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There have been 12 single-game tiebreakers in MLB history. Each of them brought the nerves and anticipation of a playoff matchup, even though they were played as regular-season games — but game No. 163 is now a thing of the past.

With an expanded playoff format launching this October, MLB decided there wasn’t enough room on the calendar to break ties in that extra-game manner anymore. Instead, a set of tiebreaking rules will now decide not only seeding but also who gets into the postseason altogether if 162 games aren’t enough to determine the 12-team field. This means that the series your favorite team played way back in the first half could have a huge impact on its playoff hopes.

“It’s going to become a big deal when everyone [the fans] wakes up and realizes what’s going on,” Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell said last month.

Counsell’s team could be impacted directly, as Milwaukee is currently on the outside of the last wild-card berth in the National League, chasing the San Diego Padres for that final postseason spot. But the Brewers will have to make up a little extra ground this year since they lost their season series to the Padres 4-3, meaning if the teams finish with the same record, San Diego is in and Milwaukee is out.

“We finished games against them in … early June,” Counsell said. “We were aware of it at the time, but there’s 110 games left at that point. There’s not much to be done.

“We knew the rule,” Counsell said. “Everyone knew it …They felt fitting a tiebreaker game into the schedule wasn’t feasible.”

The league understands some of the angst that could exist if a team is eliminated by a season series played around Memorial Day but says the trade-off of more teams in the mix for a playoff spot is worth it.

“We are excited that more of our fans will get to experience postseason baseball this year as part of the expanded playoff format,” Morgan Sword, executive vice president of baseball operations, said. “Due to the increased number of postseason games, we had to ensure that the regular season would end on time.”

Though the postseason format is spelled out in the recently signed collective bargaining agreement, there is discretion when it comes to the specifics of the tiebreaker rules that will allow the league to examine the impact and make changes if needed. As players and teams realize the stakes, the new rules could also lead to a further emphasis on head-to-head matchups.

“If they beat us, more than we beat them, it should go to them, so I’m totally fine with the rule,” St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “Our job is to not lose, so if someone did that better than us, then you go home.”

That will be highlighted more starting next year when each team will play only 13 games — down from 19 — within its own division. And the results in the first year of the new format already show the added importance of beating other teams with playoff hopes in head-to-head intraleague matchups.

“When we played the Padres, it was not like we put more of an emphasis on winning those games versus any other games,” Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said in an email. “However, after we won the series, we did discuss how big this series could become.”

The Phillies are just ahead of the Padres in the NL wild-card race, and though both teams might get in, their seed will be determined by the tiebreaker system if the two teams have the same record after 162.

Philadelphia won its season series against both San Diego (4-3) and Milwaukee (4-2), so it would win any tiebreakers between either of those NL teams. The Brewers now understand the task at hand: Beat the opponents above them by at least a game to take the tiebreaker out of it. Otherwise, it’ll be a heartbreaking end to their season.

“You are treating every game as an important game, but there’s a game the next day and the next day and the next day,” Counsell said. “You have to manage with both concepts in mind every day.”

What the new tiebreaker rules look like

With the new procedures already affecting this season’s homestretch, here are the five rules that govern tiebreakers:

Head-to-head record: Self-explanatory. And if more than two teams tie, then the team with the best combined winning percentage against the other teams wins the tiebreaker.

Intradivision record: If the head-to-head records are tied — this would happen only between wild-card teams that played an even number of games — then the best record within their own divisions determines the winner.

Interdivision record: If the first two tiebreakers don’t settle it, then the next one rates teams’ records within their own leagues but not including their own divisions.

Second-half intraleague games: If teams are still tied by this point, a winner will be determined by the winning percentage of each team within its own league over the final 81 games of the season.

Second-half intraleague games plus one (or more): If teams remain tied after the first four tiebreakers, then a winner will be determined by working backward from the final intraleague game of the first half until the tie is broken.

It should be noted, there are extreme scenarios, such as five-team ties, that the league doesn’t have an exact answer for. In these instances, there’s a clause that kicks in that would call for “commissioner’s discretion.” In other words, Rob Manfred might be choosing which team makes the postseason and which team doesn’t — though the scenario is far-fetched.

