Both wild cards up for grabs, calling for dramatic season finale
The Mets are leading the NL Wild Card race, with the team relying on the pitching staff to carry them to their second straight championship.
As playoff baseball draws near, and with division titles all but set in stone, the focus around Major League Baseball has shifted toward the red-hot wild card races.
As of Sept. 27, the National League Wild Card matchup features the New York Mets pitted against the San Francisco Giants. The Mets have been playing well despite battling injuries all season. If the Mets are able to hold on to the top Wild Card spot, the team will face off in an all-or-nothing matchup at Citi Field, with a thrilling pitching matchup of Noah Syndergaard for the Mets, and Giant’s Ace Madison Bumgarner.
A common post-season participant, the Giants have been battling a tough schedule with an inconsistent bullpen, ultimately costing them an otherwise surefire playoff spot.
As for the American League, the Wild Card matchup currently features the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles. The Jays finish their regular season with two tough series against the Orioles and the Boston Red Sox. They have to decide if they want J.A. Happ or Aaron Sanchez to pitch this one game elimination for them.
More importantly though, the team must fend off the Orioles who are hot on the Blue Jays tail for home-field advantage.
The Orioles have a power hitting offense with Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis leading the way. They also have a dominant bullpen that has provided tremendous relief pitching since their five pitchers with Earned Run Average’s over 5.25 have made at least 10 starts.
The New York Yankees, once alive and well in the wild card race, have since stalled offensively, pulling them down to four games behind the Wild Card spot. They lost their fourth straight game and have now fallen in 11 of their last 14 games after winning seven in a row to get back into the playoff hunt. Although they are not officially out of the race, the Yankees’ best bet to steal a wild card position is to win all their games and hope that the right teams lose, which at this point would be nothing short of a miracle.
The AL Central crown belongs to the Cleveland Indians because of their stellar pitching rotation led by 2014 Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber. The Indians played lights-out baseball throughout the summer, which has allowed the team to comfortably take the division title. The lineup is led by veterans Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli, who are both having solid years. Also, Fransico Lindor and Jason Kipnis round out a solid lineup of hitters that can be dangerous if they heat up in October.
The Boston Red Sox have won the AL East, which is a perfect complement to storied Farewell Tour of team legend David Ortiz. Ortiz, nicknamed Big Papi, is having one of the best seasons of his long career, the best final season a player can have. Teammate Rick Porcello is having a fantastic year and is a leading candidate to win the 2016 Cy Young award. The Red Sox are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, and history shows that they are capable of capitalizing on post-season appearances.
The NL West belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who played tremendously despite an injured Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in the major leagues. The offense is led by rookie shortstop Corey Seager, who has made up for the lack of productivity from teammate Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers have made good of every bad situation this year and they are hoping for a long playoff run to reward their valiant efforts.
The Chicago Cubs are the NL Central champs, shocking the baseball world with their fairytale season. The Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, the longest streak among active teams. Fast forward more than a century and the Cubs are the clear favorites to win the World Series.
With an offense led by sluggers Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs had no difficulty pulling away from the other teams throughout the season. The pitching staff has the lowest ERA in the league with Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester leading the helm. Also, with Aroldis Chapman in the back of the bullpen, the Cubs are strong at every aspect of the game. It would be disappointing for the Cubs not to win the title this year.
The American League’s home field advantage is still up for grabs, but for National League teams with championship aspirations, the road to the World Series will go through Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs.
October baseball is always the main attraction for fans of the sport, because something new and exciting happens every year. It will be interesting to see which teams will surprise in October and which teams will snub on their opportunity. All eyes will be glued on the Chicago Cubs who look to end their horrible drought and finally win a championship. But Big Papi will be in hunt of another championship before riding off into the sunset. If these two can manage to face off for the pennant, fans will certainly be in for a treat.
Anything can happen, but trying to predict how the postseason will shake out is often an exciting adventure.