The World Series will be played at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, with Game 1 scheduled for Oct. 20, but a decision on whether fans will be allowed is still up in the air. Ray Carlin/Associated Press

 

Major League Baseball is nearing the end of an unprecedented shortened regular season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and now it is set to embark on a postseason that will look unlike any other.

MLB 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.

When do the playoffs start?

The Wild-Card Series will begin on Sept. 29.

How many teams will make 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 will earn a berth. Then, the final two wild-card berths in each league are determined by the teams with the next-best records. Tiebreakers will be determined mathematically, with no additional extra play-in games necessary.

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, Texas.

How will teams be seeded?

The division winners in each league will earn the Nos. 1-3 seeds, while the second-place teams will be slotted Nos. 4-6. The two teams with the remaining best records will be seeded Nos. 7-8.

The first-round match-ups, a best-of-three series called the wild-card series, will be held at the higher-seeded team’s ballpark. There will be no byes for any team.

How will the bracket work?

The new postseason format with feature 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 will be played at the home ballpark of the higher seed.

• Division series (best-of-five): In each league, the winners of 1 vs. 8 will play winners of 4 vs. 5, while the winners of 2 vs. 7 will play the winners of 3 vs. 6. ALDS teams will play at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Petco Park in San Diego, while NLDS teams will play at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and Minute Maid Park in Houston.

• League championship series (best-of-seven): The ALDS winners will meet for the ALCS at Petco Park, while the NLDS winners will play in NLCS 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 then in Games 6 and 7, if necessary.

What does the playoff picture look like?

In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers have sewn up the No. 1 seed after winning their eighth consecutive NL West title. The Atlanta Braves hold the No. 2 seed after winning the NL East for a third consecutive year, and the Chicago Cubs hold the No. 3 seed. The San Diego Padres have also clinched a postseason berth. The Washington Nationals, the 2019 World Series champions, have been eliminated.

In the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees have clinched postseason berths. The Boston Red Sox have been eliminated.

Will there be fans?

Commissioner Rob Manfred told USA Today on Tuesday that the sport was moving forward with plans to have fans at the NLCS and World Series, though the move is reportedly pending final approval from government officials and MLB has not yet formally announced any such plans.

Texas is currently in Phase 3 of its reopening, which allows for open-air venues to seat up to 50% capacity.

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 puts a runner on second base to begin each extra inning will not be in effect during the postseason.

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. 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.


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