This year, Major League Baseball’s plan to add an extra wildcard has proven to be a brilliant move in my view. It created two divisional races actually having importance during game 162, and it’s created two very great matchups tonight.
I think this is probably the most evenly matched playoff tournament in a very long time. The two number 1 seeds are vulnerable not only because they start on the road, but because of roster reasons that I’ll get into later.
Anybody can win the World Series this year.
Baltimore @ Texas – 8:37pm on TBS
A true David v. Goliath matchup. On one hand you have the two time defending AL champions who most penciled in as the champs for 2013, and on the other you have Buck Showalter’s Orioles who surprised most by challenging the Yankees for the division up until the final day of the season. Baltimore spent the entire season chasing, and fell just shy of their dream. Texas, spent the entire season being chased and thanks to a 1-5 slide, they lost the division on the final day and watched the Oakland A’s celebrate.
The starting pitchers couldn’t be more different. Joe Saunders who was acquired in August will take the hill for Baltimore, while Yu Darvish gets the chance right away to prove whether he was worth the money or not.
This game will be a true test of grit for the Texas Rangers. Last year, when they seemed to have the World Series locked up – they folded like a cheap suit. This year, they looked to be a lock for division champs, and then fell asleep at the wheel in Oakland.
To me, this game comes down to 2 pitchers. Yu Darvish & Joe Nathan. I don’t have confidence that Baltimore can come out and beat Darvish early enough to give Saunders a little cushion. I think Darvish will benefit from the aggressive nature of Baltimore’s lineup and their need to win with the long ball. That will lead to a lot of strikeouts.
If Texas keeps this game close, Joe Nathan has a huge monkey to get off his back – and I’d be worried if I were a Texas fan. Nathan’s postseason ERA is 7.88 in 8 games. Granted, he was a victim to the Yankees mostly but the Orioles ability to hit big fly’s is similar to the Yankees of old.
I’m picking Texas to win because I do think the last week was a slap in the face, and woke them up. If this game was the night after they lost to Oakland, I’d say Baltimore would win. That extra day was likely huge for the former favorites and I expect them to take care of business.
AL Wildcard Staff Picks
Baltimore: Clayton Collier, Ed Leyro, Jim Mancari, Greg Hopps, Clare Lafferty, Xtreemicon, Tie Dyed, Jessica DeMattia
Texas: Joe D, Mitch Petanick, Jessep, Michael Barrett
St. Louis @ Atlanta – 5:07pm on TBS
What a great matchup this is. You have the team that had an epic collapse in 2011, and the team that benefitted from the collapse and went on to win the World Series!
How many people expected the Cardinals to be back here after losing Pujols, LaRussa and Duncan?
There are a few storylines tied into this game, all very intriguing if you ask me.
Let’s start with the pitching matchup though.
When Kris Medlan starts, the Braves win. In each of Medlan’s past 23 starts, the Braves have won which dates back to May of 2010.
The Cardinals will ask Kyle Lohse to pitch them back to St. Louis, and this isn’t your usual Kyle Lohse friends, this is a 16-3 Kyle Lohse with 24 quality starts.
Both starters are not prone to allowing walks, and since both are not really overpowering, you can expect a lot of balls in play which will put an emphasis on defense.
For Mets fans, I am sure many will watch very closely as Carlos Beltran steps to the plate. It was the post-season in 2004 that MLB fell in love with Beltran, and it was the post-season 2006 that many Mets fans were crushed by Beltran. Which one will show up?
Another storyline is that this could in theory be Chipper Jones’ final game, and it’s in Atlanta. I know, we’re all probably sick of the farewell tour and I don’t blame you. That doesn’t mean it’s not a story though. Imagine what would happen inside that stadium if Chipper managed a walk off hit?
This game to me will be a complete opposite to the AL game. The AL game will showcase what the American League is all about, the big crushing hit. The NL game in my opinion will showcase NL baseball at its best. Manufacturing runs and bullpen matchups.
Atlanta has had a lot of trouble all year with runners in scoring position, while St. Louis has been able to thrive in those situations.
Atlanta needs to get out to an early lead, because their ability to hit late in games is seriously flawed. After the 7th inning, Atlanta hits .221 compared to .261 for St. Louis. Pair that with their differences with runners in scoring position, and Atlanta has a problem.
Atlanta is going to live and die in these playoffs with their bullpen. You’ll either see reasons why O’Flaherty & Kimbrel make up the best 1-2 reliever punch in baseball or you will see a big letdown. They will have an impact on this game 1 way or the other.
I’m taking Atlanta here because I think they overcame so much with regards to their collapse last year. They heard what everybody had to say, and they bounced right back and the bullpen who took a lot of the criticism had an even better year than 2011.
I think this will be a 1 run game, possibly extra innings but I am going with the home team bullpen to get the emotional victory.
NL Wildcard Staff Picks
St. Louis: Ed Leyro, Joe D
Atlanta: Clayton Collier, Jim Mancari, Greg Hopps, Clare Lafferty, Mitch Petanick, Xtreemicon, Tie Dyed, Jessep, Michael Barrett, Jessica DeMattia
That’s who we got tonight, who do you have?