Playoff baseball is finally here, and the journey to the World Series is underway. The postseason is already cut down to nine teams after the NL Wild Card Playoff on Tuesday night. Here’s a look at what’s to come in the division series round:
NL — Pittsburg Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals
It seems that America has adopted the Pirates as their favorite team, and it’s easy to see why. They have not reached the playoffs or had a winning record since 1992. During the regular season, the Cardinals won 10 of 19 matchups, but the Pirates were in sole possession of first place until Sept. 6 and shared in that spot as recently Sept. 16. If the regular season is any indication of the playoffs, this series is still up in the air. Game one will feature pitcher AJ Burnett starting for the Pirates against Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals.
NL — Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves
The Braves lead the league in homeruns, but they are also tied for the lead in strikeouts. Their top three starters all have ERAs in the low-three range. The Dodgers will be playing without star centerfielder Matt Kemp, who was shut down for the rest of the year with an ankle injury. Andre Ethier’s status is questionable, but he will be on the roster as a pinch-hitter. The Braves have homefield advantage in this series, as the Dodgers will try to steal a game on the road with solid starting pitching from Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke.
AL — Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
The Tigers have a strong starting rotation, as indicated by the fact that Justin Verlander, a former Cy Young award winner, was named as the starter for game two. Max Scherzer will start Game One after finishing the season 21-3, and the league’s ERA leader Anibal Sanchez will start game three. Of course, their offense is just as good as their pitching with two of the league’s best power hitters — Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. And Cabrera is currently playing through an injury. True to their “Moneyball” roots, the A’s don’t have as many big names on their roster, but they did finish the season with a better record than the Tigers. One of Oakland’s biggest strengths is their bullpen, so if any games go into extra innings, expect them to have the advantage.
AL — Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays
The Red Sox took the league by surprise when they finished first in the AL East with the best record in baseball after an abysmal last place finish just last year. While their strength lies in their offense, Boston’s starting pitching has regained its form, and closer Koji Uehara has been lights-out, compiling a 1.09 ERA and a 0.565 WHIP. They will play the Rays, who defeated the Rangers in a one-game playoff for the second Wild Card spot behind David Price’s complete game.
Brittany Yu is a contributing writer. Email her at [email protected]