Alright baseball fans the time has finally come. The 2016 playoffs are here, so buckle your seatbelts and get ready for the gut-wrenching twists and turns you are about to endure.
Game 163 starts Tuesday with the two American League Wild Card winners, the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays and Orioles have been neck and neck all year, fighting for the American League East title. Both squads ended the regular season with 89-73 records and rely mainly on the long-ball to win games. The orioles compiled 253 home runs, leading all the majors, but the Jays were not far behind, ranking 4th with 221. When I look at these two teams I don’t see many differences. Their rotations lack depth but have been carried strictly by their bats. This is why I am so intrigued by this matchup. Same record and same in game strategies leads me to believe this game will be one for the ages. With all that being said, I believe the Blue Jays have what it takes to make it into the next round. Home field advantage and last years’ experience in the playoffs will carry this team to Arlington where they will meet American League’s best team, the Texas Rangers.
If the Orioles and the Jays weren’t enough to get your blood pumping, we have the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants meeting up in the National League Wild Card game. The Giants and Mets will be facing off in a pitcher’s duel with Maddison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard taking the hill for their respective teams. This game will be polar opposite to the Orioles and Jays game played on Tuesday. The runs will be scarce but the strikeouts certainly won’t be. Both Syndergaard and Bumgarner are two of the best at their crafts. Bumgarner has shown his playoff dominance in the past and I believe he is well equipped to show off what he has again. I’m taking the Giants in this game simply because of Bumgarner’s playoff history. When the lights get bright in October, Bumgarner never backs down. It distinguishes him from everybody else. Instead of shrinking in the moment he shines and plays like a giant.
The Indians and Red Sox kick off their series on Thursday Night for the first game of the ALDS. This series would have been way more interesting to me a couple months back. Unfortunately for the Indians, they have caught the injury bug at the most inopportune time. The Tribe lost stud pitchers Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco to season ending injuries and reining Cy Young Award winning pitcher Corey Kluber has been hampered by a calf strain the past month. The pitching for the Indians has dramatically fallen off due to those injuries. If those players were healthy I would not be surprised to see the Indians move onto the ALCS. Fortunately for the Sox I believe their team is deeper and offensively superior. The Fighting Francona’s are no slouches but I believe the Sox take the series in 5 games.
Moving on to the NLDS, we have the Los Angeles Dodgers taking on the Washington Nationals. Make sure to keep an eye on this matchup. Both the Nationals and the Dodgers have strong pitching staffs. The Nats will be throwing Max Sherzer, Stephen Strasberg, and Gio Gonzalez, while the Dodgers plan on pitching Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Kenta Maeda. If we go strictly by the pitching matchups, the Nats have the upper hand. This is exactly why the Nationals are going to win this series. Pitching is everything in the playoffs. You win and die by your pitchers. This will be a very quick series, with the Nationals ending the Dodgers hopes to make the NLCS.
The playoffs are a whole new beast. Players shine under the lights while some fold under the pressure. Get your popcorn ready because this is about to get intense.