It is finally October and Major League Baseball Postseason Play is back! The playoffs kick off with two Wild Card games, one for the American League and one for the National League. The Wild Card round is a one game, winner-take-all matchup between the best two teams that didn’t win their divisions. Teams that make the Wild Card round are still major contenders; in 2014, both the NL Champion San Francisco Giants and AL Champion Kansas City Royals made the playoffs thanks to the Wild Card format. The ALDS kicks off on Thursday and the NLDS on Friday but in the meantime we will preview and predict the Wild Card games.
Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays
Pitching Matchup: Chris Tillman (16-9) vs Marcus Stroman (9-10)
Not one, not two but three AL East teams made it into the postseason this year. Chris Tillman will get the ball for Baltimore and although he put up statistics worthy of an ace, many are still weary to give him the status of one. On the other side, the Blue Jays are rolling with Duke University alum, Marcus Stroman. Stroman hasn’t been the best the Jays have to offer this year, but Stroman does have some postseason experience and Toronto’s Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and J.A. Happ would all need to start on short rest. Stroman did start Game 5 in the ALDS for the Blue Jays last postseason and got the win in a do-or-die game. Although Marcus Stroman had an underwhelming year based on the standards people set for him, he is still very qualified to get the job done for the Blue Jays. With the Blue Jays offense spinning their tires as of late, Stroman will need to pitch extremely well against the power heavy lineup of the Orioles. Baltimore’s lineup can turn baserunners into runs with the best of them, the O’s led the league with 453 home runs, the next highest total were the St. Louis Cardinals with 225 longballs. Toronto’s biggest question mark will be Josh Donaldson, the reigning AL MVP has cooled off considerably after being an AL MVP candidate once again during early August. In Donaldson’s last 15 games he is batting 0.241 with only three home runs.
X-Factor: Zach Britton– if Tillman doesn’t go all nine innings, Britton needs to be lights out per usual (47 Saves with 0.54 ERA) and not give a struggling Blue Jays offense any hope. The rest of the Baltimore bullpen including Darren O’Day and Brad Brach need to pitch strong as well if they’re numbers are called upon.
Prediction: Baltimore Orioles- 7, Toronto Blue Jays- 3
San Francisco Giants at New York Mets
Pitching Matchup: Madison Bumgarner (15-9) vs Noah Syndergaard (14-9)
It is an even year and if the pattern continues, the Giants are destined to win the World Series in 2016 since they did so in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Although coincidental patterns don’t give much evidence to support the Giants case to win the World Series this year, one person does. That person is Madison Bumgarner. Not only are the Giants winners of their last four games, Mr. October 2.0 and the Bay Area’s bonafide ace Bumgarner is taking the mound for their win-or-go-home game. In 2014, Bumgarner also pitched the Wild Card game for San Francisco and he tossed a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates. Mad Bum with help from catcher Buster Posey went on to win both the NLCS and World Series MVP Awards and in 36 innings of total World Series experience, Bumgarner boasts a 0.25 ERA. In the other dugout, the New York Mets have Noah Syndergaard who burst onto the scene last year at the age of 22. Syndergaard who goes by the nickname ‘Thor’ has limited postseason experience, as well as World Series experience, but has a 3.32 postseason ERA. Thor blossomed this season as many thought he would compiling a 2.60 ERA and a league best 2.29 FIP (FIP measures how good a pitcher is at getting strikeouts while limiting home runs, walks and hit by pitches. FIP is adjusted to the league’s average ERA so view the metric as ERA in order to see how good it is). This game will be billed as a pitcher’s duel of two heavyweights, if you want to take the ball from Bumgarner or Syndergaard you’ll have to pry it from their dead hands because both of these athletes are gamers and will pitch deep into extra innings in order to secure the win.
X-Factor: Noah Syndergaard- I am curious to see if Thor can keep up with Madison Bumgarner out there. If Syndergaard can go pitch for pitch with Bumgarner and put the Mets in a position to win the game he has done more than most expected.
Prediction: San Francisco Giants- 2, New York Mets- 1
Cover Photo via Sports Net California