We’re back bitches.
It’s MLB Postseason time, and I could not be more excited.
Whose hopes will be dashed early? Who will be the Cinderella story? Who will win it all? All those questions and more will be answered by the end of this month, but for now we’ve got the Wild Card games.
In my humble opinion, the wild card play in game is the best addition to the game of baseball since the divisional rounds were introduced back in the 90’s. In it’s short existence, we’ve been blessed with Tony Wolters’ game-winning single in the 13th, the Johnny Cueto chants , the botched infield fly rule in Atlanta, the Royals-Athletics madness, and Edwin Encarnacion’s walk-off tank.
Will we get any legendary moments to add to this list this year? Let’s preview the Wild Card games.
American League- Athletics vs Rays
A classic matchup of two of the sneakiest-nasty teams in the league. The Tampa Bay Rays: 96 wins and finished second in their division. The Oakland Athletics: 97 wins for the second year in a row and a second place finish.
Let’s look at the Tampa Bay Rays first. While I crowned the Tampa Bay Rays the best team in baseball back in May, a take that didn’t age great, the boys from the Trop quietly had an excellent season. Everyone who Kevin Cash plugged into the lineup did exactly what they were supposed to do. Austin Meadows hit 30 home runs in a career year, Avisail Garcia hit 20 bombs, Tommy Pham had a .370 OBP, Yandy Diaz had an .800 OPS, as did Brandon Lowe. Everyone who was brought in, seemingly under the radar, all produced well above their pay-grade and it showed in the team’s record. You know who else produced well above their pay-grade? Chuck Morton, a man who may have won the Cy Young if his former teammate Gerrit Cole didn’t exist. Morton was the workhorse that the Rays needed along side last years AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, and me more than stepped up, posting a 3.05 ERA, 2.81 FIP, and 11.1 K’s/9. Morton will get the start in tonight’s game, and will look to continue his recent streak of success, as he went 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in the month of September. But, it’ll be no easy task taking down the A’s, which leads us to…..
The Oakland A’s are an unlucky team. If they played in almost division in the league, they wouldn’t have to play in the Wild Card. In back to back years now, The Athletics have won 97 games and have been unable to win the division. They have done that on the back of an outstanding offense. Marcus Siemien had an MVP caliber season, Mat Olsen hit 36 home runs, as did Matt Chapman. All told, the A’s had 7 guys hit 20 home runs or more and 5 players with OPS+’s of 120 or higher. All they do is hit. The problem with the Athletics was their pitching. With Sean Manaea being out for almost the entire year, the team never really had an ace. At the beginning of the year it appeared that Frankie Montas was the real deal, until he was suspended for PED’s in June. So, the team had to run with Mike Fiers, Brett Anderson, and Homer Bailey for much of the season. The fact that the A’s are in the playoffs with those three guys being crucial pieces to the rotation is nothing short of remarkable. What else is remarkable is that the Killer T’s, Lou Trivino and Blake Trienen, two relievers who damn near broke baseball last season, were completely incompetant this year. Their shortcomings allowed Liam Hendricks, the goat of the 2018 Wild Card game against the Yankees, to step in and have an awesome season as the teams closer. The Athletics will, for the second year in a row, roll out an unproven opener in a win or go home game, this time calling on Jesus Lazardo to try and tame the Rays. Jesus Lazardo has pitched in 6 games this year. God, the A’s are weird.
If I had a gun to my head, I’m picking Charlie Morton and the Rays to walk into the Colosseum, knock off the Athletics, and move on and face the Astros in the divisional round. Oakland will definitely be rowdy, but Chucky Nails will stare it down and spit in the face of the fans.
Tampa Bay, Moving on. Next.
National League- Nationals vs Brewers
Well, these two teams underperformed, huh?
We all thought that the Brewers would roll through the NL Central and win their division, and I personally thought that the Nationals were the best team in their division by far. Both teams started super slow, both rebounded very well, and both ended up in the NL Wild Card game.
Let’s start with the Brew Crew.
First things first, I miss Christian Yelich. If he hadn’t broken his kneecap, this would be a different Brewers lineup. Be that as it may, the Brewers have not only survived, but thrived. The team has gone 17-5 over their last 22 games, and has gone 11-5 since Yelich was ruled out for the season. The lineup, even in Yelich’s absence, has continued to produce. Ryan Braun is still putting up numbers in his mid 30’s, Mike Moustaukas hit 35 bombs, Eric Thames had a 25 homer year, Yasmani Grandal had a career year, Keston Hiura balled out, and Ben Gamel has been an adequate replacement for Yelich. The rotation was, if we’re being frank, horrendous. No starter pitched more than 150 innings, and the bullpen was relied on heavily for almost the entire season. Still, steady as he goes, Josh Hader remained one of the most dominant relievers in the entire league. If Brandon Woodruff, a man who was incredibly successful during the teams postseason run last season, can do his job tonight and give the Brewers bullpen a bit of a break, things could go very well for the boys from Milwaukee.
Onto the Nationals.
In the Nats’ first year without Bryce Harper, they started off slow. Like REALLY slow. On May 31st, the Nationals were 9 games under .500. They then proceeded to go on a crazy run and almost overtook the Braves for the division lead outright. While they came up short in that chase, the Nationals are still absolutely stacked. Leading the charge was the teams medusa of a rotation; Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin. While it wasn’t a typical Cy Young season for Scherzer as we’ve come to expect, he and Strasburg and Corbin each threw over 175 innings, had ERA’s under 3.50, and struck out 200+ batters. This was the murderer’s row of starting rotations. They were so good that they almost overshadowed the MVP duo of Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, who you could make a legit argument that each of them deserve the NL MVP. Even with a streaky lineup outside of those two studs, the Nationals are gushing with talent. If Scherzer pitches like he usually does and the lineup is even halfway decent, the Nationals will be moving on to the NLDS.
The Wild Card game is upon us. The MLB Postseason is upon us. This is where legends are made, right? Go kill each other, boys. Just make it entertaining.
Photo via @MLB