Bring on the playoffs.
With a memorable baseball season in the books, eight teams still have dreams of World Series glory to chase, and the parity in this year's postseason is impressive. Just seven wins separates these eight teams, and just five wins separates the particularly tight American League.
Let's take a closer look at how the wild card and divisional rounds will play out.
Wild Card Round
Any one-game playoff is incredibly difficult to predict, because, well, it's baseball, and crazy things can completely affect the outcome of a single game.
In the National League, each team has certain advantages. The Pittsburgh Pirates are at home, for instance, and went 11-8 against the Cincinnati Reds (including a three-game sweep to end the season). The momentum lies with the Pirates.
But momentum in baseball is the next day's starting pitcher, and for the Reds, that falls on Johnny Cueto, who has pitched just twice since going on the disabled list in June. Meanwhile, the Pirates will go with Francisco Liriano, their ace this year.
Everything points to Pittsburgh in this one.
In the American League, the Indians come into this game red-hot, having won 10 in a row and 15 of their last 17. They'll avoid David Price after he pitched against the Texas Rangers on Monday and Matt Moore as well, though Alex Cobb did beat them in April.
Still, I like the Indians to survive the one-game series.
Prediction: Pirates and Indians move on.
The Detroit Tigers are my World Series pick, so I have to stick to my guns here. For as solid as the Athletics rotation is, I don't think Oakland has an answer for Detroit's top three of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez.
Add in the fact that nobody in baseball has an answer for Miguel Cabrera, and I see the Tigers winning in five.
The Indians have had a wonderful season, but their run will end against the Boston Red Sox. Boston has too much balance in its lineup and a good enough rotation to get past an Indians team that is only going to get better as their young stars gain experience. Boston takes it in four.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to handle the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta can't match LA's one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, though the Braves bullpen is excellent. Oh, and before you worry about Matt Kemp being shelved for the duration of the season, remember that the Dodgers were 42-8 without him this year.
The Dodgers win in four.
Finally, we turn to the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, with Pittsburgh holding the slightest of advantages in the season series, 10-9. The balance of the Cardinals is pretty impressive, and having Adam Wainwright potentially for Game 1 and Game 5 could be the difference.
The Pirates have an excellent pitching staff, but would it be enough to quiet the bats of the dangerous Cardinals? St. Louis is plenty familiar with the postseason, and that experience gives the Cards the edge here. They take it in five.
Prediction: Tigers, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cardinals advance.
Here's a full look at the bracket and schedule for this year's postseason:
|NL Wild Card||Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates||Tue, Oct 1||8 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|AL Wild Card||Tampa Bay Rays @ Cleveland Indians||Wed, Oct 2||8 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 1||NL Wild Card @ St. Louis Cardinals||Thu, Oct 3||5 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 2||NL Wild Card @ St. Louis Cardinals||Fri, Oct 4||1 p.m.||MLBN||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 3||St. Louis Cardinals @ NL Wild Card||Sun, Oct 6||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 4*||St. Louis Cardinals @ NL Wild Card||Mon, Oct 7||TBD||TBS or MLBN***||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 5*||NL Wild Card @ St. Louis Cardinals||Wed, Oct 9||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 1||Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves||Thu, Oct 3||8:30 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 2||Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves||Fri, Oct 4||6 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 3||Atlanta Braves @ Los Angeles Dodgers||Sun, Oct 6||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 4*||Atlanta Braves @ Los Angeles Dodgers||Mon, Oct 7||TBD||TBS or MLBN***||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 5*||Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves||Wed, Oct 9||TBD||TBS|
|Game 1||AL Wild Card @ Boston Red Sox||Fri, Oct 4||3 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 2||AL Wild Card @ Boston Red Sox||Sat, Oct 5||5:30 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 3||Boston Red Sox @ AL Wild Card||Mon, Oct 7||TBD||TBS or MLBN***||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 4*||Boston Red Sox@ AL Wild Card||Tue, Oct 8||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 5*||AL Wild Card @ Boston Red Sox||Thu, Oct 10||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 1||Detroit Tigers @ Oakland Athletics||Fri, Oct 4||9:30 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 2||Detroit Tigers @ Oakland Athletics||Sat, Oct 5||9 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 3||Oakland Athletics @ Detroit Tigers||Mon, Oct 7||TBD||TBS or MLBN***||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 4*||Oakland Athletics @ Detroit Tigers||Tue, Oct 8||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 5*||Detroit Tigers @ Oakland Athletics||Thu, Oct 10||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 1||TBD @ TBD||Fri, Oct 11||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 2||TBD @ TBD||Sat, Oct 12||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 3||TBD @ TBD||Mon, Oct 14||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 4||TBD @ TBD||Tue, Oct 15||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 5*||TBD @ TBD||Wed, Oct 16||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 6*||TBD @ TBD||Fri, Oct 18||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 7*||TBD @ TBD||Sat, Oct 19||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 1||TBD @ TBD||Sat, Oct 12||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 2||TBD @ TBD||Sun, Oct 13||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 3||TBD @ TBD||Tue, Oct 15||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 4||TBD @ TBD||Wed, Oct 16||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 5*||TBD @ TBD||Thu, Oct 17||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 6*||TBD @ TBD||Sat, Oct 19||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 7*||TBD @ TBD||Sun, Oct 20||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 1||NL Champion @ AL Champion||Wed, Oct 23||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 2||NL Champion @ AL Champion||Thu, Oct 24||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 3||AL Champion @ NL Champion||Sat, Oct 26||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 4||AL Champion @ NL Champion||Sun, Oct 27||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 5*||AL Champion @ NL Champion||Mon, Oct 28||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 6*||NL Champion @ AL Champion||Wed, Oct 30||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
|Game 7*||NL Champion @ AL Champion||Thu, Oct 31||TBD||FOX||Postseason.TV|
*** "TBS will air three of the four Division Series games on Friday, October 4 and up to three games on Monday, October 7. MLB Network will air one Division Series game on both of those dates. TBS will air 18 of the 20 Division Series games" (via MLB.com).
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