After an unprecedented shortened regular season due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Major League Baseball has expanded the postseason from 10 to 16 teams in 2020, giving more than half the teams a chance at a World Series crown. Some aspects of the 2020 postseason will look familiar, but there are big changes this year.
Here’s what you need to know going into the postseason.
How can I watch the playoffs?
The Division Series begins Monday. The full postseason schedule and television details can be found below.
How many teams made the playoffs?
Sixteen teams ― eight from the American League and eight from the National League. Each of the league’s three division winners and second-place finishers earned a berth. Then, the final two wild-card berths in each league were determined by the teams with the next-best records.
In the American League first-round series, the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays swept the Toronto Blue Jays to advance to the division series. The Rays will meet the New York Yankees, which defeated the Cleveland Indians in two games. The Houston Astros, which prolonged the Minnesota Twins’ playoff misery with a sweep on the road, advanced and will meet the Oakland Athletics, which also earned a sweep over the Chicago White Sox.
In the National League, the top seeds made quick work of their opponents in the first round — the Los Angeles Dodgers cruised to a two-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, while the Atlanta Braves didn’t allow a run in a sweep over the Cincinnati Reds.
Two teams that dealt with coronavirus outbreaks this season — the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins — both made the postseason. The Marlins swept the Chicago Cubs in the first round and will meet the Braves next. The San Diego Padres outlasted the Cardinals, 2-1, in the first round and will now face the Dodgers.
Where will games be played?
The division series, league championship series and World Series will be played at neutral sites in Southern California and Texas. The World Series begins Oct. 20 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Tex.
How does the bracket work?
The new postseason format features four rounds, beginning with the wild-card series.
Wild-card series (best-of-three in each league):
- No. 1 vs. No. 8
- No. 2 vs. No. 7
- No. 3 vs. No. 6
- No. 4 vs. No. 5
All games are being played at the home ballpark of the higher seed.
Division series (best-of-five): In each league, the winner of 1 vs. 8 will play winner of 4 vs. 5, while the winner of 2 vs. 7 will play the winner of 3 vs. 6.
American League Division Series teams will play at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Petco Park in San Diego, while National League Division Series teams will play at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Tex., and Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Globe Life Field in Arlington, Tex., will host division series games, as well as the National League Championship Series and World Series. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)
Petco Park in San Diego will host games during the American League Division Series round, as well as the AL Championship Series. (Orlando Ramirez/AP)
LEFT: Globe Life Field in Arlington, Tex., will host division series games, as well as the National League Championship Series and World Series. (Tony Gutierrez/AP) RIGHT: Petco Park in San Diego will host games during the American League Division Series round, as well as the AL Championship Series. (Orlando Ramirez/AP)
League championship series (best-of-seven): The ALDS winners will meet for the American League Championship Series at Petco Park, while the NLDS winners will play in the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field.
Like the division series, which will be held over five consecutive days, the championship series in both leagues will not feature travel days and will be played over seven consecutive days.
World Series (best-of-seven): The American League champion and National League champion will meet at Globe Life Field, with Game 1 slated for Oct. 20. The higher-seeded team — not necessarily the team with the best record — will reportedly have last at-bats in Games 1 and 2 and, if necessary, in Games 6 and 7.
Will there be fans?
The league announced Wednesday that it would allow 11,500 fans for each game of the NLCS and World Series in Arlington, with 10,550 tickets available for spread-out seating at Globe Life Field and an additional 950 tickets available for suites.
Texas is in Phase 3 of its reopening, which allows for open-air venues to seat up to 50 percent capacity. MLB said in its statement that it had received “appropriate approvals” and would implement safety protocols in conjunction with local and state regulations.
Masks will be mandatory for all fans except when they are eating or drinking, and hand-sanitizing stations will be available around the ballpark. Tickets will be sold in pods of four; those pods, which cannot be broken apart for separate sale, will be distanced six feet apart.
What else will look different?
Several new rules introduced in 2020 will remain during the postseason — including the universal designated hitter and the three-batter minimum for pitchers. But the regular season rule that put a runner on second base to begin each extra inning will not be in effect during the postseason.
The postseason schedule is also structured differently this year, with the elimination of mid-series off-days in the two rounds before the World Series. That could have a strategic impact on pitching.
Will the expanded format become the new normal?
While the 16-team format covers just the pandemic-shortened season, Manfred remains a proponent of adding more teams to the postseason beyond this year. He said earlier this month “an overwhelming majority” of owners had endorsed an expanded postseason format even before the pandemic hit.
He clarified those comments in an interview with The Post’s Dave Sheinin, saying the 16-team format happened because “we were going to have a short season, and we thought the fairest thing to do was to give maximum access to the postseason.” Before the pandemic, MLB had discussed a 14-team idea for the postseason.
