Be honest: You've been waiting for October to finally get interested in baseball again.
The 162-game slog of the regular season is too long for you, but you love the drama and intrigue involved in every pitch of the postseason.
The next month of baseball is expected to be must-watch television, starting with the Wild Card Games on Tuesday and Wednesday at Yankee Stadium and Chase Field.
If you've put baseball on the back burner since you watched Aaron Judge clobber a bunch of baseballs at Marlins Park in July, let us catch you up on who the favorites to advance to the World Series and eventually win it all actually are.
Wild Card Games
Right off the bat, you would think the home teams have the ultimate edge in the winners-take-all contests on Tuesday and Wednesday. But that would be your first mistake in choosing a winner.
Since Major League Baseball introduced the wild-card game to the postseason format, seven road teams have come out victorious, including the San Francisco Giants a year ago. The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates, 2014 Kansas City Royals and 2016 Toronto Blue Jays are the only home teams to win a wild-card game.
The Minnesota Twins have absolutely nothing to lose on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, and the New York Yankees have everything to lose with the pressure on their shoulders from the home crowd. The Twins are the feel-good story, and Ervin Santana is a postseason veteran, but we'll take the Yankees and their lineup here.
Over in the National League on Wednesday night, a pair of divisional foes face off in the Wild Card for the fourth time since 2012. The Colorado Rockies enter Wednesday's game 10 years after Matt Holliday famously scored the game-winning run in a tiebreaker playoff against the San Diego Padres. However, the Rockies will see an uphill climb against Zack Greinke and an Arizona Diamondbacks team that went 52-29 at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks appear to be the easy pick to win and advance to play the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It won't be hard to get pumped to watch all four divisional series in 2017. All eight teams have the capability to win the World Series, and you could argue the No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed series could have been the championship series in each league.
The ALDS begins on Thursday, with the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros facing off and the Cleveland Indians hosting the winner—who we think will be the Yankees. Boston and Houston will throw the heavyweights of the pitching game on the mound throughout the series, which means offense could come at a premium. The series could come down to which young bat takes advantage of the situation and wins it for his team. George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are just three of the options for the Astros, and one or more from that core should be able to squeeze out the series.
Regardless of how the AL Wild Card game ends up, the Indians will be seen as the favorite to advance back to the ALCS. The 22-game winning streak sparked Cleveland at the perfect time, and Terry Francona's bunch is more than hungry to get back to the World Series and end the team's championship drought. Cleveland has three 17-plus winners in its rotation in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, and they'll be hard to beat in a five-game series.
The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals will be involved in a heavyweight battle to advance to the NLCS. If you use recent history to support your pick, the Cubs are the easy selection, especially since the Nats haven't advanced past the NLDS in their history. However, the Nats have improved most aspects of their roster, and this series could easily go five games. We'll give the Cubs the slightest of edges due to their big-game pedigree from a year ago.
Will the Dodgers finally get over the hump and win a World Series with their roster? That's the question everyone has entering October. Even though dispensing of a divisional foe will be tough in five games, the Dodgers should take care of business behind their young core in the lineup and their tremendous rotation led by Clayton Kershaw.
Each of our predicted championship series pits a team that was in the World Series a year ago against a welcome challenger.
The Indians won five of their six regular-season meetings with the Astros, but all of those matchups came before June. The result of this predicted ALCS could come down to usage of the bullpens. Francona meticulously used his last postseason, and he has a strong group led by closer Cody Allen. Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson and the rest of the Astros bullpen—none of them are slouches either. But will they be able to record the key outs against the experienced Cleveland lineup. Until we're proven wrong, we have to pick the Indians.
If you think we're going to be vanilla and pick a World Series rematch, think again. Although Cubs-Indians II would be great, we think this is finally the year for the Dodgers to contend for a World Series and win it all. Facing Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill and a dominant closer in Kenley Jansen would be difficult for any team. The Dodgers also have an incredible young core led by Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson that has been waiting to shine on the big stage for quite some time.
If our predictions play out to perfection—and they rarely do in October—one team will be ending a decades-long World Series drought. The Dodgers last won the title in 1988, and the Indians have been waiting since 1948 to hoist another trophy.
The teams are evenly matched, and the thought of a Kershaw vs. Kluber Game 1 pitching showdown can only get you excited for the World Series. The pitching matchups for each game will be heavyweight bouts, which means small ball and matching up relievers with certain batters will take center stage.
The Dodgers finished with the best record in baseball, so they would have home-field advantage in this potential series with the Indians. Dave Roberts' ballclub won two games of a three-game set in Ohio back in the middle of June, but the Indians were able to tag Rich Hill for seven earned runs in four innings in a 12-5 win to close the series.
Either team would be a great selection for World Series champion, but the Dodgers have loaded up their rotation and have young prospects peaking at the perfect time to make a run to a championship. Sorry, Cleveland fans, but your baseball misery will have to extend to four losses in a row in the World Series.
Prediction: Dodgers over Indians in 6.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.