Game-by-Game Projections for All Wild-Card Contenders over the Final 2 Weeks

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent IAugust 16, 2016

Game-by-Game Projections for All Wild-Card Contenders over the Final 2 Weeks

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    Major League Baseball has expanded its postseason in 2012 to make September a must-watch month. With only 10 days of competition remaining, that's exactly what we're experiencing.

    Projecting the final few series for every wild-card contender will tell us who advances to the one-game playoffs.

    The majority of MLB teams are above .500 and still playing meaningful games. Of course, the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants have already clinched their divisions, and the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals will inevitably follow suit.

    Then there are the AL Central leaders, the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. Whomever finishes runner-up in that division won't have enough victories to factor into the wild-card race. Also, I've excluded the Philadelphia Phillies (77-76) because their deficit in the standings is overwhelming.

    So that leaves us with 10 clubs who may wind up fighting for their lives in winner-take-all matchups on October 5.

    I simulated reality and made the following American and National League picks.

Baltimore Orioles vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Sept. 24-26)

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    Sept. 24 (Game 1): loss

    Henderson Alvarez has been less hittable in September, which will frustrate the Baltimore Orioles. The second-year starter may match a career high with seven strikeouts.

     

    Sept. 24 (Game 2): win

    It's tough to sweep a doubleheader, especially for the sputtering Toronto Blue Jays.

    A rare no-decision on September 19 won't do much for Ricky Romero's confidence. He continues to pitch with poor fastball location. Mark Reynolds will get ahead in the count multiple times and take him deep.

     

    Sept. 25: win

    Top prospect Dylan Bundy debuts and hurls two innings of scoreless relief. The O's rally from behind with him on the mound.

     

    Sept. 26: win

    MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes that Carlos Villanueva felt more soreness than usual the day after his most recent start. The former reliever is probably fatiguing. Right now, I don't trust him or whomever Toronto may select as a fill-in.

Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox (Sept. 28-30)

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    Sept. 28: win

    An extra-inning win makes the final Friday night of the season especially memorable for the Baltimore Orioles. They officially clinch a playoff spot as an American League Wild Card.

     

    Sept. 29: loss

    Hung over from the celebrating, rookie starter Wei-Yin Chen gets rocked. The lineup can't do enough to compensate.

     

    Sept. 30: loss

    With Jim Thome on the bench, lefty Felix Doubront of the Boston Red Sox carries a no-hit bid deep into the afternoon like he did in his previous outing.

Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox (Sept. 25-26)

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    Sept. 25: win

    In a season where I expect David Price to claim the American League Cy Young Award, he'll deliver another stellar performance for win No. 18. B.J. Upton puts the Tampa Bay Rays ahead with his 11th home run of the month.

     

    Sept. 26: loss

    The Boston Red Sox bullpen cannot continue its abysmal trend. For the first time in a while, the relievers pitch several scoreless innings and eke out a series split.

Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox (Sept. 27-30)

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    Sept. 27: win

    The Tampa Bays Rays won't be seeing the same Jose Quintana who retired 11 of 12 batters back in May. Rather, this is the guy who opposing lineups have hit better than .300 against since the All-Star break. James Shields will get plenty of run support.

     

    Sept. 28: win

    Matt Moore hasn't been in command of his pitches recently, but the Chicago White Sox are a great matchup for him. Only Adam Dunn and Kevin Youkilis take exception to their free-swinging philosophy, and both of them are slumping.

     

    Sept. 29: win

    The Rays will be utterly dominated by Chris Sale, but resilient versus closer Addison Reed. With the White Sox threatening Fernando Rodney in the bottom of the ninth, Evan Longoria makes a game-saving defensive play.

     

    Sept. 30: loss

    Frustration and desperation set in as Tampa Bay fails to provide for ace David Price.

Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: Tampa Bay Rays win

    Struggling setup man Pedro Strop gives the game away. Carlos Pena boosts his 2012 batting average above the Mendoza Line with a multi-hit effort.

     

    Oct. 2: Baltimore Orioles win

    Since August 8, middle-aged phenom Fernando Rodney hasn't allowed an earned run. An untimely implosion includes his first blown save in seven weeks and a walk-off courtesy of Adam Jones.

     

    Oct. 3: Tampa Bay Rays win

    Matt Moore ends the regular season on a high note with a complete game. B.J. Upton's free-agent stock soars even higher as the center fielder hits for the cycle, a feat he also accomplished in 2009.

Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners (Sept. 25-27)

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    Sept. 25: win

    Zack Greinke is finally pitching like the outstanding half-season rental everybody expected him to be. He'll induce a ton of weak contact with his improving cutter.

