It's the month Reggie Jackson made famous. It's October and time for playoff baseball.
We're down to nine teams left in the ALDS and NLDS with Wednesday night's matchup between Tampa Bay and Cleveland serving as the final Wild Card game before baseball's elite eight are set. You can't predict baseball, but let's give it a shot as we look ahead to the four Division Series.
For a complete 2013 playoff schedule, check out MLB.com.
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Matchup: (1) Boston Red Sox vs. (4) Cleveland Indians/(5) Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays enter Wednesday night's tilt at Cleveland still riding the high of their Game 163 win behind David Price's gem in Texas. But the Indians enter their first postseason since 2007 as the hottest team in baseball, winners of 10 straight and 15 of 17. Coupled with their home crowd at Jacobs Field, the Indians look poised to knock Tampa Bay out of the Wild Card game on Wednesday.
There's something special going on in Cleveland this year—they've taken to calling it 'Believeland'—but the magic stops in the ALDS. The Red Sox are simply too deep across the board and feature arguably the best lineup in baseball, one which posted an MLB-best 853 regular-season runs, 57 more than the second-place Detroit.
Boston general manager Ben Cherington deserves a ton of credit for bringing in veteran players (and beards) like Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, who helped change the culture of the clubhouse and turned the Red Sox into baseball's best team during the regular season. Big Papi David Ortiz led the charge with his 30 homers, 103 RBIs and .309 average, and the Red Sox had eight players hit at least 12 home runs and three more with nine each. That's power.
Cleveland's pitching, especially the back end of the bullpen, has been mediocre this year and it will be tough to slow down this Red Sox lineup.
Matchup: (2) Oakland Athletics vs. (3) Detroit Tigers
It's a rematch of last year's entertaining five-game ALDS and it figures to be a good one again in 2013. Tigers ace Justin Verlander clinched the Game 5 victory last year with a complete-game gem in front of a raucous Oakland crowd, telling reporters afterwards that it was one of the toughest environments he'd ever competed in.
As loud as it was last year, it's going to be even crazier on Friday night when the two teams open up in Oakland. The A's have decided to remove tarps from the upper deck of the stadium, increasing the capacity from around 36,000 to roughly 48,000. That's a lot more rowdy A's fans.
The Tigers (3.56 ERA) and the A's (3.61) currently boast the AL's best team ERAs among the surviving teams (shoutout to the Royals who finished No. 1), but the homefield advantage and the scrappy who-the-heck-are-these-guys A's will be too much for the Tigers and their powerful roster.
Matchup: (1) St. Louis Cardinals vs. (4) Pittsburgh Pirates
How 'bout those Pittsburgh Pirates?
After 21 long seasons of losing, postseason baseball finally returned to the Steel City on Tuesday night. Everyone at PNC Park threw on their favorite Pirates shirt to make a sea of black and heartily heckled the Reds to help lift their beloved Bucs to a postseason victory.
Pirates fans should enjoy the good times while they can because the St. Louis Cardinals are coming. They don't have a single player who recorded 25 home runs or 100 RBIs, but what they lack in top-heavy hitting they make up in depth.
You know all about Matt Holliday (.300, 22 HRs, 94 RBIs) and Carlos Beltran (.296, 24 HRs and 84 RBIs), but what about Matt Carpenter (.318, 11 HRs, 78 RBIs) and Allen Craig (.315, 13 HRs, 97 RBIs)? With a powerful pitching staff (3.42 team ERA) and arguably the top catcher in the game with Yadier Molina, the Cardinals are a well-rounded outfit.
Certainly expect the Pirates to make this one interesting—the crowd for Game 3 in Pittsburgh should be alive—but the Cardinals are just too solid.
Winner: St. Louis
Matchup: (2) Atlanta Braves vs. (3) Los Angeles Dodgers
With the ascent of Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers became the national media darlings of baseball, catching fire down the stretch as a nearly unstoppable force. Meanwhile, the Braves and Cardinals were quietly battling for the best record in the National League for most of the year.
This series pits baseball's top two pitching staffs against each other, as the Dodgers put together a 3.18 team ERA and the Braves were just behind at 3.25. It will be tough for Atlanta to conquer Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, but the Dodgers will be without the services of Matt Kemp (ankle) for the postseason while Andre Ethier is battling his own ankle injury and could be relegated to a pinch-hitting role in the NLDS.
Kershaw and Zack Greinke may have the star power in LA, but Atlanta's unheralded starter trio of Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11 ERA), Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21) and Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20) will eventually swing the series to the Braves.