Following the conclusion of a long 162 game season, Major League Baseball’s playoff spots have all been filled, leaving 10 teams still hopeful of securing a World Championship title and 20 with a long offseason to prepare for next year’s campaign. The National League playoff spots were all locked in Thursday following a Brewers win over the Reds. On the contrary, the American League playoff spots were filled Sunday, following a Cleveland Indians loss, securing the Wild Card spots for the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays. A’s corner infielders Matt Chapman and Matt Olson will be exciting to see return to the playoffs, as will Ray’s newcomer Austin Meadows and outfielder Tommy Pham.
With the all playoff spots taken and the rosters secured, here’s a look at who will be playing who, in yet another exciting month of October baseball:
In the American League, the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays will face off to see who will win the Wild Card game, a one game elimination match, to continue their march towards a World Series title.
The winner of the Wild Card game will play the Houston Astros in the American League Division Series (ALDS). The Astros had the American League West all but locked up after the first few weeks. Starting pitcher Gerrit Cole leads the league in strikeouts and third baseman Alex Bregman made a strong case for MVP this season, after hitting 41 home runs and 112 RBI’s.
The Yankees, winners of the American League East (despite an abundance of injuries), will then face off longtime playoff rivals, the Minnesota Twins, winners of the American League Central. This should be an interesting series, filled with many home runs, as the Twins and Yankees finished first and second in home runs this season across all of Major League Baseball. You can be sure to watch Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hit some out of the park in this one.
On the other side of the bracket we have the National League. Facing off in this league’s Wild Card game are the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals. After losing star Christian Yelich to injury, the Brewers went on an incredible run, winning 19 out of 23 games in September to close out the season and beat out the Chicago Cubs for the second National League Wild Card spot (once again the Cubs give me severe anxiety, followed by bouts of depression). Equally, losing star outfielder Byrce Harper to the division rival Phillies did little to hurt the Nat’s playoff chances, making the postseason after watching last years from home. This should prove to be one of the closest match ups of the season.
The winner of that Wild Card game will go on to face the always formidable Los Angeles Dodgers. Coming off back to back World Series appearances and back to back World Series losses, LA has a lot to prove this year. The team hasn’t won a World Series since 1988, a long drought for a team with their reputation and talent. Securing a World Championship will require the likes of Clatyton Kershaw and Cody Bellinger to maintain their regular season form, something Kershaw has been criticized over for years.
The two remaining National League teams facing off are the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves beat out what first appeared to be a tough division for their NL East title. However, meltdowns from the Mets and an underproducing Phillies team made their path to victory relatively certain. The Cardinals, on the other hand, beat out what many have deemed the toughest division in baseball. All signs point to this being true as the race for the NL Central was decided on Sunday, the final division to have their standings set in stone. The Cardinals owe their success, in part to starting pitcher Jack Flaherty, who was nearly unhittable in the second half of the season and newly acquired first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who the team received from the Arizona Diamondbacks via trade this past offseason. Atlanta has more than their fair share of stellar playing thanks to a core of young talent, mixed with the presence of veterans in the clubhouse. All-Star outfielder and MVP candidate Ronald Acuña Jr. put together an incredible season, hitting 41 home runs and stealing 37 bases, just 3 shy of the 40/40 mark, a very rare feat for players to accomplish. First baseman Freddie Freeman also made sure to put up runs, while starting pitchers Max Fried and Mike Soroka made sure to keep the bases empty. All together, this should be quite an exciting series to watch.
October baseball is here. While the question of who will go home a Champion and who will eagerly await their shot again next year remains to be seen, one thing is certain: fans of America’s national pastime will be winners no matter what.