Wild, Wild Cards

It’s official: after a whopping 163 games over 187 days, baseball’s regular season is over. We’re on to October and the postseason and the extreme anxiety and excitement that come along for the wild ride.

Before the division series heat up on Thursday and Friday, the Wild Card games must be played. And the talent is, quite frankly, staggering. Here’s what’s going down in the one-game round…

Chicago Cubs vs. Colorado Rockies

While the American League postseason was pretty much settled early last month, the National League was a fight to the bitter end… and then some. On Sunday, the final official day of the regular season, the Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, and Rockies all beat their respective opponents – with a combined score of 48-5 – in what were supposed to be their last games, leaving the Central and West divisions tied. So yesterday, four NL teams faced off in two tie-breaking game 163s to decide once and for all, but not really, since no teams were actually eliminated yesterday. The winners claimed division titles, while the losers now face each other in today’s NL Wild Card game.

It was the first tiebreaker game since 2013, and the first time in MLB history that two tiebreaker games were needed. The Brewers topped the Cubs in Chicago 3-1, while the Dodgers blew the Rockies out of the water 5-0 here in Los Angeles.

Tonight, Rockies ace Kyle Freeland will take the mound for his postseason debut against Chicago’s best chance, Jon Lester, a proven postseason pitching god. Freeland has never pitched in the postseason, let alone a deciding game, and the Rockies have struggled on the road this season, going 44-39, so they have two risky variables going into tonight’s game. On the other hand, the Cubs have only been hitting .239 since the start of September, and LesterĀ did lose the one Wild Card game he ever started, though, so as usual in the postseason, it’s literally anybody’s game.

Oakland Athletics vs. New York Yankees

“Daaaaaa… Jankees did not win the division this year!” Actually, they haven’t won it since 2012, but my Yankee-hating self digresses. New York will host Oakland on Wednesday to see who joins the Red Sox, Astros, and Indians in the fight for the American League. Three of the aforementioned teams finished the season with 100 or more wins, an MLB first.

Now, your regular season record means absolutely nothing in October. A team with fewer than 90 wins can win the World Series, while a team like the 2001 Mariners and their 116 wins can get booted in the ALCS. That’s what makes baseball so crazy, stressful, and great; anything can happen.

So one of the wealthiest teams in baseball will host the team with the lowest payroll in baseball. An underdog rebel versus the Evil Empire, David versus Goliath; there is boundless potential for a total Cinderella story. Oakland has Khris Davis and his MLB-best 48 homers as well as the powerful bats of Chapman, Lowrie, Olson, and Piscotty. The A’s have defied and exceeded expectations all season long; you can see the hunger in their eyes. Meanwhile, New York collectively set a new MLB record for most homers by a team in a single season. Both teams have played WC games before; the Yankees have won one and lost one, while the A’s lost their only trip to the ‘Card.

Luis Severino will start for the Yankees tomorrow, while the A’s have decided to become the first team in MLB history to bullpen a deciding game. Thank the baseball gods the Red Sox don’t have to do the same. Sevvy is an interesting choice for New York; he spent a good few months of the season with the worst ERA, getting rocked by multiple teams over multiple bad starts. And in last year’s Wild Card game, he gave up three runs (two of them homers) on four hits and had a whopping 81.00 ERA. So more than faith in Severino, it looks like Boone is relying on his lineup to keep hitting those homers, and considering Yankee Stadium is practically a little league ballpark, this game is likely to be a slugfest.

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