Wow, what an amazing finish to the regular season.
Both Wild Card teams were decided on the final day of the regular season. The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves all had to win to, at minimum, force a one-game playoff for the final postseason berth in each league.
While the St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up their game with ease, the Atlanta Braves were not so fortunate, falling to the Phillies in extra innings and sending the Cardinals to the postseason to face off against the Philadelphia Phillies. In Milwaukee, the Brewers and the Arizona Diamondbacks meet in their quest for the National League Pennant.
In the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays came roaring back from a 7-0 deficit to win in 12 innings on an Evan Longoria walk-off homer (after Dan Johnson tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a homer of his own).
The Boston Red Sox failed to nailed down the win against the Baltimore Orioles with their star closer, Jonathan Papelbon, taking the blown save and loss into a long offseason in Beantown.
The Rays will now face off with the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers. In the Bronx, meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees square off in their own quest for an AL Pennant and a trip to the 2011 World Series.
Thanks to Bodog.com, we have the Vegas odds for each team's projected chances to win the Fall Classic.
Let's take a quick look at Major League Baseball's elite-eight.
The Arizona Diamondbacks will be looking to continue riding the hot-hands of ace pitcher Ian Kennedy and star outfielder Justin Upton into their first round match-up against the Milwaukee Brewers.
They will need solid pitching to shut down the Brewers power-packed lineup and timely hitting of their own to defeat a Brewer rotation that was upgraded last offseason and strengthened with the midseason trade for reliever Francisco Rodriguez.
The Diamondbacks are the underdog and with good reason in this series.
I don't personally see them making it out of the first round, but then again, I said the same thing about last season's NL West Division Champs, and we all know what happened there.
If the Diamondbacks are going to win, they will need Upton and Kennedy to continue their regular season successes, as well as a breakout series from rookie Paul Goldschmidt and mid-season acquisition Aaron Hill.
Vegas has the odds of the DBacks winning the World Series currently at 14/1.
The Cardinals came roaring back from an 8.5 game deficit in the Wild Card standings to overtake the Atlanta Braves on the final day of the season. Can they continue their hot play for another few weeks and make a run all the way to an NL Pennant?
A World Series appearance would certainly go along way in their offseason attempts to re-sign Albert Pujols.
They may feel the loss of Adam Wainwright more so in the short-series of the postseason than they did all regular season. Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia are a very capable 1-2 punch in the rotation though.
They would benefit greatly from Edwin Jackson going on one of his hot streaks and showing that no-hit capability he flashed last season.
The Cardinals have a very tough draw in the Phillies, though.
The Phillies build their rotation specifically for the playoffs and will be very hard to overcome.
I like to root for the underdog, but I just don't think the Cards have enough, even with Pujols anchoring their lineup.
I don't think the 9/1 odds Bodog.com gave the Tampa Bay Rays does them justice.
The way the Rays finished the season,coming back from 7-0 to stun the Yankees in extra innings, thus taking the Wild Card from the Red Sox, could give them the confidence necessary to make a deep run into October.
I really like the Rays 1-2-3 in the starting rotation: David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson.
If they continue to get timely hitting from their lineup, I like their chances against the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers.
Let's see if Evan Longoria, Dan Johnson, Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist and Johnny Damon have enough magic left in their bats to make this a special run.
The Texas Rangers will have their work cut out for them if they are going to make it back to the World Series.
Their first task is to cool off the streaking Tampa Bay Rays as they look to move into the ALCS for the second straight season.
The Rangers don't have Cliff Lee this season, but C.J. Wilson, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando make up a very good 1-2-3 to match up against the Rays top three starters.
The Rangers also clearly have the edge offensively behind Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and the reigning AL MVP, Josh Hamilton.
It won't be an easy road back to the World Series, but the Rangers are certainly built for postseason success.
Bodog.com has their odds of winning the World Series at 8/1.
This is probably the Brewers only chance to win a World Series with Prince Fielder on the team, although a championship with Milwaukee could sway him to re-sign.
The Brewers offseason acquisitions of Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum will be put to the test in the postseason along with their ace, Yovani Gallardo.
Offensively, the Brewers are stacked with MVP candidates Fielder and Ryan Braun, along with Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart in the middle of their lineup.
They will be challenged in game one by Cy Young candidate Ian Kennedy of Arizona, but the Brewers actually outmatch the Diamondbacks on paper and should find themselves in the National League Championship series hoping to advance to the Fall Classic.
Their odds of winning the whole thing, according to Vegas: 15/2
It's time for likely AL Cy Young lock Justin Verlander to take his regular season 24-5 record and 2.40 ERA to the bright lights of the postseason and New York.
Verlander is the key reason the Tigers clinched the American League Central title this season as he was simply lights out for the entire year.
Doug Fister provided the Tigers with an 8-1 record and 1.79 ERA following his trade to Detroit from the Seattle Mariners as well, and forms a very formidable 1-2 punch in the rotation for the Tigers.
Unfortunately there is a drop-off from there.
The Tigers lineup features Miguel Cabrera, Johnny Peralta and the very surprising (this season) Alex Avila.
They will need to count on Verlander and Fister shutting down the Yankees if they are going to advance, though. The Yankees simply have the better offense, by far.
The Bodog.com odds of the Tigers winning the World Series are 7/1.
Pretty much everyone's favorite to come out of the American League and compete in the World Series, the New York Yankees are considered to have a 4/1 chance of winning the World Series for their record 28th championship.
Despite their pitching drawing attention as a question mark throughout parts of the regular season, they are set up nicely behind C.C. Sabathia and Ivan Nova. The new all-time saves leader, Mariano Rivera, will be making his regular appearances out of the bullpen for New York, nailing down save opportunities every chance he gets.
The Yankees lineup is easily the most feared in this postseason. AL MVP contender Curtis Granderson, Mark Texeira, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and of course, the captain, Derek Jeter, will do their best to ruin the Tigers party and advance to the ALCS in hopes of clinching the pennant.
The Phillies became the favorite to win the World Series before the year even began with their rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton. It is no surprise that they are the still the favorites 162 games later.
Halladay, Lee, Hamels and Oswalt make up the best four-man rotation of any of the remaining eight teams. Their opposition will have to face an ace-caliber pitcher every game throughout the playoffs.
Their lineup is also a heavyweight, featuring Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez and their mid-season acquisition, Hunter Pence.
The Phillies were also considered the favorite last season before being booted from the playoffs by the San Francisco Giants. Their biggest challenge may come in the form of the Milwaukee Brewers if both teams advance to the NLCS.
Bodog.com and Vegas have the Phillies as better than 2/1 probability of winning the World Series (actual odds are 9/5).
I certainly can't say I disagree with the pick at this point. We'll have to watch and see how all eight teams fare as the series unfold to see if Vegas got things right, or if we will need to rewrite the odds.
One thing is for sure, if the playoffs have the same excitement as that very meaningful final day of the regular season, this will be a fun few weeks of baseball.