Welcome to the Wild-Card. 8 teams, 4 matchups, 2 wins to move on. It all starts Tuesday.
By: Eli Silverstone
Welcome to the MLB Wild-Card. The first team to win two games moves on, and all games are played in the home ballpark of the higher seeds. The top two seeds from each conference (Baltimore and Houston in the American League and Atlanta and LA in the National League) will get byes into the Division Series. There are four star-loaded matchups to preview before all games kick off on Tues., Oct. 3rd.
The American League
AL #1 Seed: Baltimore Orioles
AL #2 Seed: Houston Astros
AL Wild Card Matchup: #6 Toronto Blue Jays vs #3 Minnesota Twins
Toronto stumbles into the playoffs after a rollercoaster season to play the Twins, a team that actually lost two more games than the Jays (but won their division). Minnesota playoff teams of the past were all about the home run ball, but this team’s strength is their pitching. They’ll toss out Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, and Joe Ryan to try and get games to their fireball closer, Jhoan Duran.
The Blue Jays' starters match up well (Kevin Gausman will lead the charge), but they’ll need their star hitters to perform on a big stage. An underrated advantage Toronto has over Minnesota is their sneaky good bullpen. Tim Mayza, Jordan Hicks, Erik Swanson, and Jordan Romano can close out late innings with the best of them. Meanwhile, with Danny Jansen hurt, Alejandro Kirk is an X-factor for the Jays both behind the plate and in the batter's box.
Toronto hasn’t won a playoff game with the Bichette/Guerrero core, while Minnesota hasn’t won a playoff game since George Bush was in office. One of those stats will change on Tuesday.
MIN - Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan
TOR - Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassit, Jose Berrios
Who has the edge?
Prediction: Toronto in 3
AL Wild Card Matchup: #5 Texas Rangers vs #4 Tampa Bay Rays
A brutal loss of the AL West division on the last day of the season forces the Rangers into a matchup with the Rays at Tropicana Field. Texas struggled in the second half as the bullpen started to struggle and Nathan Eovaldi got hurt, but still boast a fantastic infield captained by Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. The Rangers will try to get back to their winning ways of the first half, and they definitely have the lineup to do so, boasting six 2023 All-Stars. Top prospect Evan Carter got promoted and hit five HR’s in the past three weeks for Texas, making him a huge X-factor for this series.
Tampa also had control of their division for most of the season but couldn’t hold off Baltimore. They have enough starting pitching on the injured list to create one of the best rotations in baseball, and they quietly won 99 games this season. Randy Arozaroena, Yandy Diaz, and Isaac Paredes will do the heavy lifting while Tampa’s depth back’s them up.
TEX: Jordan Montgomery, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez
TBR: Tyler Glasnow, Zach Eflin, Aaron Civale
Who has the edge?
Prediction: Tampa in 3
The National League
NL #1 Seed: Atlanta Braves
NL #2 Seed: Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card Matchup: #6 Arizona Diamondbacks vs #3 Milwaukee Brewers
The young D-Backs make the playoffs but get a tough first-round matchup against the Brewers. In a three-game series, it can’t get much better than being able to roll out Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta on the mound. The Brewers pieced their lineup together this year and enjoyed a nice bounceback year from Christian Yelich. William Contreras, Sal Frelick, Mark Canha, and Willy Adames are solid pieces, but none produced eye-popping numbers this year, making them a team that will rely on pitching and depth. Recently back from injury, rookie Garrett Mitchell could be an X-factor for Milwaukee.
Arizona is a fun team led by rookie superstar Corbin Caroll and a good supporting cast of Ketel Marte, Christian Walker, Lourdes Gurriel Jr, and Geraldo Perdomo. If Arizona wants any shot, they need to win Game 1 with Zac Gallen on the mound.
MIL: Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta
ARI: Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Ryne Nelson
Who has the edge?
Prediction: Milwauke in 3
Wild Card Matchup: #5 Miami Marlins vs #4 Philadelphia Phillies
Miami makes the playoffs in a non-Covid season for the first time since 2003. Unfortunately for them, they match up with last year's NL Champions. Philly is extremely tough to beat in a short series because of their high-end pitching talent and a lineup deep with playoff experience. The Phillies boast one of the more complete teams in the league, with their only liability being their defense. To make things worse, Miami is missing their ace, Sandy Alcantara.
On the positive side, the Marlins have enjoyed career years from players like Luis Arraez, Jake Burger, and Bryan De La Cruz, while having veterans Jorge Soler and Josh Bell provide fantastic seasons of their own at the plate. Jazz Chisholm Jr. has the ability to go nuclear for small stretches, making him Miami’s X-factor.
PHI - Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suarez/Michael Lorenzen
MIA - Jesus Luzardo, Braxton Garrett, Edward Cabrera
Who has the edge?
Lineup - PHI
Rotation - PHI
Bullpen - PHI
Prediction: PHI in 2