MLB Playoffs 2012: Best and Worst Matchups for Yankees and Nationals

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IOctober 5, 2012

Oct. 2, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Raul Ibanez (27) high fives shortstop Derek Jeter (2) after hitting a two-run home run during the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Yankees win 4-3 in 12 innings. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

The New York Yankees and Washington Nationals await the winners of the wild card games after capturing the top seeds in the American League and National League respectively.

The Yankees went 95-67 this season behind an explosive offense, capturing a competitive AL East.

The 98-64 Nationals rode a sterling starting rotation throughout the season, but have ignited offensively after right-handed flame-thrower Stephen Strasburg was shut down.

But which team would the Yankees and Nationals rather face out of the wild card games?

Here's a breakdown of their best and worst matchups.


Washington Nationals

Best: St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals may have recently taken two out of three against the Nationals, but I'm not convinced they will be able to sustain the same kind of offense in the postseason.

St. Louis posted a combined 22 runs in its two wins against the Nationals in late September. That was despite ranking seventh in the National League in runs scored after the All-Star break (339).

There's no doubt that the Cardinals have a solid pitching staff themselves, but, when it comes down to it, I don't think they'll be able to outscore the Nationals in a series.


Worst: Atlanta Braves

The Braves not only have the pitching staff to counter the Nationals' offense (2.87 team ERA after the break, best in the NL), they have been rolling lately (48-29 in the second half of the season). 

I know Atlanta went 3-4 against Washington in the first half of the season, but this is a different Braves team that has momentum on its side.

That includes having right-hander Kris Medlen as a starter, who was a reliever in the first half. Medlen has posted a 0.94 ERA and 0.82 WHIP in 19 games in the second half (12 starts). He's gone 9-0 in his 12 starts.


New York Yankees

Best: Texas Rangers

You would think the Rangers would be a bad matchup for the Yankees based on New York's shaky rotation and Texas' high-octane offense, but there's more to the equation than that.

For one, the Yankees went 4-3 against the Rangers this season (including 3-1 in the second half), while they went 9-9 against the Orioles (including 4-6 after the break).

Also, the Rangers posted a mediocre 41-35 record in the second half, including a sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics to end the regular season. They have been struggling lately.

On top of that, Texas' pitching staff ranked ninth out of 14 American League teams in team ERA after the break (4.29)—the Yankees ranked second in the league in runs scored after the break.


Worst: Baltimore Orioles

As noted, the revitalized Orioles have been a challenge for the Yankees this season.

On top of that, Buck Showalter's club has gone 48-29 while posting the fifth-best team ERA (3.73) in the AL in the second half. Baltimore has the pitching and momentum to give New York trouble in the postseason.

This is a completely different team than the 69-93 squad from last season and everybody, including the Yankees, should be worried about them heading into the playoffs.


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