MLB Playoff Race: Most Likely 1-Game Wild-Card Scenarios
Get ready, MLB fans. The already insane playoff race is about to get even crazier.
For the first time in history, each league will crown two wild-card winners. The teams will then square off in a one-game playoff to determine who enters the main draw.
This one-game playoff will not only make for great baseball, but also thrilling television involving some of the game's biggest stars.
While several teams from each league have a shot at earning a playoff spot, these are the games we're most likely to see on October 4.
L.A. Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves
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After acquiring Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto and others at the deadline, the Dodgers may be the best team in the NL. With good play down the stretch, L.A. is set to make a late run at the No. 2 wild-card spot.
The Dodgers would undoubtedly send reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to the hill. With a 2.79 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and a 12-8 record, Don Mattingly won't trust anyone else.
Meanwhile, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will likely send Tim Hudson. He's statistically the best pitcher on the team and has the experience to overcome the pressure of a one-game playoff.
A Braves-Dodgers game would feature two of the game's best pitchers, high-profile hitters and two storied franchises. MLB fans can't ask for much more.
St. Louis Cardinals @ Atlanta Braves
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With their loaded roster, the Dodgers should earn the second wild-card spot. However, the St. Louis Cardinals have the lead at the moment and could very well wind up playing in Atlanta on October 4.
While the Braves will probably start Tim Hudson, it'll be interesting to see who Cardinals manager Mike Matheny sends to the mound.
Kyle Lohse has been the team's best starter this year, tossing a 2.81 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a stellar 14-2 record. However, Adam Wainwright won a championship with St. Louis and can be trusted to win when it counts. He has also been excellent in the second half.
Whoever Matheny starts, expect an incredible game between Atlanta and St. Louis—if the Cardinals can hold off the Dodgers.
Oakland A's @ Baltimore Orioles
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Both teams are usually non-factors at this point in the season. Yet, the A's and Orioles have somehow figured everything out and have dominated in the second half. Their success is somewhat inexplicable—they've just figured out how to win games despite being ranked ninth and 10th in AL team hitting.
The Orioles will probably start whoever is most rested. Both Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel are good enough to get the job done. The A's find themselves in a similar position. Without a true ace, Oakland will either turn to whoever is most rested or hand the ball over to Brett Anderson.
Since returning from injury, the highly talented Anderson is 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three starts. Starting the hot hand may be the way to go.
No matter who pitches for the A's and Orioles, this game would feature two of the hottest and most surprising teams in all of baseball. An A's-Orioles matchup would not disappoint.
Tampa Bay Rays @ New York Yankees
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Both teams are usually AL powerhouses and are good enough to compete well into October. However, with the emergence of the A's and Orioles, both teams are going to have to fight for their spot in the playoffs.
The pitching matchup in this one is easy. The Yankees would start former Cy Young winner CC Sabathia. Meanwhile, the Rays would send Cy Young contender David Price to the mound. This matchup is, of course, conditional on the fact that the two pitchers don't pitch on the last day of the season.
A Rays-Yankees one-game playoff would surely earn record ratings. The game would feature two elite pitchers: the best-in-league Rays pitching staff and a super-loaded Yankees lineup.
If the Orioles take the AL East, this matchup could be the most likely scenario. It would undoubtedly be one of October's best.