If you’re a mediocre baseball fan, you’ve made it. Games actually mean something starting tomorrow. If you relentlessly follow baseball, meaningful games started back on Opening Day (yes, it’s that important it should be capitalized).
The wild card races, which had so much implications, again fell short and gave us four teams that have one shot at actually making the playoffs.
The San Francisco Giants avoided one of the greatest collapses in baseball history and snuck into the second wild card spot, outlasting the always successful St. Louis Cardinals. They’ll take on the New York Amazin’ Mets who despite al their injuries have hobbled their way into #Game163.
Meanwhile, the winner of that game will head to north Chicago to take on the young and mighty Cubs who are looking to snap a 108 year old curse, so naturally that series will go one of two ways: be an epic five game battle, or the Cubs will waltz into the NLCS.
On the AL side of things, it’s a battle of the AL East who lost their way towards the end and must play one last time in order to book a flight to Texas to take on the Rangers. The Toronto Blue Jays will play the Baltimore Orioles.
NL Wild Card: Giants over Mets.
The Giants will send ace Madison Bumgarner to the mound against the Mets’ lineup which has somehow scratched their way to enough offense to find themselves in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Noah Syndergaard will pitch for the Mets against a lineup that faced this same situation only two years ago. If you believe in the even year magic (I do), it makes it tough to not pick the Giants. But there’s more to it than just baseball magic. The Mets lineup outside of Yoenis Cespedes is lacking power and an ability to drive in runs in crucial situations. The trade for Jay Bruce at the deadline has been less than lackluster as he was acquired as the RBI leader at the deadline, and in 50 games has only produced 19 RBI and 8 home runs. Curtis Granderson hit 30+ home runs, and drove in less than 60 runs during his 2016 campaign, tying him with Jedd Gyorko for worst run production with 30+ homers EVER. And with all that, the Mets are facing a Cy Young candidate in Bumgarner who thrives under pressure situations such as this one. If you’re curious (you should be) Bumgarner pitched the 2014 NL Wild Card game against a much better lineup in the Pittsburgh Pirates. The results? A complete game, four hit shutout with 10 strikeouts. I’m not picking against the man who doubles as a lumberjack in his spare time. Not to mention, there are multiple players who were apart of the last three World Series titles for the Giants. To name a few: Buster Posey (2010, 2012, 2014), Brandon Belt (2012, 2014), Santiago Casilla (2010, 2012, 2014), Sergio Romo (2010, 2012, 2014), Madison Bumgarner (2010, 2012, 2014), Brandon Crawford (2012, 2014), Hunter Pence (2012, 2014), Joe Panik (2014), Matt Duffy (2014) and Matt Cain (2010, 2012, 2014). The Giants are loaded with playoff experience and it will prevail this Wednesday as they head to New York.
AL Wild Card: Blue Jays over Orioles.
This game is a little trickier. You have two teams who have a potent offense with less than stellar pitching. The Blue Jays who were rumored to shut down Aaron Sanchez, let him pitch Sunday afternoon in the biggest game of the season. It resulted in six no-hit innings and a 2-1 victory to clinch a spot in #Game163 for the Blue Jays. The Orioles clinched on Sunday as well as they beat the Yankees. With the Orioles sending Chris Tillman and the Jays sending Marcus Stroman to the mound, it may not matter. The Blue Jays enter the game posting a 3.81 ERA against the Orioles compared to the Orioles who enter with a 5.82 ERA against the Blue Jays. Both teams wreck baseballs as they both finished in the top five for home runs on the year. This has created an aura that can go either way. The pitching could come through and we could see the offenses falter. Or we could see an absolute slugfest with another Jose Bautista bat flip that sends a charge through the Rogers Centre. I’m going with the latter here. Expect the Blue Jays to get to Tillman early and set themselves up for a matchup with the Texas Rangers.
Make sure to tune into TBS Network Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. ET and Wednesday night on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. ET for some the start of playoff baseball.