MLB Wild Card: The Final Week

The MLB WIld Card playoffs begin October 1 with the National League’s Wild Card playoff. This is new this year as two teams will be Wild Card teams and will play one game to determine who plays against the division champion with the highest winning record. Today that is Atlanta with 92 wins, but that could change this week as St.  Louis has 91 wins and LAD has 90 wins. Of equal interest is the fact that the two wild card teams have identical records at 89-67 and are 8-8 in their season series, the first tie breaker to determine home field advantage. Pittsburgh and CIncinnati play each other the last three games in Cincinnati, so they probably will not know where the wild card game will be played until the final game is played. Of course, that depends on how Pittsburgh does on the road against the Cubs and Cincinnati does at home against the Mets. Both are three game series, and we won’t know who the winner plays until next week. Atlanta has a one game lead as the highest rated division winner, and that will probably hold.

In the American League, the situation is not so clear as to the Wild Card team, but the Red Sox have a two game lead, so the Wild Card winner will play in Fenway Park October 2.  Who will be that winner? Tampa Bay has a .5 game lead over Cleveland but plays the extra game today against Baltimore. (The “extra game” is one brings Tampa Bay even in games played.)  They then finish on the road against the Yankees and Toronto. Cleveland has the easy schedule and that is why I picked them to be a Wild Card team, as they play the White Sox and Twins, and both of those teams are playing poorly. In short, we won’t know where the Wild Card game will be played until next weekend. I think it will be in Cleveland, but the Indians have played poorly at Minnesota this year. If either of these teams falters, the Rangers are only 1.5 games behind and play Houston and LAA at  home for the final seven. They could easily sweep Houston, but the Angels will be trying to finish over  .500, so will be into it. Anything can happen here, and I have seen too much baseball to predict what will happen in this close finish, but he winner will play in Fenway Park against the very good Red Sox.

The wild card in these races is how each team did in the inter-league games they played this year. Teams play twenty such games, but play against different teams unlike intra-league games where they play the same teams and intra-division games where they play each team nineteen times. The Indians are 11-9, Rays 12-8 and Rangers 10-10 in these games. (In the National League, Cincinnati was 11-9 and the Pirates 15-5.) Inter League games have an effect, but the telling factor this week is that Tampa Bay is on the road where they were -3 this year and Cleveland plays two at home where they were +20 and then four on the road where they were also -3.

The season started April 1, and we only had ideas of how it would end. (My predictions are in the archives, if you wish. Remember they were written when there was still a foot of snow on my yard.) So we are in the last week. In short, who knows what gifts baseball has for us this week, but it will be interesting. The Division Chamionship starts as soon as these Wild Card games are played and then we will have the League Championship Series, and then the World Series to follow. For the LCS and WS, I only ask for three seven game series with the last game played on October 31. It is appropriate that the last game of the World Series may be played on Halloween; Trick or Treat is the way the game is played.

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