Entering the final day of the 2014 season, the Cardinals and Pirates were battling for the National League Central title, with the St. Louis holding a one-game lead over Pittsburgh. Had the Pirates won their final game and the Cardinals lost theirs, they would have played a one-game playoff to determine the division winner, with the loser taking one of the wildcard spots in the playoffs. Both teams decided to go all in, with the Pirates tabbing ace Gerrit Cole to start against the Reds in Cincinnati and the Cardinals choosing All-Star starter Adam Wainwright to go against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
Cole pitched well for the Pirates, but the bullpen gave up three late runs, and the Reds won the game 4-1. And because the Pirates/Reds game was taking place in the Eastern time zone, the 1:10 start time came three hours before the 1:10 game in Arizona. So 14 minutes before the Cardinals took on the Diamondbacks, they clinched the division. Wainwright immediately sat down, and Justin Masterson pitched instead, saving Wainwright for game one of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers.
That won’t happen in 2015. According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, on the final Sunday of the season, all 15 games will begin at the same time, so no team in a playoff fight will have a geographical advantage over another.
No longer will players squirm anxiously in the clubhouse, waiting to see whether their playoff fate will be decided before they can take the field. Instead, MLB has set up what could be the ultimate day of scoreboard watching.
“If a game impacts another game, they’re all occurring at the same time, so no team would be put into a lame-duck situation because their fate already had been decided by an earlier result,” said Tony Petitti, MLB chief operating officer.
“If we do have games coming down to the wire, we want to make sure we maximize that day.”
The schedule calls for all games on Oct. 4 to start at noon Pacific time (2 p.m. Central, 3 p.m. Eastern).
File this under: “Makes so much sense we can’t believe it took so long.”