“Every conversation about expanded playoffs that took place before covid, there was never a conversation about 16 teams, and all of those conversations were directed at … preserving the value of winning the division, preserving competitiveness during the entire, long regular season,” Manfred said.
“Yeah, I do think [postseason expansion] is a good idea. Do I ever think it’s going to be 16 teams? No, I don’t. We have always had a very selective postseason, and I think one of the factors that will go into the judgment of exactly how many teams we expand to is our desire to maintain that selectivity.”
Any expansion would ultimately have to be settled through collective bargaining with the players’ union; the sport’s collective bargaining agreement is set to expire after the 2021 season.
Best-of-five; ALDS in San Diego and Los Angeles, NLDS in Arlington, Tex., and Houston.
Game 1: Astros 10, Athletics 5 (Astros lead series, 1-0)
Game 1: Yankees 9, Rays 3 (Yankees lead series, 1-0)
Marlins at Braves, Game 1 — 2:08 p.m., MLB Network
Astros at Athletics, Game 2 — 4:37 p.m., TBS
Yankees at Rays, Game 2 — 8:10 p.m., TBS
Padres at Dodgers, Game 1 — 9:38 p.m., FS1
Marlins at Braves, Game 2 — 2:08 p.m., MLB Network
Rays at Yankees, Game 3 — 3:35 p.m., TBS
Athletics at Astros, Game 3 — 7:10 p.m., TBS
Padres at Dodgers, Game 2 — 9:08 p.m., FS1
Braves at Marlins, Game 3 — 2:08 p.m., FS1
Athletics at Astros, Game 4 — if necessary, 3:35 p.m., TBS
Rays at Yankees, Game 4 — if necessary, 7:10 p.m., TBS
Dodgers at Padres, Game 3 — 9:08 p.m., MLB Network
Braves at Marlins, Game 4 — if necessary, 2:08 p.m., FS1
Athletics at Astros, Game 5 — if necessary, 3:35 p.m., TBS
Rays at Yankees, Game 5 — if necessary, 7:10 p.m., TBS
Dodgers at Padres, Game 4 — if necessary, 9:08 p.m., FS1
Padres at Dodgers, Game 5 — if necessary, 4:08 p.m., FS1
Marlins at Braves, Game 5 — if necessary, 8:08 p.m., FS1
League championship series
Best-of-seven; ALCS in San Diego, NLCS in Arlington, Tex.
ALCS Game 1, TBS
ALCS Game 2, TBS
NLCS Game 1, Fox or FS1
ALCS Game 3, TBS
NLCS Game 2, Fox or FS1
ALCS Game 4, TBS
NLCS Game 3, Fox or FS1
ALCS Game 5, TBS — if necessary
NLCS, Game 4, Fox or FS1
ALCS Game 6, TBS — if necessary
NLCS, Game 5, Fox or FS1 — if necessary
ALCS Game 7, TBS — if necessary
NLCS Game 6, Fox or FS1 — if necessary
NLCS Game 7, Fox or FS1 — if necessary
Best-of-seven; Arlington, Tex.
Game 1, Fox
Game 2, Fox
Game 3, Fox
Game 4, Fox
Game 5, Fox — if necessary
Game 6, Fox — if necessary
Game 7, Fox — if necessary
Tuesday, Sept. 29
Game 1: Astros 4, Twins 1
Game 1: White Sox 4, Athletics 1
Game 1: Rays 3, Blue Jays 1
Game 1: Yankees 12, Indians 3
Wednesday, Sept. 30
Game 1: Braves 1, Reds 0 (13 innings) (Braves lead 1-0)
Game 2: Astros 3, Twins 1 (Astros win series 2-0)
Game 1: Marlins 5, Cubs 1 (Marlins lead 1-0)
Game 2: Athletics 5, White Sox 3 (Series tied 1-1)
Game 2: Rays 8, Blue Jays 2 (Rays win series 2-0)
Game 2: Cardinals 7, Padres 4 (Cardinals lead 1-0)
Game 2: Yankees 10, Indians 9 (Yankees win series, 2-0)
Game 1: Dodgers 4, Brewers 2 (Dodgers lead, 1-0)
Thursday, Oct. 1
Game 2: Braves 5, Reds 0 (Braves win series, 2-0)
Game 2: Marlins at Cubs, postponed
Game 3: Athletics 6, White Sox 4 (Athletics win series, 2-1)
Game 2: Padres 11, Cardinals 9 (Series tied, 1-1)
Game 2: Dodgers 3, Brewers 0 (Dodgers win series, 2-0)
Friday, Oct. 2
Game 2: Marlins 2, Cubs 0 (Marlins win series, 2-0)
Game 3: Padres 4, Cardinals 0 (Padres win series, 2-1)