Photo from sportingnews.com/Chris Creamer
By Nick Kalantzopoulos
The Major League Baseball Postseason will begin when the New York Yankees take on the Houston Astros in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday, Oct. 6.
New York will also be represented when the Mets begin their playoff run on Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, with some big market teams ending some long, painful postseason droughts, there is plenty to look forward to:
10. Can the Texas Rangers Come Out of Nowhere to Make a Run?
According to the SportsLine Projection Model, the Texas Rangers, at 3.2 percent, have the smallest chance to win the World Series.
Considering that they do not have to play in either of the two Wild Card Games, which act as play-in games into the respective Division Series, this speaks a lot of how little faith odds makers have in the team.
The Rangers were eight games out of first place in August, but rallied, with help from their Trade Deadline acquisition, pitcher Cole Hamels, to win the American League West outright on the season’s final day.
9. How Is This A Wild Card Game?!
The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs will play on Wednesday night, in the National League Wild Card Game.
Because they were not able to win their division, the Pirates and the Cubs had to back their way into the playoffs and into this winner-take-all game. However, in an unlikely phenomenon, the Pirates and Cubs won 98 and 97 games respectively, to finish with the second and third best records in all of baseball! The only team to top them was the team that beat them in the NL Central Division, the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Pirates and Cubs settled for the 4th and 5th seeds in the National League behind the three division winners, and will try to advance on Wednesday.
Pitching for the Cubs will be Jake Arrieta, who has had an unreal second half of the season. Errata has given up only four earned runs in his last 881/3 innings, dating back to the beginning of August.
8. Can Dallas Keuchel Be This Year’s Madison Bumgarner?
Last year, Madison Bumgarner of the San Fransisco Giants carried his team on his back to win the World Series. Bumgarner pitched a complete-game shutout in last year’s NL Wild Card Game, started and won two games in the National League Championship Series, started and won two games in the World Series, including another complete-game shutout and came in relief to pitch five shutout innings to close out the decisive Game 7 of the World Series just three days after that complete game (a feat unheard of by a pitcher).
Dallas Keuchel is an AL Cy Young Award Candidate (an award given to the league’s best pitcher) this year and will pitch in the AL Wild Card Game against the Yankees on three days’ rest. He is the undisputed ace of his team and will try, much like Bumgarner, to take his team to the promised land.
7. Mets-Cardinals Rematch?
Die-Hard Mets fans cringe anytime somebody mentions the called third strike that prevented them from going to the World Series in 2006.
In Game 7 of the NLCS, in a 1-1 ballgame, Yadier Molina of the Cardinals hit a two-run home-run of off Aaron Heilman in the top of the ninth inning, and former Met (and current Yankee) Carlos Beltrán looked at a curve ball from Adam Wainwright with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth, as it bent into the strike zone to send the Cardinals to the World Series. The Cardinals went on to sweep the Detroit Tigers and win the World Series.
They have since made the playoffs an additional five times, and added another World Series title in 2011. The Mets have not made the playoffs since that infamous pitch. If the Mets and Cardinals win their respective NLDS series this year, there will be an NLCS rematch.
6. What Can’t This Blue Jay Offense Do?
On July 28, when the Blue Jays were a mediocre 50-51, General Manager Alex Anthopoulos decided to go all-in. Believing in his team, he traded for the best offensive player on the market, Troy Tulowitzki, and two days later, sprung a trade for the best pitcher on the market, David Price.
His team has soared since. Already the best offensive team in the American League, the Blue Jays decided to take on historically great offenses, putting together 891 runs for the entire season.
The next-highest this year was 764, from the Yankees. The Blue Jays finished the season 93-69, and won the AL Eastern Division.
The Blue Jays had not made the playoffs since 1993, when they beat the Philadelphia Phillies. The Jays will begin their title quest against the Rangers.
5. The Chance to See a Show-Me-Series in the World Series
Last year, both the Kansas City Royals and the St. Louis Cardinals fell to the eventual champion San Fransisco Giants in the MLB playoffs.