What does it all mean for this season’s races?

There are many close races this season, so there’s a chance that the tiebreakers could come into play. That being said, there is little to no chance of needing to use more than the first tiebreaker in any scenario this year. Either way, let’s take a look at how the new procedures impact some of the more exciting playoff and divisional races.

National League East: The New York Mets lead the season series over the Atlanta Braves 9-7. If the Braves sweep the final three games against New York, they’ll win the tiebreaker; otherwise, the Mets will come out on top. The winner will be the likely No. 2 seed and will get a bye. The loser will host a first-round playoff series.

NL Wild Card: As stated above, the Brewers lose a tiebreaker to both the Padres and the Phillies, while Philadelphia wins one over San Diego.

American League Central: It’s a three-team battle among the Cleveland Guardians, Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, with the two losers likely left out of the postseason.

The White Sox currently lose tiebreakers to both teams, but they still have a chance to flip that script. They’ll need to sweep the Guardians this week in Chicago to win that season series, while they’re 6-7 against the Twins this season with six games left to play.

Cleveland has already won its season series with the Twins, so Minnesota would have to win one more game than the Guardians to beat them out for the division title.

AL Wild Card: This is where a tie has the best chance of occurring. The Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays are neck and neck for all three wild-card spots. The two bottom teams of a tiebreaker won’t get a home game in the best-of-three first round.

The Mariners win a tiebreaker with the Blue Jays but lose one against the Rays. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay leads the season series with Toronto 8-7 with four games remaining between the teams.

The new system — and the elimination of game No. 163 — is bound to create some headlines if head-to-head records bounce someone from the playoffs or deliver a bye to a division winner. This year still has all the possibilities.

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Reds extend Dodgers’ skid to 5; Ohtani at ‘90%’

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Reds extend Dodgers' skid to 5; Ohtani at '90%'

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of their longest losing streak since 2019, but first baseman Freddie Freeman has no doubt that there’s no concern.

“It’s May, it’s baseball,” Freeman said. “Two weeks ago, we were winning every game. I don’t think anybody needs to question in our lineup. We’ll be fine.”

The Cincinnati Reds finished off a sweep of the Dodgers with a 4-1 victory Sunday, extending LA’s slide to five games — it’s longest since dropping six in a row April 8-13, 2019.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani went 3-for-12 in the series while dealing with a bruised right hamstring. He batted second Sunday and went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter, reaching on an infield single while scoring the Dodgers’ only run.

“It’s right around 90%,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani’s hamstring. “Assuming it will keep getting better, I feel confident that he can play smart and not push it. Talked to him about not trying to steal a base. Be smart. The value of having him in the lineup is everything.”

Los Angeles’ lineup has been hampered by inconsistency. The Dodgers scored six times in the series opener, and then scored two more over the next two games.They have been shut out twice this month while scoring two or fewer runs six times.

“When you’re not hitting, it certainly seems lifeless,” Roberts said. “Seems like we’re running cold. I know it’s not from care or preparation. Bottom line, it’s about results and we’re not getting them right now. They outplayed us this series and won three.”

Roberts hinted at a couple of changes to the lineup when the Dodgers begin a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

“Some guys might be pressing a little bit,” Roberts said. “Every time I write the lineup, I feel good that we’re going to put up some runs. It’s not a big picture-type thing. It’s certainly been two weeks where it hasn’t been good.”

Jonathan India and Nick Martini each drove in two runs for the Reds, and Brent Suter, Nick Martinez, Carson Spiers and Alexis Diaz combined for a five-hitter.

Martinez (2-3) pitched 4⅓ innings of one-hit ball on a bullpen day for Cincinnati, and Díaz got two outs for his 10th save.

“It starts with our pitchers,” Reds manager David Bell said. “They’re ready to take the ball. Starting with Brent Suter, who did his job. That’s where it starts. Nick Martinez took over. Nick continues to show when he executes his pitches how good he is. To pitch so well against this team really says a lot.”

Freeman hit an RBI double in the ninth, stopping a 0-for-22 slide for the Dodgers with runners in scoring position. Freeman then advanced on defensive indifference, but Díaz struck out Teoscar Hernandez and Andy Pages swinging.

