times this season, with the Cubs leading things 11-8 overall.
What’s next: The winner of this game will host whoever wins the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday, which will feature the loser of this game hosting the loser of the Rockies vs. Dodgers matchup. Got all that?
Colorado Rockies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
How to watch: The Dodgers are hosting the Rockies at dodger Stadium for this tiebreaker game, and the first pitch will be at 4:09 p.m. E.T. with TV coverage on ESPN.
The pitchers: German Marquez (14-10, 3.76 ERA) will have the ball for the Rockies, while Walker Buehler (7-5, 2.76 ERA) will start for the Dodgers. Both pitchers have been performing well over the last couple months, with Marquez putting up a 2.16 ERA over his last 12 starts, according to ESPN. For as good as Marquez has been, Buehler has been even better, posting the fourth-best second-half ERA in the majors (2.21), and over his last 11 starts he’s had a 1.70 ERA and allowing opposing batters a .167 batting average, per ESPN Stats & Info.
How the matchup happened: The Dodgers almost blew their position by losing two of three games to the Diamondbacks, but they finished off the season with a three-game sweep of the rival San Francisco Giants to lock in their 91-71 record. The Rockies needed a strong finish to September to stay in the playoff race, winning nine of their last 10 games to keep pace with the Dodgers and make the playoffs for the second season in a row.
Battle tested: Like the Cubs and Brewers, the division foes have played against each other 19 times, with the Dodgers going 12-7 against the Rockies this season, according to USA Today. The Dodgers have fared well at home against Colorado, winning six of nine games at Dodger Stadium, including a sweet earlier in September.
What’s next: Whoever wins will advance into the National League Division Series to play Thursday in Game 1 against the Atlanta Braves, the third seed in the NL Playoffs. The loser will face a road game against the loser of the Chicago Cubs/Milwaukee Brewers matchup in the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday.