The MLB Postseason is upon us, but before the Wild Card Games are played, division titles are still up for grabs in the NL.
There’s something different about October baseball. The air is crisper and the stakes are higher. Each pitch is a crescendo of tension. That’s the MLB Postseason and there’s nothing like it.
But the postseason isn’t completely set yet. Baseball fans will get to see two divisional tiebreakers in the NL Central and the NL West. The dust has settled and the Milwaukee Brewers will take a hop, skip, and a jump to Chicago to meet the Cubs (1:05 p.m. ET, ESPN) while the Colorado Rockies will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Dodgers (4:09 p.m. ET, ESPN).
All four teams have technically qualified for the postseason, but the teams are squaring off for the right to avoid the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Monday’s games aren’t do-or-die, but the winners will have a significant advantage over whichever team emerges from the Wild Card Game.
The National League race was a mess in the most beautiful way. The tiebreaker games for the Central and the West add intrigue to the entire dynamic of the National League pennant race. It’s one more game that teams will need to use a top-tier starter and everyone in the bullpens will be on call.
The winner of the Dodgers/Rockies tiebreaker will take on the Braves in the NLDS. The Braves fell one game behind the two NL West squads so they will travel West for Game 1 on Thursday.
For the first time since 2013, the Braves are dancing in October. The Braves were a perennial power in the NL during the 90s and early 2000s, but they are in the midst of a significant drought. Atlanta hasn’t won a postseason series since they beat the Houston Astros in the NLDS in 2001.
The other side of the bracket is where things get chaotic. The winner of the Cubs/Brewers game on Monday will have home-field advantage in the NLDS. MVP-hopeful Christian Yelich will look to continue his insane hot streak in Chicago and help the Brewers capture their first division title since 2011. The loser will play at home against the loser of the Dodgers/Rockies game.
So it’s possible that the Brewers and Cubs could reunite for a five-game series a few days after playing a one-game tiebreaker. Whichever team emerges from the NL Wild Card Game will be absolutely gassed. All four teams sprinted down the finish line. The managers have a brutal task ahead with their pitching staffs.
The American League doesn’t bring the same chaos of the National League, but the AL brings the heavy hitters. Three 100-win teams enter the fray in the AL. The Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, and New York Yankees cruised to 100 wins each.
But don’t forget about the 91-win Cleveland Indians who are only two years removed from Game 7 of the World Series. Bringing up the rear are the Oakland Athletics, but they don’t seem like the normal underdog-type second-place Wild Card team. The A’s second-half surge helped the A’s reach 97 wins. That number would be enough wins to top every division in baseball outside of the AL East and the A’s own AL West.
Oakland will travel to the Bronx on Wednesday to take on the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game (8:00 p.m., TBS). The Yankees are seasoned veterans of the one-game affair. They sent the Minnesota Twins home losers last year but fell to the Astros and Dallas Keuchel back in 2015.
The Yankees are returning to the postseason, but they’re bringing fresh new faces with them. Giancarlo Stanton will taste the bright lights of the postseason for the first time in his career. Rookie sensations Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres will get their chance to shine.
The winner of that game has the misfortune of traveling to Boston to take on the 108-win Red Sox in the ALDS. Despite the historic regular season, Boston needs to exorcize their postseason demons, particularly among the pitching staff. The triumvirate of Chris Sale (0-2, 8.38 ERA), David Price (0-1, 4.50 ERA), and Rick Porcello (0-1, 7.56 ERA) has yet to have any postseason success with Boston. All three pitchers are looking to get the monkeys off their backs.
On the other side, the Houston Astros will host the Cleveland Indians. Houston enters the series as the favorite. They’re the reigning World Series champions and they showed no signs of a hangover this year.
The AL Central was atrocious this season. The Indians were the only team above .500 in the division and they coasted for much of the year. But could they flip the switch in the postseason and shock the defending champs? Crazier things have happened. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are absolute studs who are capable of carrying Cleveland to the ALCS. If the bullpen can hold it together, don’t be surprised to see this one go five games.
As a whole, the MLB Postseason is wide open. The chaotic National League is up for grabs. The American League is deep with 100-win teams. There’s just something different about October baseball. Enjoy it while it’s here.