The Royals are looking for redemption after losing to the Giants in a decisive World Series Game 7 in their own ballpark.
This year, both the Cardinals and Royals held the best regular-season record in their respective leagues, and are trying to meet in the World Series for the first time since 1985.
4. More A-Rod Please
Perhaps the biggest story all season in the MLB was the return of Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez served a season-long suspension in 2014 after league investigations into Biogenesis, a Miami clinic which was reported to have been supplying players with synthetic testosterone and human grown hormone to more than 20 players, including Rodriguez.
Many expected A-Rod, who turned 40 during the season, to barely contribute to the team, if at all.
A-Rod went on to hit 33 home-runs, drive in 86 baserunners, and be perhaps the team’s MVP. For better or for worse, Rodriguez remains the face of baseball, and many more eyes will be watching if A-Rod is involved.
3. A Series For Pitchers
Many complain about baseball’s long hours and slow-moving games. If you are one of those people, this Mets-Dodgers series is the one for you.
This series will include perhaps the two best pitchers in baseball, and that’s just the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw is the odds-on pick to start Game 1 of this series for the Dodgers, and will undoubtedly start another game if the series were to go that far. Kershaw has won three of the last four NL Cy Young Awards and finished this season with a 16-7 record, a 2.1 Earned Run Average and was the first Dodgers pitcher to throw over 300 strikeouts in a season since Hall-of-Famer Sandy Koufax.
Following Kershaw will be Zack Greinke, the man who will probably will take the Cy Young Award from his teammate this year. Greinke finished the year with a 1.7 E.R.A, which is the lowest of its kind since the 1.6 E.R.A season of Greg Maddux, in the strike-shortened season of 1994.
The Mets will counter with their trio of hard-throwing young right-handers. Jacob deGrom, 27, flourished after after winning NL Rookie of the Year Honors last year, and pitched his way to a 14-8 record, with a 2.5 E.R.A. He has been chosen by the Mets to start Game 1 and he will pitch another Game later on in this series, if it were to get that far.
Following deGrom will be Noah Syndergaard, 23, and Matt Harvey, 26. Nicknamed Thor and the Dark Knight respectively, these two flame throwers will pitch Games 2 and 3.
Syndergaard had an impressive rookie season, compiling a 9-7 record, with a 3.2 E.R.A. Harvey, a year removed from Tommy John surgery, pitched his way to a 13-8 record, with a 2.7 E.R.A. Another potential storyline will be the limiting of Harvey, who has been monitored closely by his organization, which does not want to overthrow him after spending a year off rehabbing.
2. Is This Finally The Cubs’ Year?
Do you happen to know any 106 year-olds? Because not even they would be old enough to have witnessed the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
1908 was the last year the Cubs won it all, when they beat the Detroit Tigers for the second consecutive year. Babe Ruth had not yet played for the Yankees. In fact, Babe Ruth was 13 years old. The Yankees had zero, that’s right, zero World Series titles. There were 46 states in the Union, Jackie Robinson was almost 40 years away from taking the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers and women were 12 years away from getting the right to vote.
Seven World Series losses, one black cat and one Steve Bartman later, the Cubs will try once again for a world championship. And Mets fans think they have it bad.
1. Subway Series Part II?
Speaking of which…
This year was supposed to be a down one for both hometown teams.
The Mets had some young, promising talent, but were a year or two away from making some noise. The Yankees had just seen the retirement of Derek Jeter, a symbolic end to a golden era in the franchise’s history.
Here we now stand in October with both the Mets and the Yankees. They have faced once in the World Series, in 2000, when the Yankees were victorious, four games to one.
Before then, the last Subway Series was between the Yankees and the then-Brooklyn Dodgers, in 1956 (The Cubs World Series drought was only at 48 years). It would certainly bring something special to the city of New York to see these two teams when the lights are brightest.