Just a few weeks stand between baseball and the Fall Classic as the Wild Card Series starts tonight.
First up is the American League game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros at 8pm Eastern. The Yankees are leaning on Mashario Tanaka and his 3.51 ERA to lead them to the division series while the Astros will look to Dallas Keuchel, the league’s only 20-game winner. For New York, team members have already said they are playing for pitcher CC Sabathia, who checked into a rehab facility Monday for alcohol treatment.
The winner of the game will face Kansas City, the AL representative in the World Series in last year’s playoffs and owner of the best AL record.
And while fans of both teams are focused on that one-and-done game, most of baseball is keyed in on the Wednesday night game featuring the resurgent Chicago Cubs and the pesky Pittsburgh Pirates.
The two division rivals have owned the two Wild Card spots for much of the season, though Pittsburgh held a larger margin over Chicago until September when the Cubs gained ground. The venue for this game was in question heading into the last day of the season when Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati to secure home field for Wednesday’s game.
The Cubs are on an eight-game winning streak and look to make it nine when they put Jake Arrieta up against Gerrit Cole. Arreita owns an unheard-of 0.45 ERA in September and holding his opponents to a .148 batting average. They Cy Young candidate has only lost once since the All-Star break when Philly’s Cole Hammels tossed a no-hitter. Cole hasn’t pitched as well, but is still enjoying an impressive 2.60 ERA and beat the Cubs earlier in September. This is Chicago’s first appearance in the playoffs since 2008 and the third straight for the Bucs.
In an ironic twist of fate, though, the two NL Wild Card teams enjoy the second- and third-best records in baseball, behind the team they’d face if they win on Wednesday.
The St. Louis Cardinal will be awaiting the victor for the NL Divison Series and they have practically dominated the season in baseball and look to do the same in the playoffs.
As for the other two division series games, they are set and ready to start later this week. Thursday night, the Texas Rangers head to Toronto to start a best-of-five series against the Blue Jays. The Rangers haven’t decided on a pitcher yet, but the Blue Jays will go with their ace David Price.
The NLDS matchup that is already set is between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have home-field advantage in this round so the Mets will be traveling to Los Angeles. First pitch for this game is going to be 9:30pm Eastern on Friday.
Unlike other sports that schedule the next round near the completion of the current one, Major League Baseball has already determined the schedule throughout the playoffs. American Leagues Championship Series will begin October 16 while the National League Championship Series starts October 17. The World Series is slated to start October 27.