Now that MLB has changed its playoff format, now is the perfect time to look back at the best MLB Wild Card games ever played.
While some fans still need the MLB Wild Card explained, the Wild Card games played between 2012 and 2019 (plus 2021) were the height of entertainment. They were winner-take-all games to get into the playoff field and never lacked any drama.
Best MLB Wild Card games
But what were the greatest wildcard games in baseball history? While the list of Wild Card games is relatively short, since these games almost always lived up to the hype, it was a challenge to choose the best MLB Wild card games. But we did the leg work and came up with a list of the 10 greatest Wild Card games ever played.
10. Pirates 6, Reds 2 (2013)
The Reds and Pirates have always shared a rich postseason history with one another, including the 2013 Wild Card Game.
The Pirates struck early and often, getting second-inning homers from both Marlon Byrd and Russell Martin. Meanwhile, Francisco Liriano held the Reds to just one run over seven innings, giving the Pirates pure ecstasy in their first postseason game in over 20 years.
9. Cubs 4, Pirates 0 (2015)
While it took the Cubs another year to win the World Series, their postseason run in 2015 was also entertaining, and all because of this game. Gerrit Cole got the start for the Pirates in this game, although the Cubs would get a run in the first inning to take an early lead.
Kyle Schwarber and Dexter Fowler would hit home runs off Cole later in the game while Jake Arrieta went the distance, throwing a complete-game shutout against the Pirates, striking out 11 to win the Wild Card in the same season he took home Cy Young honors.
8. Giants 3, Mets 0 (2016)
Noah Syndergaard also pitched a gem, but Bumgarner tossed nine scoreless innings. The Giants eventually got a three-run homer from Conor Gillaspie in the top of the ninth, which was all that Bumgarner and the Giants would need to win this memorable pitcher’s duel.
7. Cardinals 6, Braves 3 (2012)
Unfortunately, this game is memorable because of a 19-minute delay when fans in Atlanta threw trash onto the field to express their displeasure at the umpires when the infield fly rule was called on a short pop fly to shallow left field.
The controversial call in the eighth inning interfered with a potential comeback and caused the Braves to play the game under protest. The Braves lost both the protest and the game.
6. Rockies 2, Cubs 1 (2018)
It took 13 tense innings in a one-game playoff to decide this one.
The Rockies scored a run in the top of the first and the Cubs needed until the bottom of the eighth to tie the game. Tony Wolters played hero for Colorado with the game-winning RBI in the top of the 13th to deliver a close win for Colorado.
5. Diamondbacks 11, Rockies 8 (2017)
It’s fitting that these two division rivals put some offensive fireworks on display in this game with both teams hitting two homers each.
But it was the D’Backs who led 6-0 after three innings. The Rox fought back with four runs in the fourth, although they could never quite pull even, as Arizona hung on for the win.
4. Cardinals 2, Dodgers 1 (2021)
After winning 106 games, it would have been a shame for the Dodgers to bow out in a one-game Wild Card game. It nearly happened, but they were able to eke it out.
With the game tied 1-1 in the ninth, Chris Taylor hit a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom half of the inning to send the Dodgers to the next round.
3. Blue Jays 5, Orioles 2 (2016)
The Blue Jays have hit some epic postseason home runs in recent years, and this was surely one of them.
This winner-take-all game between division rivals lasted until the 11th inning when Edwin Encarnacion went deep off Ubaldo Jimenez. It was one of those no-doubter home runs that was gone the second it left the bat, enabling the Blue Jays to ultimately reach the ALCS.
2. Nationals 4, Brewers 3 (2019)
If not for this epic game, the Nationals never would have won the 2019 World Series, making this one of the best MLB Wild Card games ever.
It was the Brewers who struck early, taking a 3-0 lead after the first two innings. The Nats got one run back in the third inning and then scored three more runs in the bottom of the eighth when Trent Grisham misplayed a hit by Juan Soto to score three runs and put Washington ahead.
1. Royals 9, Athletics 8 (2014)
Frankly, this game should go down as one of the best playoff games of all time. The A’s looked to be in good shape with a 7-3 lead in the eighth. But the Royals scored three runs in that inning and one more in the ninth to send the game to extra winning.
Oakland was able to get another lead in the top of the 12th. But the Royals had one more rally in them in this winner-take-all game, scoring twice in the bottom of the 12th to win the game, ultimately reaching the World Series.