With the calendar flipping to October comes a few things: Halloween, Big Ten football and the Major League Baseball playoffs.
With the playoffs set to begin on Tuesday with the American League Wild Card Game, some intriguing matchups lie ahead. The National League side has the St. Louis Cardinals playing the wild-card winner between Pittsburgh and Chicago. The other matchup is between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, with the Dodgers grabbing home-field advantage.
The AL has Kansas City as the top team and to play the winner of the Wild Card Game between the New York Yankees and Houston Astros. Then the Toronto Blue Jays play AL West champion Texas. Both leagues have been very competitive this year, and all of these teams have a formula to obtain the ultimate goal: winning the World Series.
The National League has looked like the tougher league all season long. Maybe even with just the NL Central, which features three teams in the playoffs in the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs. Those three teams have some special history to show just how dominant they have been: It is the first division in MLB history to have the three teams with the league’s best records.
The funny thing with these teams is that they will all have to play each other in the playoffs, so whoever beats out the other two will have a shot at making the World Series against the Mets or Dodgers.
The Mets had the easier road than the other divisions, based on division records. They had a fight midseason with the Washington Nationals, but since their acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes they have taken off. The Mets have one of the better young rotations with the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
The Dodgers had a tougher time dealing with the Giants, but they put them away and have won three straight NL West titles for the first time in franchise history. But this is minor news to the Dodgers, as they want nothing less than a World Series crown after committing the highest payroll in baseball. They have a great one-two punch with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, who should each finish in the top three in NL Cy Young voting. If they find a little offense, I think this team has a chance for the two aces to carry them.
The American League has had some very exciting teams this year with the Kansas City, Texas, Toronto and even Houston. Toronto has claimed the second-best record in the American League and won its first division title since 1993. The Blue Jays also look like a team that is capable of taking it all, with a potent lineup that has scored a league-leading 891 runs. They back that up with their ace David Price, who was acquired at the trade deadline. They look dangerous, and not a team anyone wants to face.
The Kansas City Royals were the team that ran away with the AL Central, and took the top seed after dominating throughout the season after winning the pennant a year ago. They still look dangerous with a great bullpen with Wade Davis closing, and a great offense led by Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain.
It was truly the Wild West in the AL West, with the Rangers, Angels and Astros all coming down to the final day of the season. In the end, the Rangers took the division, while the Astros settled for the second wild-card spot and the Angels went home with nothing.
Each of the 10 playoff teams can get hot, and have the tools to win. The NL has the three teams with the best record going at it for one spot in the National League Championship Series, as well as the drama from the big markets of New York and Los Angeles. The AL has the hot pick in Toronto facing either the veteran Yankees or young Astros. The Royals will also have to face a Wild West team as well, in the Rangers.
There are so many possibilities that could happen, and the playoffs haven’t even started. This year has a chance to be one of the most interesting MLB playoffs in a while.
Correction Oct. 6: An earlier version of this story said the Blue Jays were the top seed in the American League, when it is in fact the Royals.