MLB Playoff Schedule 2013: Previewing Wild Card and Tiebreaker Matchups

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2013: Previewing Wild Card and Tiebreaker Matchups
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The National League Wild Card race didn't have as much drama as the American League, but the matchup in the senior circuit is still tantalizing.

Here's a look at the tiebreaker and Wild Card schedules for both leagues, per ESPN.

*Watch postseason baseball live on TBS.com or your mobile device.

 

American League Tiebreaker

Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers, 8:07 p.m., Monday, Sept. 30, on TBS

 

National League Wild Card Game

Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates, 8:07 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 1, on TBS

 

American League Wild Card Game

Rays/Rangers at Cleveland Indians, 8:07 p.m, Wednesday, Oct. 2, on TBS. Entire schedule at MLB.com.

After the AL sorts out its mess, the Pittsburgh Pirates will host the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card game. The Reds will send Johnny Cueto to the mound while the Pirates counter with 16-game winner Francisco Liriano.

Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Pirates are hoping that Liriano's fortunes change against Cincinnati. In four starts against the Reds this season, the 29-year-old lefty is 0-3 with an ERA of 3.73. He pitched well enough to win in all but one of those starts, though.

Cincinnati touched him up for five earned runs in just 4.1 innings in a 5-3 Reds' win on July 19. 

Despite Liriano's unsuccessful recent history against the Reds, manager Clint Hurdle is handing the ball to his ace in the must-have game. We'll see if his decision pays off.

Reds manager Dusty Baker should have no reservations about turning to his ace.

Cueto has only had 11 starts this season, with two of them against the Bucs. On May 31, Cueto silenced Pittsburgh with eight shutout innings in a 6-0 win by the Reds. Cueto left his first start against Pittsburgh in the fifth inning with a strained tricep, per ESPN.com, after allowing just one earned run in a Pirates' 3-1 victory.

Who wins the National League Wild Card game?

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Only two starts removed from his most recent stint on the disabled list, Cueto has been red hot since he returned to the Reds' rotation. In those two starts, he went 1-0 with an ERA of 0.75 as the Reds won both games.

Liriano's ERA over his last two starts is 4.15 with the Pirates dropping both games. The edge on the mound clearly belongs to the Reds.

With all three of Cincinnati's top hitters batting from the left side, you'd think Liriano would have had more success against them.

However, in Liriano's four starts against the Reds, he hasn't been hurt by Joey Votto, Jay Bruce or Shin-Soo Choo. The trio did their damage later in Liriano's starts against the Pirates' bullpen. A combination of a lack of run support and bullpen ineffectiveness doomed the Pirates in those games.

What happens on Tuesday? My answer is that it will be much of the same.

I expect Cueto and Liriano to be sharp, but the Reds' bullpen has been stellar all year. Aroldis Chapman, Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover and Alfredo Simon all have ERAs below 3.00. That group will again be the difference and push the Reds into the National League Division Series.

 

Texas and Tampa Bay Will Settle Things

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Before the American League Wild Card game can take place Wednesday night, the Cleveland Indians first have to find out who they will face. While the Tribe secured their spot as the home team in the Wild Card game, the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers finished the season with identical 91-71 records.

They will meet on Monday night to decide who advances to Progressive Field.

Cleveland finished the regular season on a 10-game win streak, so no postseason opponent is in a hurry to play them at this point. No matter who wins the tiebreaker game, the Indians will be heavy favorites to reach the AL Division Series.

The matchup between the Rangers and the Rays features two talented lefties on the mound. Rays ace David Price has had a down season by his standards at 9-8, but his track record speaks for itself. He's 70-39 for his career, but hasn't done well against the Rangers.

Price is just 1-4 with an ERA of 5.98 during the regular season against the Rangers and 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA against them in the postseason. Rays manager Joe Maddon has to be hoping that Price is right on Monday.

Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

The Rangers would love to have Yu Darvish on the mound for such an important game, but the team's ace pitched 5.2 innings on Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels to help secure a spot in the NL tiebreaker.

Neither Price nor Perez have faced their opponents this season. That unfamiliarity should actually favor both pitchers in this matchup, at least early on. Price's woes against the Rangers haven't come against this particular Texas lineup, so he could reverse his career trend against the Rangers.

Who will reach the AL Wild Card game?

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The Rangers and Rays rank seventh and ninth, respectively, in the AL in runs scored, so neither has been an offensive juggernaut this season.

However, when looking at the lineups, the Rangers are more formidable from top to bottom. Adrian Beltre has been everything for Texas and has more protection in the lineup around him than Evan Longoria has in the Rays' lineup.

Tampa will have to depend heavily on rookie Wil Myers to complement Longoria in providing a one-two punch for the Rays.

That is too much to put on a rookie. Price will pitch well, but the Rays still won't get the win. Look for the Rangers to win a pitchers' duel behind late-game clutch hitting, most likely after Price has already hit the showers.

As exciting as these one-game situations will be, it is just the beginning of the MLB postseason. Prepare for a wild ride.

 

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