MLB Playoff Schedule 2013: Early Look at Each Divisional Series Matchup
If the MLB playoffs are anything like the end of the regular season, this is certain to be an exciting month.
A number of teams refused to lose down the stretch to force their way into the playoff picture. The Cleveland Indians earned a Wild Card spot thanks to 10 wins in a row, while the Texas Rangers forced a one-game playoff after winning seven straight.
In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs after closing the season with six straight wins.
These squads and others are clearly playing as well as ever, and it is going to create a competitive battle to win the 2013 World Series. However, we have to take one step at a time, so here is a look at the upcoming Divisional Series matchups that will take place in the coming weeks.
Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Matt Kemp will miss the postseason due to an ankle injury, but the team has not been relying on him all year. The centerfielder played in less than half the games this season and only hit six home runs.
Instead, a number of other veteran hitters will try to carry the squad offensively. While Yasiel Puig has gotten the headlines, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez have been the steady forces keeping the team intact.
These players are certainly more reliable than the ones in the Braves lineup. Chris Johnson had a great season and Freddie Freeman can hit anything, but the team had the most strikeouts in the NL while only batting .249 as a team.
With elite pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke leading the rotation, the Dodgers have a good chance of slowing down the opposing bats.
The only way Atlanta will be able to win this series is if they get on the board quickly and allow the dominant bullpen to close down leads late.
|3||Sunday||Oct. 6||Los Angeles|
|4||Monday||Oct. 7||Los Angeles|
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates/Cincinnati Reds
After these three NL Central teams battled all season long, it is only fitting that they would be the ones to knock each other out in the playoffs.
The Pirates and Reds will first compete in a one-game playoff to see who has a right to play in the NLDS. Pittsburgh will send Francisco Liriano to the mound, who has an 8-1 record at home this year with a 1.47 ERA.
While Johnny Cueto has made two solid starts since returning from the disabled list, he will not be able to keep up on the road and Cincinnati will be eliminated.
This leaves a matchup between one of the more experienced postseason teams remaining against the least. The Cardinals reached the playoffs for the third year in a row, winning the World Series in 2011. Conversely, the Pirates haven't gotten this far since 1992.
If nerves do not slow down Pittsburgh, a lack of depth will. Andrew McCutchen put together an MVP-caliber season, but there are few other reliable hitters in the lineup. Even Pedro Alvarez can disappear for long periods of time.
On the other hand, St. Louis has pitchers and hitters who have done this before, and the squad will be able to advance over whichever club they face.
|1||Thursday||Oct. 3||St. Louis|
|2||Friday||Oct. 4||St. Louis|
|5||Wednesday||Oct. 9||St. Louis|
Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
Oakland might have posted the better regular-season record, but this team has been in a similar position before. This will be the seventh playoff appearance for the Athletics since 2000, leading to only one series victory.
A big problem in these cases has been the lack of elite hitting and pitching. While the team as a whole might perform well over the course of a season, the playoffs are all about talent and who can make a play when you need it.
The A's have some quality power hitters in the lineup, but few guys you can trust with the game on the line. That especially goes for the pitching staff, which has a lot of good players but few great ones.
Meanwhile, the Tigers have a 21-game winner (Max Scherzer), the AL ERA leader (Anibal Sanchez) and the 2011 AL MVP (Justin Verlander) all in the same rotation.
With studs like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder leading the offense, this team can go a long way.
Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays/Texas Rangers/Cleveland Indians
It has been a crazy end to the season for the three teams trying to get a spot in the series.
No matter who wins the play-in game between the Rays and Rangers, the Indians have the big advantage in the next game. Not only do they get to avoid the travel, but the team is red-hot with 10 wins in a row and will be able to play at home, where they are 51-30 this season.
That being said, even the Indians will struggle to advance beyond the Red Sox in the next round.
Boston had by far the best offense in baseball this season, scoring 57 more runs than anyone else in the league. Five different players ranked in the top 16 in the American League in batting.
Although the rotation has question marks, none of the teams the Red Sox might face in the first round have the pitching to slow down the lineup. This will allow Boston to continue to at least the ALCS and possibly more.
|3||Monday||Oct. 7||Tampa Bay/Texas/Cleveland|
|4||Tuesday||Oct. 8||Tampa Bay/Texas/Cleveland|
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