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MLB Playoff Preview

Deep Dive

October 05, 2021
SOURCE: MLB/GIPHY
SOURCE: MLB/GIPHY

HELLO HELLO!

And welcome to the most wonderful time of the year: October baseball. Ten of the MLB’s 30 teams have punched their ticket to the postseason...and it all begins tonight with the first of two single-elimination Wild Card games.

  • Here’s everything you need to know about the MLB playoffs and who we think has the best chance to win it all. Play ball!

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Try not to suck.

— Former Chicago Cubs manager (and current LA Angels manager) Joe Maddon’s rallying cry en route to the Cubs’ 2016 World Series title. Nice and simple.

⚾️ The set-up

SOURCE: CBS SPORTS

The MLB playoffs consist of four rounds: the single-elimination Wild Card round, best-of-five League Division series (LDS), best-of-seven League Championship series (LCS) and, of course, the reason for the season: the best-of-seven World Series. That’s a whole lot of baseball.

  • The single-elimination Wild Card round begins today with an American League (AL) game between the Boston Red Sox and NY Yankees at 8:08 p.m. ET.
  • Then the two National League (NL) Wild Card teams — the LA Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals — square off in a win-or-go-home game tomorrow at 8:10 p.m. ET. Nerves? What nerves?

From there, the AL Wild Card winner will face the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS, while the NL winner will take on the SF Giants in the NLDS.

  • Meanwhile, the AL’s Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox, and the NL’s Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers will compete in their own best-of-five League Division series.

🔴 American League

SOURCE: BILLIE WEISS/BOSTON RED SOX/GETTY IMAGES

Wild Card game: Tonight’s do-or-die matchup will add another chapter to the already storied Red Sox vs. Yankees history. The Red Sox had a narrow edge in the season series, winning 10 of their 19 regular-season contests, but the Yankees had the last laugh, sweeping the Sox at home in September.

  • Home field advantage could be the difference maker tonight though, as Yankees ace pitcher Gerrit Cole struggled in Boston’s Fenway Park. We’re so ready for this rivalry battle.

Tampa Bay Rays: We expected last year’s AL champions to impress this season, and despite the loss of star pitcher Tyler Glasnow to injury, they did not disappoint. With young stars like rookie Wander Franco and outfielder Randy Arozarena, watch for the scrappy Rays to make another deep run. Just keep swimming.

Chicago White Sox: From starters Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodón to closer Liam Hendriks, the White Sox’s pitching staff is stacked. As for the offense, Chicago is...also stacked, with shortstop Tim Anderson and first baseman (and 2020 AL MVP) José Abreu leading the way. Watch out, world, it might just be Soxtober.

Houston Astros: The ’Stros have cheated competed their way to a fifth consecutive playoff appearance. Houston is an offensive powerhouse, boasting the best batting average and most RBI in baseball this season. Ready for takeoff.

🔵 National League

SOURCE: TRUE BLUE LA/TWITTER

Wild Card game: Despite finishing the season with the second-best record in the league, the defending champion LA Dodgers still find themselves in a win-or-go-home scenario. LA won the regular-season series against St. Louis, but the Cards are flying high after winning a franchise record 17 straight games in September.

  • With outfielder Mookie Betts and infielder Trea Turner, LA has plenty of Hollywood star power. It’ll be up to the Cardinals’ ace, veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright, to shut them down.

San Francisco Giants: Of the three California-based teams in the NL West, the Giants were the least expected to win the division, but they did just that and posted the best record in baseball this season. We love a Cinderella story.

Milwaukee Brewers: After injuring his hand by punching a wall during the team’s postseason-clinching celebration (yes, seriously), reliever Devin Williams will miss the playoffs, but pitching is still the biggest strength for the Brew Crew.

  • NL Cy Young candidate Corbin Burnes and starter Brandon Woodruff will try to toss Milwaukee to their first-ever World Series title.

Atlanta Braves: It’ll be a battle of defense vs. offense when the Brewers face the Braves, who hit the third-most home runs in baseball this season. As for pitching, los Bravos boast two aces in Charlie Morton and Max Fried. After narrowly missing the World Series last season, Atlanta is determined to go the distance this year.

🔮 Who will win it all?

The most exciting thing about postseason baseball is that truly anything can happen, but we’ll still make a prediction. After falling just short in the World Series last season, our money’s on the Tampa Bay Rays to hoist the trophy this year. Can’t bet against Champa Bay.

  • Tune in all month long to see if our projection holds true. It all begins tonight at 8:10 p.m. ET on ESPN in the U.S. and Sportsnet in Canada. Let the games begin.