     

    Sept. 26: loss

    The Los Angeles Angels are helpless against Felix Hernandez, who pitches his sixth shutout of 2012. A couple runs wouldn't have mattered—Ervin Santana gets lit up and sent to the showers early in his penultimate start of the campaign.

     

    Sept. 27: win

    Mike Trout and others run wild with Jesus Montero behind the plate. The Halos manufacture their offense and win comfortably.

Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers (Sept. 28-30)

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    Sept. 28: win

    Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan is unavailable after heavy usage during the team's previous series. The Angels get a clutch home run from one of their own free-agent acquisitions, Albert Pujols.

     

    Sept. 29: win

    Pujols continues to turn around an otherwise unimpressive month with a couple round-trippers off of red-hot Derek Holland.

     

    Sept. 30: win

    Yu Darvish comes out with great stuff, but zero control. L.A. jumps out in front early, pads the lead and almost gives it back. Wonderboy Mike Trout dives to take away a would-be, game-winning extra-base hit from Josh Hamilton.

Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: loss

    King Felix (again). Safeco Field minimizes the effects of his mistakes.

     

    Oct. 2: win

    Fantastic fielding helps the Los Angeles Angels reach 90 wins.

    Torii Hunter and Mike Trout each gun down a baserunner at home plate. The infield does its part by turning four double plays.

     

    Oct. 3: loss

    The batters take the scouting report too literally and go after every Blake Beavan offering. Poor plate discipline keeps him in for seven-plus innings.

    A four-run deficit proves to be insurmountable.

New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins (Sept. 24-26)

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    Sept. 24: loss

    Andy Pettitte won't be pushed past 100 pitches. After all, it's just his second outing since the All-Star break.

    Reliever Boone Logan is gassed from the previous series, so New York Yankees skipper Joe Girardi instead calls upon Corey Wade to face Justin Morneau. It doesn't work out.

     

    Sept. 25: win

    Weather forecasts expect it to be chilly in Minneapolis on Tuesday night. All the fly balls that Phil Hughes serves up will die before the warning track.

     

    Sept. 26: win

    Vintage CC Sabathia—eight innings, no runs allowed. Joe Mauer is quietly excelling in 2012, but the hefty lefty has always given him trouble (.189/.244/.243 in 41 PA).

    Meanwhile, Samuel Deduno is starting for the Twins on three days' rest. He'll be crushed by a patient New York Yankees lineup.

New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays (Sept. 27-30)

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    Sept. 27: loss

    If not for an oblique injury, this could have been the year that Brandon Morrow emerged as an American League All-Star. He reminds us of his immense potential and stifles the New York Yankees.

     

    Sept. 28: win

    The Toronto Blue Jays are devoid of left-handed power. Hiroki Kuroda just pitches around Edwin Encarnacion and coasts to his 15th victory.

     

    Sept. 29: loss

    Congrats to Ricky Romero, whose winless streak finally ends. The Yankees draw some walks, but don't execute with runners in scoring position.

     

    Sept. 30: win

    First baseman Mark Teixeira (calf) returns from a three-week hiatus. He goes deep twice to reach the 25-homer milestone for a 10th consecutive season.

    Rafael Soriano picks up save No. 45, which ties a career high and gives him one more than Mariano Rivera had in 2011.

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: loss

    Jacoby Ellsbury makes a highlight reel in one night. Insane outfield catches, stolen bases, extra-base hits, etc.

     

    Oct. 2: loss

    Ivan Nova's inconsistent summer ends ingloriously. Joe Girardi admits that he will not be a member of the New York Yankees' postseason rotation.

     

    Oct. 3: win

    The regular-season finale drags on until midnight (as Yankees-Red Sox games typically do). Scoreboard-watching from the dugout, the team sees that the Baltimore Orioles have lost, which means a 93rd win clinches the AL East.

    Captain Derek Jeter drives in two runs with a eighth-inning double and scores the game-winner in extras. His batting average balloons to .328 as he spoils Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown bid.

Oakland Athletics at Texas Rangers (Sept. 24-27)

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    Sept. 24: win

    The speed differential between Dan Straily's fastball and curve should be extraordinary coming off seven days' rest. Facing a Texas Rangers team sans Josh Hamilton (sinus) helps, too.

     

    Sept. 25: loss

    Tommy Milone is winless in Arlington. Yu Darvish, who has been untouchable over his past six starts, will ensure that holds true.

     

    Sept. 26: win

    Though the Oakland Athletics are susceptible to strikeouts, Rangers rookie Martin Perez doesn't miss bats. Even during his minor league career, that was a concern.

