MLB Playoffs 2013: Higher Seeds That Will Not Advance
Most of MLB's playoff races were over early, but the Cleveland Indians are one team that will not be able to defend its home field in the playoffs.
The National League field was set early last week, so battling for home-field advantage was the only thing up in the air. The St. Louis Cardinals came from behind to grab the NL's top seed, and the Pirates earned the right to play at home.
The top five teams in ERA all came from the NL, and they all made the playoffs.
In the American League, the wild cards went down to the wire. Cleveland managed to surprise many by surging into the playoffs, while the second spot will be decided Monday night in a do-or-die game between the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays.
Fans of each wild card team are nervous as their teams head into the one-game playoff. Home-field advantage is nice to have, but anything can happen in one game.
Check out below for the group of higher seeds that will fail to advance.
|Round||Matchup (AL)||Round||Matchup (NL)|
|Wild Card||No. 5 Tampa Bay Rays/Texas Rangers vs. No. 4 Cleveland Indians||Wild Card||No. 5 Cincinnati Reds vs. No. 4 Pittsburgh Pirates|
|ALDS||WC Winner vs. No. 1 Boston Red Sox||NLDS||WC Winner vs. No. 1 St. Louis Cardinals|
|ALDS||No. 3 Detroit Tigers vs. No. 2 Oakland A's||NLDS||No. 3 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 2 Atlanta Braves|
No team enters the postseason hotter than the Indians. At the end of August, they trailed the Tampa Bay Rays by 4.5 games for the final playoff spot. They went 21-5 in September and won their final 10 games to earn the right to host the AL Wild Card Game.
Given the Indians' September schedule, which best describes the team?
However, the level of competition hasn't been tough. Of their eight series in the final month, five came against losing teams—the New York Mets, the Chicago White Sox (twice), the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins. Since September 6, Cleveland has played six games against winning teams. The Tribe lost four of those six games against the Kansas City Royals.
The Indians haven't faced a playoff team since the first day of September. They finished a six-game stretch against the Atlanta Braves and the Detroit Tigers with a 1-5 record.
After an easy schedule to end the season, the Indians are in for a rude awakening. This is a team that struggled to beat the Astros at home just over a week ago. Now that the Indians will face a tough team, it's unclear how they will respond.
Rookie Danny Salazar will get the start. It's a big task for a guy who has pitched only 52 innings in the majors.
The "Windians" may be on a roll, but they will be overmatched against a tough opponent.
The winner of the weekend series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates earned the right to host the one-game playoff. The Pirates swept the series, which means Tuesday night's game will be played in Pittsburgh.
Southpaw Francisco Liriano will get the nod. He has had a great comeback season, and the left-hander is 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA at PNC Park this year. However, his numbers against the Reds this season aren't good. Liriano is 0-3 with a 3.70 ERA against Cincinnati, including two games in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have lost all four of his starts against the Reds.
On the other side, Johnny Cueto will be the starting pitcher for the Reds. The right-hander has owned the Pirates this year and throughout his career. He has allowed one run on only three hits through 12.1 innings at PNC Park this season. Cueto had to leave the first start early with an injury and nearly threw a no-hitter in the other game. The ace is 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA in 21 career starts against the Pirates, including an 8-2 record with a 1.90 ERA in Pittsburgh.
Cueto has allowed only one run in 12 innings since returning from the disabled list.
Getting home-field advantage was more important for the Pirates. Cincinnati has an offense that can score in any park, but Pittsburgh would've benefited from playing in a smaller park. The fans in Pittsburgh should help early on. However, Cueto will be able to shut the Pirates down while his offense gives him some support.
The top two pitching staffs in the majors will square off in the National League Division Series. The Atlanta Braves led the majors in ERA during the regular season thanks to a dominant bullpen. The Los Angeles Dodgers easily posted the best ERA by any rotation.
With so much great pitching, it will be up to the offenses. Atlanta ranked in the bottom third of the league with a .249 average. The Braves struck out the third-most times of any team baseball but led the NL in home runs. That's a dangerous combination to live by in October.
Who wins this series?
Although Atlanta went 5-2 against the Dodgers this year, that record is misleading for a couple of reasons. For starters, they were done playing each other by early June. That was a week or so before the Dodgers took off. Also, Clayton Kershaw did not pitch in either series, and Zack Greinke won his only start.
If this series were to go five games, Kershaw would likely pitch twice and Greinke would get another shot at the Braves. The chances of the Braves winning more than one of those games is unlikely.
Both pitchers have a Cy Young award to their name and are pitching like it. Kershaw led the league in ERA, strikeouts and average against. His 1.83 ERA is incredible, and it will likely earn him a second Cy Young. Greinke has lost only one game since the end of July, and he allowed only one run over six innings in that loss.
Los Angeles has the deeper lineup and stronger rotation. It has to be viewed as the favorite in this series despite having to play on the road. Along with the Texas Rangers, the Dodgers led majors with 45 road victories.
It was a good season for the Braves, but their style of offense will struggle to win in October.
All stats are courtesy of MLB.com.
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