The new MLB playoff format will have the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals, oddly enough, rooting for the team they will soon be trying to eliminate.
Aren't sports just grand?
Sure, members of the No. 1 seed Yankees and Nationals will undoubtedly give the common answer of "we don't care who we play, we're just happy to be here," but you just know they have a preference as to which wild card team they have will have to beat three times over the next week.
Let's take a look at who each division champ will be rooting for during Friday's play-in games.
New York Yankees
On paper, the simple answer is "NOT THE RANGERS."
Texas is the only team in the AL to score more runs than the Yankees with 4.99. They are second in batting average at .273, trailing just the Angels. Their starters, at least in terms of name recognition, appear much more dangerous than Baltimore's. The bullpen is stacked. They have made it to the World Series the past two years.
But not so fast.
New York actually has a better record this year against Texas (4-3) than it does against Baltimore (9-9). Throw in the fact that the Rangers are faltering (4-8 in their last 12) and the Orioles aren't (7-5), Baltimore's endless supply of power hitters (214 home runs to Texas' 200) and statistically superior pitching staff, and this is far from a no-brainer for the Yankees.
In the end, however, this one comes down to playoff experience. I think the Yanks would much rather face a young Baltimore squad than a veteran, twice-in-a-row-to-the-World-Series Rangers team that is ready to bash in some heads after blowing its AL West lead.
Congrats on making it to the playoffs for the first since 1991 (when you were the Montreal Expos), Washington. For your present, you either get to face a scorching Atlanta squad or the defending World Series champs, who also happen to be scorching.
As with the Yankees, the Nationals have a similar record against both teams (10-8 against Atlanta, 4-3 against St. Louis), but there's no way they want to face the Cardinals right now.
There's just something about having to play in Busch Stadium in the playoffs, about having to deal with the damn squirrel and about the Cardinals always busting out some weird magic around this time that should make Washington nervous.
Yes, the Cardinals are a much different team than last year, but they are still superior in the hitting department (4.72 runs per game to 4.32, .271 BA to .247) to the Braves and not that far off on the mound (3.71 ERA to 3.42).
For the first time all season, don't be surprised if the Nats are rooting for their division rival.