    Yoenis Cespedes could have a sizable impact by finding a fastball early in the count and running against the catching tandem of Geovany Soto and Mike Napoli.

     

    Sept. 27: loss

    Total mismatch between Travis Blackley and Matt Harrison.

Oakland Athletics vs. Seattle Mariners (Sept. 28-30)

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    Sept. 28: win

    The Oakland Athletics lineup has been gradually revamped since Opening Day. Whatever squad Blake Beavan opposed on April 15 bears little resemblance to the current team.

    Unfamiliarity makes a man anxious. Advantage: A's.

     

    Sept. 29: win

    Outfielder Coco Crisp has enjoyed considerable success against the Seattle Mariners' probable starter, Jason Vargas. He'll presumably be cured of his eye infection in time to play.

     

    Sept. 30: loss

    Jesus Montero is certainly disappointing in his first full season, but not versus left-handers. We might see the 22-year-old abuse starter Tommy Milone and setup man Sean Doolittle.

Oakland Athletics vs. Texas Rangers (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: loss

    Jarrod Parker will be approaching 180 innings, 50 more than he has ever thrown in a professional season. Fatigue either manifests itself in a pitcher's walk total or the number of extra-base hits he allows.

    Bottom line—his performance is unsustainable, especially with the Texas Rangers in town.

     

    Oct. 2: loss

    Elvis Andrus, Craig Gentry, Ian Kinsler and Jurickson Profar make it a track meet with George Kottaras behind the plate.

     

    Oct. 3: loss

    Inconveniently, A.J. Griffin has hit a rough spot. Injuries have already depleted the Oakland Athletics pitching staff, so there aren't many viable alternatives.

    The 24-year-old throws more strikes than he ought to. Nelson Cruz will make that abundantly clear.

    And as a result, ladies and gentlemen, we have a tie between the A's and their AL West rival Los Angeles Angels (both 90-72).

Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics (Oct. 4)

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    Game 163: Los Angeles Angels win

    Talent doesn't guarantee success over the course of an entire summer.

    The Los Angeles Angels exemplify that. Despite being equipped with more God-given ability that any other group of players, they find themselves in this scenario.

    However, that stuff has a stronger influence when the season is compressed into one ball game.

    One outstanding performance—from Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, the starting pitcher, etc.—can make all the difference. Somebody will come through.

Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies (Sept. 24)

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    Sept. 24: win

    Even amid an ugly regression, Justin Upton has thrived at Coors Field in 2012. He'll make the national media take notice by leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to a four-game sweep.

Arizona Diamonbacks at San Francisco Giants (Sept. 25-27)

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    Sept. 25: win

    This Tyler Skaggs/Tim Lincecum matchup should be decided by the bullpens as neither guy uses his pitches efficiently (both average 17.8 per inning).

    The Arizona Diamondbacks have an edge. Matt Albers, David Hernandez and J.J. Putz are all in a groove.

     

    Sept. 26: loss

    Wade Miley shakes off a first-inning Buster Posey home run and proceeds to put up some zeroes.

    But any cushion is enough for Matt Cain, who hasn't lost in an eternity.

     

    Sept. 27: win

    Paul Goldschmidt single-handedly embarrasses Barry Zito by taking him deep to left field, stealing a base and catching an attempted sacrifice bunt.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chicago Cubs (Sept. 28-30)

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    Sept. 28: loss

    Catcher Miguel Montero isn't supposed to sit throughout entire games at this late stage of the season. However, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson doesn't bother inserting him after an Ian Kennedy implosion puts the team behind by eight.

    The former 21-game winner finds himself frequently pitching from behind in the count.

     

    Sept. 29: win

    This time, the Chicago Cubs are the ones going through the motions by the seventh-inning stretch. Jason Kubel devours journeyman Justin Germano and improves upon his .289/.343/.679 triple-slash line in plate appearances against finesse pitchers.

     

    Sept. 30: win

    Tyler Skaggs manhandles the overly aggressive Cubs. He's "effectively wild" in his best statistical game as an MLB hurler.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: win

    Having played 22 games in as many days prior to the series, the Colorado Rockies seem zombified. Wade Miley throws a four-hit gem.

     

    Oct. 2: win

    Aaron Hill racks up 11 total bases en route to leading all major league middle infielders in slugging percentage. For $5.5 million, he's been a terrific bargain.

     

    Oct. 3: loss

    Jeff Francis becomes the lone member of Colorado's pathetic 2012 pitching staff to log 100 innings and own a winning record.

    The loss isn't all that devastating for the Snakes, who were all but eliminated from wild-card contention before this three-game set began.

Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins (Sept. 25-27)

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    Sept. 25: win

    Wade LeBlanc historically struggles against left-handed batters and that hasn't changed in 2012. Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann will take advantage.

     

    Sept. 26: win

    For the 22nd consecutive time, the Atlanta Braves are going to win behind Kris Medlen. That streak dates back more than two years!

     

    Sept. 27: loss

    Though Josh Johnson isn't meeting expectations this summer, he'll deliver a strong performance at Marlins Park. Fly balls that bust out of most other stadiums stay in play.

Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets (Sept. 28-30)

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    Sept. 28: win

    The New York Mets are cautious with Chris Young's pitch count because of his injury history. Sometime in the later innings, the bullpen takes over and chokes.

     

    Sept. 29: loss

    David Wright's career .231/.324/.354 triple-slash line against Tim Hudson is suspiciously low considering that he's struck out just six times in 74 plate appearances.

    The third baseman should be the beneficiary of some BABIP justice.

     

    Sept. 30: loss

    Eventually, the Kris Medlen magic was going to wear off. He battles through seven frames, but surrenders a career-high six runs in the process.

Atlanta Braves at Pittsburgh Pirates (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: loss

    The Atlanta Braves have been very vulnerable on Mondays (4-16 this season).

     

    Oct. 2: win

    Desperate to pry a postseason rotation spot from Mike Minor, right-hander Tommy Hanson goes seven-plus innings for the first time in months.

    Dan Uggla makes several flashy defensive plays and lights up Kevin Correia like a Christmas tree.

     

    Oct. 3: loss

    Chipper Jones says goodbye to regular-season baseball by reaching base three times.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the Braves lineup combines to do the same against A.J. Burnett. The Pittsburgh Pirates finish exactly at .500, while the Braves amass 92 victories, their most since 2004.

Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres (Sept. 25-27)

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    Sept. 25: win

    Petco Park looks like a bandbox when Josh Beckett allows two solo home runs his first time through the San Diego Padres lineup.

    Momentum shifts when he comes to the plate and drives in a run. Edinson Volquez exhibits all sorts of control issues and the Los Angeles Dodgers break the game open against middle relievers.

     

    Sept. 26: win

    Clayton Richard, who's actually among baseball's best innings eaters, hands a slim lead to Huston Street. The closer was just activated from the disabled list on September 21.

    The rust shows. Andre Ethier—overjoyed to see Richard depart—launches the eventual game-winner into the Earth's mesosphere.

     

    Sept. 27: loss

    Brandon League returns to a setup role after a stint as temporary closer. He doesn't elevate a 3-2 fastball enough to Chase Headley.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Colorado Rockies (Sept. 28-30)

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    Sept. 28: loss

    Poor defense dooms the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hanley Ramirez commits a pair of errors and Shane Victorino plays a single into an inside-the-park home run.

    Jeff Francis pitches like a boss for the opposition.

     

    Sept. 29: win

    The Dodgers offense gets going immediately and Clayton Kershaw shines. L.A. wins by double digits.

     

    Sept. 30: win

    In a game he absolutely needs, manager Don Mattingly pushes all the right buttons.

    He uses reliever Shawn Tolleson for two scoreless innings and turns to pinch-hitter Dee Gordon. The speedster beats out a ground ball, steals two bases and scores on a throwing error from NL Rookie of the Year dark horse Wilin Rosario.

    A wrist injury restricts Shane Victorino from batting right-handed, but Mattingly leaves him in to battle Colorado's Matt Reynolds anyway. A bloop single plates two runs.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: loss

    Waiver deadline acquisition Adrian Gonzalez pounds the nail into the Los Angeles Dodgers' coffin.

    Constantly jumping on first pitches, the 100-plus million dollar man strands eight teammates on base over five plate appearances.

     

    Oct. 2: win

    With the pressure off, Gonzo mashes three home runs, doubling his West Coast total.

     

    Oct. 3: win

    A crazy back-and-forth finale continues into the 16th inning. Matt Kemp is among the only regulars to stay in until the end.

    He becomes the only player in franchise history with seven hits in a single evening.

Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals (Sept. 24)

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    Sept. 24: win

    Jordan Zimmermann ceaselessly pounds the strike zone against right-handed batters (9 BB allowed in 349 PA).

    That might not be a wise approach in this instance. Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart are ready to hack immediately at the heart of the Milwaukee Brewers lineup.

    The Brew Crew outslugs Washington and heads westward having won 10 of 12 overall.

Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds (Sept. 25-27)

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    Sept. 25: win

    The offense stays sizzling as the Cincinnati Reds reluctantly turn to Mike Leake. He fares poorly at Great American Ballpark and has already set a new career high for innings pitched.

