It's October. It's playoff baseball time.
In the National League, the two best teams in the regular season came from the NL West, as the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers battled for supremacy all year long. Ultimately, the Giants won the division and earned the top seed in the playoffs.
The two clubs couldn't be more opposite. The Dodgers are the defending champions and loaded with star power all over the diamond, with the biggest payroll in baseball. Nobody was surprised to see L.A. in the postseason.
The Giants, on the other hand, went just 29-31 last year and missed the playoffs. They sit a more modest 10th in payroll but were bolstered by career years from players like Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Mike Yastrzemski. San Francisco boasted an excellent pitching staff and a lineup that finished second in baseball in home runs (241).
At the start of the season, the idea that two teams would reach the playoffs from the NL West wouldn't have been a shock. But most pundits would have expected the San Diego Padres, not the Giants, to have joined the Dodgers come October.
The Dodgers got the last laugh, though, and defeated the Giants in the Division Series.
Of course, the rest of the field in the National League wouldn't be impressed by the two NL West powers. The Milwaukee Brewers were basically in cruise control since mid-September as a major threat, with a super rotation, bullpen maestro Josh Hader and a lineup built around Luis Urias and Avisail Garcia.
Still, that wasn't enough to beat the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series.
The Braves have been a model of resiliency, overcoming a season-ending injury to superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. and a number of other injuries to win their fourth straight NL East title. Not bad for a team that wasn't even above .500 until Aug. 6 and is now headed to the National League Championship Series after eliminating Milwaukee in four games.
In the American League, the drama was high in the wild-card chase, coming down to the final day of the season. Ultimately, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees got in, setting the stage for a wild-card matchup between two bitter rivals. More than a few folks at MLB headquarters were salivating over the potential ratings for that showdown.
This latest chapter in the rivalry ultimately went to the Red Sox.
The favorites, however, figured to be the Tampa Bay Rays, who were looking to return to the World Series after coming up short against the Dodgers last season. Not bad for a team with the fifth-lowest payroll in baseball. Career years from Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena and Mike Zunino helped. But the Rays have become one of the best-run franchises in baseball, if not all of professional sports.
They were still unable to replicate last year's run, as the Red Sox eliminated them in four games in the Division Series.
The Houston Astros, meanwhile, are back in the postseason for the fifth straight season and the sixth time in seven years. The Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa era is going strong but may be nearing its end with the All-Star shortstop's impending free agency. And led by Tim Anderson, 2020 AL MVP Jose Abreu and an excellent rotation, the Chicago White Sox looked to be a threat.
It turns out they weren't, as the Astros eliminated Chicago in four games and proceeded to topple the Red Sox to claim their third AL pennant since 2017.
We're in store for an exciting month. Below, you'll find the full postseason schedule.
Wild Card Series (All Times ET)
Tuesday, Oct. 5
Red Sox def. Yankees 6-2
Wednesday, Oct. 6
Dodgers def. Cardinals 3-1
Thursday, Oct. 7
Game 1: Astros def. White Sox 6-1
Game 1: Rays def. Red Sox 5-0
Friday, Oct. 8
Game 2: Astros def. White Sox 9-4
Game 1: Brewers def. Braves 2-1
Game 2: Red Sox def. Rays 14-6
Game 1: Giants def. Dodgers 4-0
Saturday, Oct. 9
Game 2: Braves def. Brewers 3-0
Game 2: Dodgers def. Giants 9-2
Sunday, Oct. 10
Game 3: Red Sox def. Rays 6-4
Game 3: White Sox def. Astros 12-6
Monday, Oct. 11
Game 3: Braves def. Brewers 3-0
Game 4: Red Sox def. Rays 6-5
Game 3: Giants def. Dodgers 1-0
Tuesday, Oct. 12
Game 4: Astros def. White Sox 10-1
Game 4: Braves def. Brewers 5-4
Game 4: Dodgers def. Giants 7-2
Thursday, Oct. 14
Game 5: Dodgers def. Giants 2-1
Game 1: Astros def. Red Sox 5-4
Game 2: Red Sox def. Astros 9-5
Game 3: Red Sox def. Astros 12-3
Game 4: Astros def. Red Sox 9-2
Game 5: Astros def. Red Sox 9-1
Game 6: Astros def. Red Sox 5-0
Game 1: Braves def. Dodgers 3-2
Game 2: Braves def. Dodgers 5-4
Game 3: Dodgers def. Braves 6-5
Game 4: Braves def. Dodgers 9-2
Game 5: Dodgers def. Braves 11-2
Game 6: Braves def. Dodgers 4-2
Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 26, Atlanta at Houston
Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 27, Atlanta at Houston
Game 3: Friday, Oct. 29, Houston at Atlanta
Game 4: Saturday, Oct. 30, Houston at Atlanta
*Game 5: Sunday, Oct. 31, Houston at Atlanta
*Game 6: Tuesday, Nov. 2, Atlanta at Houston
*Game 7: Wednesday, Nov. 3, Atlanta at Houston
All games will start at 8 p.m. ET and air on FOX.
* If necessary.