Expect a wild weekend with new playoff format

MLB opens postseason today with four Wild Card series


Courtesy of Sportskeeda

After sneaking into the postseason and earning the sixth seed, Bryce Harper and the Phillies should expect heartache and an early exit from the NL playoffs.

It was an exciting MLB season where fans witnessed history with Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge breaking Roger Maris’s American League home run record by hitting 62 bombs, and 42-year-old Cardinal DH Albert Pujols reaching 700 career home runs in his final season. 

Historic individual accomplishments weren’t the only storylines this season. The Los Angeles Dodgers dominated in the NL with a season for the record books, finishing with a team record 111 wins, and was one of three NL teams to reach 100 wins, joining the defending champion Atlanta Braves and New York Mets.  In the AL, the Houston Astros also reached the 100-win mark with 106, while the New York Yankees just missed with 99.  All of these teams except the Mets have a first round bye.

With so many strong teams and and newly expanded playoff format featuring 12 teams, this year’s playoffs should be filled with exciting moments and, who knows, maybe some  dark horses emerging from the pack. Here’s a look at the three-game Wild Card round series that begin with a full slate of games today.

National League

Mets (4th seed) vs. Padres (5th): The Mets had an absolute end of year meltdown, losing the NL East to the Braves during the final week of the season. But they have an absolutely stacked lineup, including two-time Home Run Derby winning 1B Pete Alonso, do-it-all SS Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil, who had the top batting average in baseball this season.

The top of the Mets pitching rotation is also the best in baseball with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. In the bullpen they have the dominant Edwin Diaz closing games out. 

San Diego’s lineup is also strong with superstars RF Juan Soto and 3B Manny Machado and a great supporting cast in DH/1B Josh Bell, 1B/2B Brandon Drury, and utility man Jake Cronenworth. The Padres rotation is solid and is headlined by Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish, who will get the Game 1 start because owned the Mets this season. San Diego’s bullpen had some struggles despite the addition of Josh Hader, so the Mets have a clear advantage here in close games.

The Mets were a favorite to reach the World Series at one point of the season, and I think they’ll recapture some of their early season form. I have the Mets winning in three games.

Cardinals (3rd) vs. Phillies (6th): I really like how the Cardinals roster is set up. They have two superstars in 3B Nolan Arenado and 1B Paul Goldschmidt, and they have three longtime veterans in DH Albert Pujols, C Yadier Molina, and SP Adam Wainwright. 

The Cardinals also has a lot of young pieces with OF’s Lars Nootbar and Dylan Carlson and do-it-all player Tommy Edman. Their bullpen has some fireballers as well with Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks. 

The Phillies are an interesting team. On paper they don’t look that good, but the offensive output is just incredible. Philly hits tons of home runs with 1B Rhys Hoskins, and OFs Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos and Bryce Harper. They also have one of the best catchers in baseball in JT Realmuto. 

But the Phillies pitching has been inconsistent, more specifically, but Game 1 starter Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are fantastic. I’m once again going with the higher seed and picking the Cardinals because they’re the more well-rounded team. I see the Cardinals sweeping the series.

American League

Blue Jays (4th) vs Mariners (5th): This should be the most exciting Wild Card matchup. The Blue Jays have one of the  premier offensenses in the league behind superstar 1B Vlad Guerrero Jr, and SS Bo Bichette, who had another fantastic offensive and defensive year. The always consistent CF George Springer and RF Teoscar Hernandez also contributed solid seasons.

The Blue Jays’  pitching is solid with Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah in the rotation, while their bullpen is carried by fantastic closer Jordan Romano. 

Although the Blue Jays are favored, I think the Mariners are a real dark horse. At one point they were the hottest team in baseball winning 14 in a row. Led by young Rookie of the Year candidate Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners are healthy and hungry after the franchise’s 21-year hiatus from the postseason. The lineup also features 1B Ty France, 3B Eugenio Suarez, and breakout switch hitting catcher Cal Raleigh. 

The Mariners pitching is arguably the best in baseball. The rotation is led by Luis Castillo, who was acquired from the Reds before the trading deadline, and solid pieces in Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. Robbie Ray has been a little disappointing this season after signing a five year $115 million contract. The team’s bullpen is the real strength, though. Seattle has some nasty arms, including Matt Brash, Diego Castillo, Erik Swanson, Penn Murfee, Paul Sewald, and Andres Munoz. I’m expecting an upset and see the Mariners moving on. Seattle wins the series in three games.

Cleveland Guardians (3rd) vs Tampa Bay Rays (6th): The Guardians are not talked much heading into the postseason, but they are a strong team. They have one of the most talented hitters in baseball in 3B Jose Ramirez to go with hit-machine rookie OF Steven Kwan and first time All Star 2B Andres Gimenez. The Guardians have a pretty young rotation with no one over the age of 27, so this inexperience might hurt Cleveland. The staff is headlined by 2020 Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and rising star Triston McKenzie. 

The Rays are back in the playoffs for the third year in a row and still on a tight budget. With the sixth lowest payroll in the league, Tampa Bay always seems to find a way to get it done. The Rays lineup is filled with misfits all around aside from young, up-and-coming stars SS Wander Franco and OF Randy Arozarena. They added a veteran bat at the deadline this year with LF David Peralta. 

The Rays pitching is looking solid and is headlined by breakout flame thrower Shane McClanahan, who was in the Cy Young conversation all season, and the return of Tyler Glasnow after Tommy John surgery. I have the Guardians sweeping this series because the Rays just don’t seem like the same team of years past.