October has finally arrived, but the 2017 MLB playoffs could end in a flash for two teams after the Wild Card Round.
Anything can happen in a one-game playoff, which makes the American League and National League contests must-watch television. Each game will also feature an ace that could give the home teams an even greater advantage to move onto the divisional round.
How can you watch these showdowns? Check out the television and live-stream schedules for the sudden-death round.
AL Wild Card Viewing Guide
Matchup: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees
When: Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN and MLB.tv
NL Wild Card Viewing Guide
Matchup: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks
When: Wednesday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch TBS and MLB.tv
Twins at Yankees Preview
It is not a secret that the Yankees' youth movement is legit.
Between the historic season from Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez's emergence as arguably the best hitting catcher in baseball, New York took what looked like a rebuilding year and turned it into a postseason berth. Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2017 was Luis Severino's transformation into an ace.
The 23-year-old was a disaster last season, going 3-8 with a 5.83 ERA in a year that saw him demoted to Triple-A and later reduced to a bullpen role upon his return to New York. This season, Severino became one of the most electric arms in baseball, posting a 14-6 record, 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts in 31 starts.
As a result, Severino will get the start Tuesday, and he's been among MLB's best shutdown pitchers this year. Even though the New York Post's Dan Martin noted that Severino has never pitched in a playoff game of any kind in his life, his play this season shows his stuff is perfect to keep his team in contention in a one-game setting, per ESPN Stats and Info:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Luis Severino's MLB-leading 16th start of the year allowing 1 run or fewer, and more from @EliasSports https://t.co/PIeX3rgSit https://t.co/0q7FwbYqHQ2017-9-28 14:00:02
That is bad news for the Twins, who will trot out veteran Ervin Santana to keep their season afloat. Santana has been a solid top-of-the-rotation guy for the bulk of his career, but the Yankees have not been kind to him. In 20 starts, Santana is 6-10 with a 5.66 ERA against New York.
Still, Santana does not seem fazed by his poor history with the Yankees, as WFAN 660's Sweeny Murti relayed Monday:
Sweeny Murti @YankeesWFAN
#Twins Ervin Santana, when told he has 0 wins (6.43 ERA) in six career starts at Yankee Stadium: “So tomorrow is going to be one.”2017-10-2 19:43:00
This New York team is certainly capable of making him pay for a bad outing as it ranks second in MLB with 858 runs scored on the year. The long ball is where the Yankees can create the most havoc since they led the league with 241.
Making matters worse is the strength of the Yankees bullpen. Loaded with elite arms like Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman and David Robertson, New York's relievers ranked third in MLB with a 3.34 unit ERA. This takes pressure off of Severino to throw more than six innings since the Yankees can turn to the bullpen at any time down the stretch Tuesday.
Relief pitching has been an issue for the Twins, who rank 22nd in that category with a 4.40 ERA.
The signs clearly point to New York as the better team, but anything is possible in a one-game series. Expect a close contest throughout, but look for the Yankees bullpen to be the difference in the late innings.
Rockies at Diamondbacks Preview
Perhaps no team in baseball presents a more challenging top of the order than the Rockies, who have three players with an average over .300 in Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and D.J. LeMahieu. Arenado and Blackmon each clocked 37 homers on the year, while Mark Reynolds and Trevor Story also hit at least 24 jacks each on the year.
This should make for an excellent matchup with Arizona ace Zack Greinke, who was 17-7 in 2017 with a 3.20 ERA. He did not end the season on the highest note, though, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:
Bill Shaikin @BillShaikin
Zack Greinke, Arizona starter in NL wild card game, final 2 starts of regular season (combined): 8 IP, 15 H, 10 R, 4 HR.2017-9-30 02:45:43
Greinke has still shown the ability to turn it on come October as he posted a sparkling 2.38 ERA in his last six postseason starts, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Colorado may need to score to help pick up Jon Gray, a 25-year-old set to make his playoff debut Wednesday. The No. 3 pick in the 2013 MLB draft began to look like a star this season, putting up a 10-4 record and 3.67 ERA in 20 starts, with 15 of those coming after the All-Star break.
Gray is 2-1 against the Diamondbacks on the year, but his two victories came in Arizona. In those wins, Gray conceded 14 hits and four runs in 13 innings. Under normal circumstances, that would be enough support for Colorado's offense, but that may not be the case with Greinke on the opposing hill.
The Diamondbacks boast an all-world player in Paul Goldschmidt, who blasted 36 homers and 120 while hitting .297 this season. J.D. Martinez helps as a stout hitter at the top of the lineup, while leadoff man David Peralta and power hitter Jake Lamb give Arizona a formidable attack.
Arizona's dominant home record gives it an advantage in this game. The Diamondbacks were 52-29 at home on the year, putting them behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers as the best mark in baseball. A Colorado team that relies on the long ball is destined to falter away from Coors Field, which makes the Rockies a volatile team in the postseason.
Throw in that Arizona is starting a more reliable option in Greinke, and the Diamondbacks have to be favored Tuesday. As long as Greinke does not get sloppy with location and allows some bombs, Arizona should advance.
Statistics are courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.