MLB playoff primer: What you need to know as baseball's longest postseason nears

The 2021 World Series trophy won by the Atlanta Braves.
The 2021 World Series trophy won by the Atlanta Braves.

The calendar is about to flip to October, and for baseball fans it means just one thing.

We can put the Arizona Diamondbacks to bed for the winter and start watching some good baseball.

OK, that's a little rough. It was fascinating to watch so many of these young prospects get their first taste of The Show this season. As we've written previously, the confluence of a roster full of speed and aggression with the rules changes for 2023 offers the promise of must-see baseball at Chase Field next season.

For now, though, we turn our attention to the upcoming postseason, which for various reasons will be the longest in baseball history.

Thanks to the lockout — remember that? — the regular season doesn't wrap up until Oct. 5 as MLB moved mountains to reschedule all those games lost in the spring. (Opening day was moved from March 31 to April 7.)

But the longer postseason is also due to the addition of two extra playoff teams, 12 instead of 10, and an extended opening wild-card round. Gone is the sudden death, one-game wild-card format that had been in place since 2012.

The end result is a postseason schedule that, if the World Series goes the limit to Game 7, will end on Nov. 5, which would be the latest date in history, one day later than the Diamondbacks' 2001 Game 7 win over the New York Yankees that capped a season that was interrupted, of course, by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

So, who's ready for some playoff baseball? Here are answers to some pressing questions:

For subscribers: MLB trade deadline's disappointments can make it all right in October

How many teams qualify for the MLB playoffs?

Six teams each from the American League and National League will make the postseason field — the three division winners in each league and three additional wild-card teams in each league with the next best records.

Eight of these 12 teams will play in the first round, with the two top seeds in each league earning a bye. Three of those four teams are set: the Houston Astros and Yankees in the AL, and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL, with the New York Mets and defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves battling it out for the fourth bye.

What is the AL/NL wild card schedule?

Instead of those tense, winner-take-all wild-card games, we now get four, best-of-three wild-card series that will start on Oct. 7. But, in a twist that's never been tried in baseball, every game in each series will be played at the site of the better seed: the division winners with the worst overall record in each league, along with the wild card teams with the best record in each league.

The wild-card round will feature four series: The No. 6 seed will play at the No. 3 seed in both the AL and NL. The No. 5 seed will play at the No. 4 seed. And the games will be played on three consecutive days, Oct. 7-9, and air on ESPN platforms. (Obviously, the Game 3s are "if necessary.")

All game times for the postseason are TBD.

What is the AL/NL division series schedule?

The AL and NL division series remain best-of-five affairs, and will open with all four series playing on the same day. However, the AL and NL games will be staggered going forward.

The four teams that earned wild-card byes host the division series.

For subscribers: 60+ homers and a Triple Crown? Aaron Judge's epic season defies his MLB era

AL division series

Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 11

Game 2: Thursday, Oct. 13

Game 3: Saturday, Oct. 15

Game 4: Sunday, Oct. 16 (if necessary)

Game 5: Monday, Oct. 17 (if necessary)

All ALDS games will air on TBS.

NL Division Series

Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 11

Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 12

Game 3: Friday, Oct. 14

Game 4: Saturday, Oct. 15 (if necessary)

Game 5: Sunday, Oct. 16 (if necessary)

NLDS Games 1 and 2 will air on Fox or FS1. Games 3-5 will air on FS1.

What is the AL/NL championship series schedule?

The best-of-seven AL and NL championship series will begin on Oct. 18 and 19.

AL championship series

Game 1: Wednesday, Oct. 19

Game 2: Thursday, Oct. 20

Game 3: Saturday, Oct. 22

Game 4: Sunday, Oct. 23

Game 5: Monday, Oct. 24 (if necessary)

Game 6: Tuesday, Oct. 25 (if necessary)

Game 7: Wednesday, Oct. 26 (if necessary)

All ALCS games will air on TBS.

NL championship series

Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 18

Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 19

Game 3: Friday, Oct. 21

Game 4: Saturday, Oct. 22

Game 5: Sunday, Oct. 23 (if necessary)

Game 6: Monday, Oct. 24 (if necessary)

Game 7: Tuesday, Oct. 25 (if necessary)

NLCS games will air on either Fox or FS1. (Game 7 would be on both)

What is the 2022 World Series schedule?

The best-of-seven World Series will begin on Oct. 28 at the home park of the team with the better regular-season record.

World Series (all games broadcast on Fox)

Game 1: Friday, Oct. 28

Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 29

Game 3: Monday, Oct. 31

Game 4: Tuesday, Nov. 1

Game 5: Wednesday, Nov. 2 (if necessary)

Game 6: Friday, Nov. 4 (if necessary)

Game 7: Saturday, Nov. 5 (if necessary)

MLB power rankings: Who's going to lose 100 games? Several teams hope to avoid ugly milestone

Where can I watch the MLB playoffs online?

The wild-card series will be available to stream via the ESPN App.

All games telecast on TBS, Fox and FS1 will be available to MLB.TV subscribers who are authenticated subscribers to the applicable network through a participating pay TV provider.

What happened to those tie-breaker games?

Some of baseball's most indelible memories came out of the tie-breaker, either a single-game (or, before 1969 in the NL, short series) used to determine postseason spots or, in the pre-playoff era, a trip to the World Series. Here are three of the most notable:

—The Miracle at Coogan's Bluff: "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" Bobby Thomson's 3-run homer settled the 1951 NL title for the Giants, who won 37 of their last 44 games to catch the first-place Brooklyn Dodgers.

—Bucky "Bleeping" Dent: The light-hitting Yankees shortstop homered over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, and New York completed a comeback from a 14-game deficit to snatch the 1978 AL East title from the Boston Red Sox.

Yankees' Bucky Dent hits a home run off Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez in the seventh inning of an Oct. 2, 1978 game.
Yankees' Bucky Dent hits a home run off Red Sox pitcher Mike Torrez in the seventh inning of an Oct. 2, 1978 game.

—Lucky 13th for Rockies: This one indirectly affected the Diamondbacks. The San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies needed a one-game tiebreaker to settle the NL wild card, and the game was won in the 13th inning when Matt Holliday tagged up on a line drive to right field and scored. Or did he? For years fans have argued that he never touched the plate, and even if the game was played in the replay era it's unlikely the call could have been overturned.

(And the Arizona impact? The Diamondbacks, who won the NL West and swept the Chicago Cubs in the division series, were completely blindsided by the Rockies in a 4-0 sweep in the NLCS. The Rockies were the hottest team in baseball, ending the season on a 13-1 tear, winning the tie-breaker and then sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in their division series.)

Sadly, those tie-breakers are a thing of the past.

If there’s a tie for one of the playoff spots, mathematical tiebreakers will be used instead of an extra game. The first will be the head-to-head record between the two teams involved. If that can’t handle the stalemate, the team with the best intra-divisional record will win the tiebreaker. If that doesn’t work, the process continues with more and more convoluted solutions until a resolution is reached.

MLB playoff picture: How 2022 postseason would look if season ended today

Some information for this report came from USA Today's Steve Gardner and David Brandt of the Associated Press.

Mark Faller is sports editor of the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. Reach him at mark.faller@arizonarepublic.com, and follow him on Twitter @falleraz.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today. 

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: MLB playoff planner: Format, dates, TV and streaming information