It came down to the final day of the season, and they couldn’t even finish. Both the NL Central and the NL West had ties atop their divisions, and even without the second wild-card in play for all four teams, that’s somewhat remarkable. This is the eleventh and twelfth time that a division has been decided with an extra game at the end of the season, and first time since 2009 when the Minnesota Twins held off the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central. It’s also the first time that it’s happened to two divisions at the same time!
In a way, we’ve been gifted two extra playoff games. Imagine this – for about 36 hours from 1:05 Eastern time, Monday afternoon to around 11pm Eastern Tuesday night, there will be three National League wild-card games. The first two won’t eliminate anyone, but will settle who actually gets to play Tuesday’s game. Let’s analyze the three, and then continue on to our Wednesday night AL match-up:
Milwaukee Brewers at Chicago Cubs – 1:05pm
The biggest part of this game is that Christian Yelich has one more chance to take a run at the Triple Crown. After going 0 for 2 on Sunday, he only needs one more home run to tie Nolan Arenado at 37, as well as 2 RBIs to tie Javier Baez at 111. Could he do that, or even move past both? All three are in these games tomorrow, so it’s an uphill battle either way. Besides the MVP candidate, all eyes will be on the former World Series winning team to hold up their end on the bats of Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber. There will also be a beautiful pitching match-up between Jose Quintana and Jhoulys Chacin. I feel great for a guy who was once dumped over to the Padres and seemingly resurrected his career to lead the Brewers to the postseason again. Will he help them top the division for the first time since 2011, which was also their last trip to October ball? I’m certainly counting on it, Milwaukee 5-3.
Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers – 4:09 pm
The last start German Marquez had began with eight straight strikeouts. In Coors Field. Will he be that lucky in Los Angeles? The rookie sensation Walker Buehler is on the opposite mound, so this may be the most exciting game of the three. Hitting for power are home run leader Arenado as well as Charlie Blackmon, who hit for the cycle in Sunday’s first finale. Carlos Gonzalez, David Dahl and DJ LeMahieu would love to stomp on their rivals on the way to Colorado’s first NL West division title, but they’ll have to face the likes of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Justin Turner. Brian Dozier and Manny Machado would love to prove themselves as well, in what will be both of their first tastes of the playoffs in Los Angeles. I’m sad to say I’m voting for Los Angeles 7-5.
National League Wild-Card Game – Colorado Rockies? at Chicago Cubs? (Tuesday, October 2 at 8pm)
Chicago won in 2015 over Pittsburgh, while Colorado lost last year to Arizona. The Dodgers and Brewers have never been in a wild-card game.
If all goes according to plan above, then Colorado heads over to Chicago for a date with destiny. Exhausted from all the travel, my negative expectations get the best of me and I expect Chicago to take the wild-card 11-6 and move on to face Milwaukee for a re-match. If I’m wrong about their original game, and the Brewers host the Rox, I have a feeling the home runs will pour in and the hitting affair will fall on the side of Colorado, 8-7. If instead it’s Ryu or Stripling that tries to weasel his way out of Chicago, then I think they have a tougher time, and Chicago still manages to make its way out to Wisconsin: 5-2. If I’m completely wrong and we have Milwaukee and Los Angeles whittling their postseason down to one do-or-die situation, I think Los Angeles has the Brewers’ number and lights up the sky in a 12-3 blowout situation. Mind you, these four scenarios are all completely subjective. I really hope Colorado makes it out of this Purge alive.
American League Wild Card Game – Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees (Wednesday, October 3rd at 8pm)
Yankees are 1-1 in the wild-card, while Oakland lost in 2014 to Kansas City.
What a ride for the Athletics, right? Projected to bottom out of their division, they stormed upwards through the summer, even briefly tasting the top of the division before settling into a groove just behind the Yankees for that second wild-card slot. They did so on the back of stellar pitching, including Sean Manaea, Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill, Brett Anerson and Mike Fiers, who may end up starting this Wednesday evening match-up. Power hitting was and underrated element of their surge, behind the bats of Khris Davis, Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty. The only thing I’m worried about for the A’s is their bullpen – as a beleaguered Mets fan, I’ve just never trusted Jeurys Familia in high-pressure situations. Can he contain his old cross-town rivals? Luis Severino might go the whole game, so in all likeliehood they’ll share opposite sides at one point. I won’t hide that the Yankees are a massive hometown favorite, begrudgingly. My hope is that there’s a surprise, but with a lineup that boasts Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Brett Gardner, Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge – it’s tough to compare them side-to-side and not expect a blow-out. The wild-card game is always unpredictable, and the visitors record is 7-5, although the AL tends to have better home match-ups, including a win for the Yankees last year over Minnesota. My money is on the favorite, New York 8-4.
Fun Fact Time: The 2013 Rays needed a 163rd game to hold off the Texas Rangers and make it to the Wild-Card game, where they beat the Cleveland Indians….as a visiting team. They lost in the ALDS to the eventual World Series winning Boston Red Sox.
Come back on Thursday where I lament that I got all four of these games wildly wrong, and discover what I think the Indians will do down in Houston, and how Boston and Atlanta will fare against their eventual competitors.