The start of the game was moved up from 1:40 p.m. EDT to 12:10 p.m. due to the threat of severe storms that arrived in the sixth inning. The teams then waited through a delay for just over an hour.

Cincinnati scored four times in the third off Yoshinobu Yamamoto (5-2). India had a bases-loaded single, and Martini’s bloop hit scored two more.

Yamamoto allowed six hits, struck out eight and walked two in five innings.

“They found a way to fight with two outs and find some outfield grass,” Roberts said. “They stayed inside the baseball. When you fight, you get those breaks sometimes. Outside of that, I thought Yoshi was fantastic. He was one hitter away from going five scoreless.”

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Right-hander Gavin Stone (4-2, 3.60 ERA) will oppose Mets right-hander Tylor Megill (0-2, 3.00 ERA) on Monday in the opener of a three-game series.

Reds: Left-hander Nick Lodolo (3-2, 3.34 ERA) will come off the injured list to start the series opener against the Cardinals on Monday. Lance Lynn (2-2, 3.68 ERA) starts for St. Louis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

DETROIT — Matt Vierling homered twice, including a tiebreaking, three-run drive off Jordan Romano in the ninth inning that gave Detroit a wild 14-11 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday after the Tigers wasted a five-run lead and recovered from a two-run deficit.

Vierling had four hits and tied career highs with two homers and four RBIs.

“My brother and I in the back yard, we’d always be doing situations like that,” Vierling said. “It’s kind of cool when it actually happens.”

Carson Kelly hit a three-run homer and Spencer Torkelson hit a solo shot for Detroit, which led 5-0 after three innings, 8-3 after five and 9-5 after six. The Tigers set a season high for runs and tied their high with 17 hits.

Torkelson had three hits and scored three runs.

“He’s really easy to root for,” Torkelson said of Vierling. “To see him come through, we had all the faith in the world and confidence he’d get the job done there. That’s exactly what he did.”

Toronto’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa homered in the seventh off Tyler Holton, and the Blue Jays took an 11-9 lead with a five-run eighth when Bo Bichette hit a two-run single off Jason Foley and Daulton Varsho hit a three-run homer.

Toronto manager John Schneider drew some consolation by the way his team kept fighting back.

“It’s easy to kind of quit after that and the guys did the exact opposite,” he said. “Chipped away and came back with huge hits from Bo and Varsh.”

Mark Canha tied the score with a two-run single against Yimi Garcia in the bottom half, his third hit.

Vierling, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Zach Pop, drove a full-count slider from Romano (1-2) over the left-field wall for his first big league walk-off hit. A two-time All-Star, Romano has allowed three homers this year, half his total last season.

“I was ready for that pitch that he threw me 3-2,” Vierling said. “I was kind of looking for it 2-2, as well, but it was low and I was able to check my swing enough. The next pitch was the same pitch, just a little more up.”

Mason Englert (1-0) pitched a hitless ninth for the Tigers (26-27), who won the last three games of a four-game series against the last-place Blue Jays (23-29).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had his second four-hit game of the season for the Blue Jays.

Detroit starter Casey Mize gave up three runs and eight hits in 4⅓ innings. Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings. Mize and Kikuchi are 0-3 each in their six starts.

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Braves’ Acuna leaves game with knee soreness

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Braves' Acuna leaves game with knee soreness

PITTSBURGH — Ronald Acuna Jr. left the Atlanta Braves8-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning Sunday with left knee soreness after his knee appeared to buckle.

The reigning National League MVP led off the game with a double to right-center field off Martin Perez. With Marcell Ozuna at the plate, Acuna started toward third on a stolen base attempt and his left knee appeared to buckle. He remained down for several minutes while being treated, pointing at his left leg before walking off under his own power.

Acuna, a 26-year-old outfielder, is batting .250 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 49 games. The four-time All-Star hit a career-best .337 last season with 41 homers and 106 RBIs.

Adam Duvall shifted from left to right in the bottom half, and Jarred Kelenic entered the game in place of Acuna and played left.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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