    The 24-year-old records two hits, but allows 10.

     

    Sept. 26: loss

    Johnny Cueto will outduel Shaun Marcum, who hasn't looked great since being activated from the disabled list in late August.

     

    Sept. 27: win

    Catcher Jonathan Lucroy comes off the bench to extend his hitting streak and ignite a rally against fire-baller Aroldis Chapman.

    Then, Carlos Gomez scales the center-field wall in the bottom of the inning to rob Joey Votto of a game-tying blast.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Houston Astros (Sept. 28-30)

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    Sept. 28: win

    Yovani Gallardo has embraced his new role as Milwaukee Brewers ace. In the two months since Zack Greinke left, the team is undefeated in his starts.

    He has been letting batters chase pitches out of the zone (59 percent strike percentage since July 31), so it's unsurprising that the Houston Astros have twice lost to him during that stretch. 

     

    Sept. 29: loss

    Despite emerging from its midseason funk, the bullpen is still a concern. Closer John Axford is even-keeled and reassuring, but he's due to relinquish another late-game lead.

     

    Sept. 30: win

    Mike Fiers can be compared to Jered Weaver. Both have lanky builds and a variety of pitches to compensate for pedestrian velocity.

    He's too advanced for the wide-eyed Astros.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. San Diego Padres (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: win

    San Diego's Clayton Richard is an unremarkable pitcher on the road and against right-handed batters, so this may turn ugly.

     

    Oct. 2: win

    The key to Francisco Rodriguez's stellar September—in which he has allowed one measly extra-base hit—could be the increased rest in between appearances. Trust him to create a stable bridge from Marco Estrada to John Axford if he's coming off multiple days of rest.

     

    Oct. 3: win

    Ryan Braun is arguably the best big-game player in Brew Crew history. There's something about fall and the playoff atmosphere that turns his amplifier up to 11 (Spinal Tap reference).

    He'll be involved in whatever pivotal play puts Game 162 out of reach.

St. Louis Cardinals at Houston Astros (Sept. 24-26)

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    Sept. 24: win

    Allen Craig is positively scorching (six multi-hit games, 11 RBI since Sept. 13). He'll be seeing the ball like a grapefruit out of Fernando Abad's hand.

     

    Sept. 25: loss

    Bad luck has struck Jaime Garcia, whose fly balls have left the yard more often since he rejoined the St. Louis Cardinals rotation. Outfielder Justin Maxwell has the platoon advantage to help him connect with a hanging off-speed pitch and the power to launch it to the moon.

     

    Sept. 26: win

    Assuming that manager Mike Matheny lengthens the leash on Chris Carpenter, he'll relay a lead directly to the back end of the bullpen. With enough cushion, he might even go the distance.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals (Sept. 28-30)

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    Sept. 28: win

    Ample recovery time is so important for a pitcher in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. After practically a week off, Adam Wainwright is rejuvenated.

    In support of him, center fielder Jon Jay spreads base hits around the Washington Nationals outfield.

     

    Sept. 29: loss

    Kyle Lohse was thankful for a no-decision the last time he faced the Nats, but I have a hunch that 5.2 IP, 9 H and 8 R won't be acceptable on Saturday.

     

    Sept. 30: loss

    Pitching from the stretch is a position of comfort for Lance Lynn.

    However, Washington's powerful lineup produces with or without men on base. Anticipate home runs galore.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds (Oct. 1-3)

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    Oct. 1: win

    Carlos Beltran has always been a thorn in Johnny Cueto's side.

    After a couple months on offensively mediocrity, the veteran is making an impact, which means he and the NL Cy Young hopeful can resume their parasitic relationship.

     

    Oct. 2: loss

    More than 11 months removed from facing his last legitimate MLB batting order, Chris Carpenter will struggle. Whichever Cincinnati Reds are actually active for the season's penultimate game will chew him up and spit him out before the moon rises.

     

    Oct. 3: loss

    The St. Louis Cardinals won't concede their playoff spot without a fight.

    A pitcher's duel between Adam Wainwright and Mat Latos spills into extra innings. The club's bullpen arms can subdue Todd Frazier, Ryan Ludwick and Brandon Phillips. Likewise, Cincy's relievers—who have the league's lowest earned run average—don't wilt.

    But without a quality LOOGY, Jay Bryce or Joey Votto will break through.

Wild-Card Results

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    Just in case anything was unclear...

    American League Wild Cards: Baltimore Orioles (92-70) and Los Angeles Angels (91-72).

    National League Wild Cards: Atlanta Braves (92-70) and Milwaukee Brewers (87-75).