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Playoff Reset: The AL Wild Card Game

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We kick off the postseason on Tuesday evening with the AL Wild Card game. Both teams will vie in this best-of-one game for the right to face the Rangers in the ALDS.

The Game: Baltimore Orioles @ Toronto Blue Jays, AL Wild Card game
The Time: 8:08 PM EDT
The Place: Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Chris Tillman (Orioles) vs. Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays)

The Lineups:

The Upshot:

  • From 1995 to 2012 — with the exception of 2008 — the big-budgeted Yankees were the AL East hegemony.  Towards the latter half of that era, the big-budgeted Red Sox came into the picture and created a two-headed beast. But for the last four years, there has been much more parity in the division. The Jays, Orioles, and even the Rays have won the AL East crown at least once in the last four years. Yes, the Red Sox won the division again this year, but the Blue Jays and Orioles have shown they are no flashes in the pan. It would not be surprising if the winner of the AL Wild Card game advanced far into the playoffs. It’s good to see some new AL East blood challenging the balance of power even without the massive payrolls of the Red Sox and Yankees.
  • Both the Orioles and Blue Jays have formidable power. The O’s finished first in the American League, blasting 253 home runs during the regular season. The Jays came in third at 221. Both teams had six players cross the 20-homer threshold. The O’s lay claim to AL home run champ Mark Trumbo, who finished the season with 47 of his own. While both starting pitchers tonight are no slouches, neither is a venerated ace, so we could see plenty of dingers.
  • With the exception of closer Zach Britton, who is in the conversation for the AL Cy Young Award, the Orioles have had pitching issues all season long. Kevin Gausman led the rotation with a 3.61 ERA which is decent but high for a team leader. As a team, Orioles pitchers averaged 4.41 runs per game, only slightly better than the 4.47 league average. Comparatively, the Jays shined at 4.11, the best mark in the league.
  • Since the introduction of the current Wild Card format in 2012, the winning team in the Wild Card game has advanced past the Division Series in four of eight series. The Royals and Giants were both Wild Card teams in 2014 and the Giants went on to win the World Series. The Royals would win it the next year but after having won the division.
  • The Rogers Centre roof will be open for the first time in a postseason game. According to Weather.com, the temperature is supposed to drop to a low of 60º with 87 percent humidity and a 10 percent chance of precipitation. The wind is expected to blow east (towards right field) between 10 and 20 MPH.

Though the Blue Jays and Orioles have certainly helped shake things up in the AL East, if this continues, we’re dangerously close to AL East fatigue. Even the Yankees were in Wild Card contention until the final few days of the regular season — and that was after selling at the trade deadline. Rivalries might develop past the point of team specificity, more generally towards divisions. Instead of saying, “just not the Yankees or Red Sox,” we might soon say, “just not the AL East.”

As for tonight’s game, I’ll pick the Blue Jays edging the Orioles in a bit of a slugfest. I like the Jays’ bullpen better than the Orioles’ because I don’t think the O’s will have a lead to hand Britton nor will the game be tied in extra innings. Let’s say 8-6 Jays. Feel free to post your predictions in the comments.

Cardinals beat Brewers, both clinch postseason berths

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. LOUIS — Harrison Bader tripled and homered to help the St. Louis Cardinals clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season with a 5-2 win over Milwaukee, and the Brewers also earned a playoff spot Sunday via help on the West Coast moments later.

St. Louis (30-28) will be the fifth seed in the NL and open a three-game wild-card series at San Diego on Wednesday. By winning, the Cardinals avoided having to travel to Detroit for two makeup games Monday. St. Louis finished the regular season with 23 games in 18 days as it made up a slew of postponements caused by a coronavirus outbreak in the clubhouse.

“You had to throw some of the expectations out the window not knowing what to expect after taking those couple weeks off and all those doubleheaders and so many new guys,” Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. “It was very different, very fulfilling to make the playoffs.”

The Brewers (29-31) locked up the eighth seed and a third consecutive postseason berth after the Padres beat San Francisco 5-4 in a game that ended about 15 minutes after St. Louis’ victory. The Giants finished with an identical record as the Brewers but lost out on a tiebreaker due to an inferior intradivision record.

“It’s fitting for 2020 and everything we went through,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said. “It felt just as good as past years. This year’s a unique one. There’s so many challenges we had to go through on a daily basis behind the scenes, things you don’t deal with in a normal year.”

Milwaukee will face the top-seeded Dodgers in Los Angeles in a three-game series that also starts Wednesday.

The Brewers haven’t had a winning record at any point this season. Milwaukee and Houston will be the first teams ever to qualify for the playoffs with a losing mark.

“It’s a celebration,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’re in the playoffs. That’s how you see it. There’s no reason to apologize for getting into the playoffs.”

Cardinals starter Austin Gomber allowed one run, one hit and two walks and struck out three over four innings.

Giovanny Gallegos (2-0), Genesis Cabrera and Alex Reyes combined to pitch the final five innings. Reyes got his first save.

“We’d have been happy getting in as the eight seed,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We’d have been happy being the one seed, but people can say we got in if there was no expanded playoffs so that’s even another feather in this group’s cap.”

Brett Anderson (4-4) surrendered a triple to Bader and a walk to Tyler O'Neill to start the third inning before departing with a blister on his left index finger. Anderson opened the season on the injured list with a blister on the same finger and did not make his debut until Aug. 3.

Freddy Peralta replaced him a day after being activated from the paternity list, and O’Neill promptly stole second. Kolten Wong then hit a line drive off Peralta’s leg that Peralta threw into right field to score Bader and O’Neill.

Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong each added RBI singles to push the St. Louis lead to 4-0.

After Milwaukee scored in the top of the fifth, Bader hit his fifth home run of the season.

“That was a big counterpunch,” Shildt said of Bader. “Got them on their heels again.”

THREE TIMES THE FUN

Yadier Molina grounded into a triple play in the eighth inning when he hit a one hop grounder to Jace Peterson at third base in the eighth inning. It was Milwaukee’s first triple play since Sept. 23, 2016, when Cincinnati’s Joey Votto lined out to first base. Molina was also the last Cardinals player to hit into a triple play when he grounded out to third base at Boston on Aug. 15, 2017.

TRAINING ROOM

Brewers: Counsell said it was too early to prognosticate Anderson’s status after departing with the blister.

Cardinals: St. Louis president of baseball operations John Mozeliak announced that RHP Dakota Hudson will have Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Monday. Hudson went 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA in eight starts before leaving his start on Sept. 17 at Pittsburgh with right elbow discomfort after two innings.

UP NEXT

Brewers: The Brewers head to Los Angeles and will likely be without two of their top starters in Anderson and Corbin Burnes, who sustained a left oblique injury on Thursday.

Cardinals: This will be the fourth postseason series between St. Louis and San Diego, who faced each other in 1996, 2005, and 2006 in the Division Series.