It only took two months for this MLB season to go into playoff mode after COVID-19 delayed the start of the season until July when the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees started off the shortened season at Nationals Park, and the first game of the season was shortened due to inclement weather, leading to a Yankee win in 5 innings as they already had the lead by then. Eventually, the Yankees would return to the playoffs for the fourth-straight year while the Nationals were eliminated, preventing them from defending their crown.
With that, a shortened 60-game season led to most teams returning to the playoffs after being in it last season, while teams that were not in it last season return. Here are the seeds for both leagues:
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Oakland A’s
- Minnesota Twins
- Cleveland Indians
- New York Yankees
- Houston Astros
- Chicago White Sox
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Atlanta Braves
- Chicago Cubs
- San Diego Padres
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Miami Marlins
- Cincinnati Reds
- Milwaukee Brewers
The MLB Wild Card, which is a best-of-3 series this season instead of the usual single-elimination game, begins with the 8 AL playoff teams facing off against each other Tuesday, September 29. Here are my picks for each wild card series and my prediction series results beyond that, leading up to the World Series and the winner.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Rays return to the playoffs for the second year in a row after they won at Oakland in last year’s Wild Card game, then lost in 5 games in the ALDS to the Houston Astros. They return looking stronger than ever with Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton leading the rotation for the the Rays, while Matt Shoemaker, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Taijuan Walker will be the starting pitchers for the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays fought hard in the last week, owning the series against the Yankees and Orioles to return to the postseason for the first time since 2016. Batting power is high for both teams, but with the Rays as the top-seed, there’s little that Tampa Bay can make a playoff push like the Lightning in the NHL are doing.
PREDICTION: Rays win 2-0
Oakland Athletics vs. Chicago White Sox: While the A’s return to the postseason for the third year in a row, the White Sox find themselves back for the first time since 2008. The A’s look for revenge after the lost the last two wild card games to the Yankees and Rays while the White Sox look to capture their 4th World Series title after their last title in 2005 ended an 85-year drought. Jesus Luzardo has the start in Game 1, his first postseason start after having the 2nd-most K’s as a rookie with 59 in his 12 games, starting 9 of them, and will face the White Sox’s Lucas Giolito, who made 97 K’s and struck out 11 in his last start at Cleveland last week. Chris Bassitt, who had a 2.29 ERA in 11 games this season, will start Game 2 against Dallas Keuchel, the former Astros and Braves pitcher, who had a 1.99 ERA in his 11 games. Then, if necessary, Game 3 will play with pitchers TBA. The White Sox nearly locked up the AL Central, but fell to the first wild card and do not seem to have too much of an edge against the A’s, who are hungry to go beyond the wild card.
PREDICTION: A’s win 2-1
Minnesota Twins vs. Houston Astros: Apparently, what the cheating scandal has done to Houston was lead to Verlander unavailable for the postseason, miss out on another AL West title, and drop to the worst 2nd-place division team in the AL. With that in the mind, the best options for the Astros in the wild card will be Zack Greinke, who was acquired midseason from Arizona last season, to start Game 1, followed by two more pitchers TBA, while Twins have their rotation for the wild card completely set with Kenta Maeda to start Game 1, followed by Jose Berrios and then Michael Pineda. The Astros have struggled during the season, with Jose Altuve, the hero of the 2019 ALCS Game 6, following to a near-.200 battle-average. With the Twins’ pitching looking tough and not having to worry about playing the Yankees to start the postseason this year, they will find an answer against the reigning AL champs.
PREDICTION: Twins win 2-0
Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees: These teams have recent playoff history from the 2017 postseason, where the wild card Yankees initiated a series comeback in the ALDS coming back from a 2-0 deficit to shock the Indians in Game 5. Things may be different this time around, but let’s explore more of it. The Yankees failed to defend their AL East crown, but return to the playoff for the fourth year in a row, while the Indians return following an absence from the postseason last year thanks to a pitching rotation led by Triple Crown-winner Shane Bieber with 8 wins, a 1.63 ERA, and 122 K’s during the 60-game season, while the Yankees find a starting pitcher that leads the others in Gerritt Cole, the former Astro, who came to the Bronx on a huge mega-deal. Along with Cole, Masahiro Tanka will face Carlos Carrasco in Game 2 while if necessary, Zach Plesac will face a Yankee pitcher TBD. The Yankees’ batting slacked off to end the regular-season while the Indians had multiple walk-offs in the final week. Game 1 will be explosive and may force Game 3 at Progressive Field. If the Yankees have to use their bullpen in Game 3, it will be tough but the Yankees, led by the leader in AL batting average and HR’s DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit, can come through when it matters. History favors the Bronx Bombers, and I can see them coming through in elimination like last time.
PREDICTION: Yankees win 2-1
Los Angeles Dodgers @ Milwaukee Brewers: This is the 2nd postseason meeting in 3 seasons between LA and Milwaukee, with the last meeting coming in the 2018 NLCS. Even with the loss of Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler have been one of the many reasons the Dodgers once again have the best record in the entire MLB. Kershaw, who missed the first game of the season with a back injury, is expected to start Game 2 while Buehler will start the series for the Dodgers as the Brewers are still undetermined with who will be starting until the series begins on Wednesday. Even so, the Dodgers can overpower the Brewers as Christian Yelich has not had his name called by many people during the season.
PREDICTION: Dodgers win 2-0
Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds: The Braves achieve a three-peat as NL East champions, but have still struggled in that 3-season span to go beyond the NLDS, and it was no better last season when the Cardinals smoked them in Game 5 of the NLDS last season. Max Fried is starting for the Braves in Game 1 while Games 2 and 3 have not been determined yet, especially with Mike Soroka still out for the season after he played for only three games with his last on August 3. The Reds will begin Game 1 with Trevor Bauer, an NL Cy Young award candidate with a 1.73 ERA and 100 K’s during the regular season, while Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray are expected to start for Games 2 and 3. While the rotation for the Reds can be tough, the Braves’ batting power, led by Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna, Jr., may prove too much for even that dangerous starting rotation to overcome.
PREDICTION: Braves win 2-1
Chicago Cubs vs. Miami Marlins: The Cubs return to the postseason after missing out on it last season, while the Marlins make their 3rd-ever postseason appearance, and they may be the most interesting team to watch during the postseason as their last two playoff appearances resulted in World Series wins in 1997 and 2003. One thing is for sure, the rotation for Miami has helped and batters who were signed during the season due to COVID-19 came through for the Marlins and are showing this to be a dream season. For the Cubs, Yu Darvish, who is considered a candidate for the NL Cy Young award, has shown why the Cubs can go far along with longtime veteran pitcher Jon Jester. With Jason Heyward leading the team in batting average with a .265 average, the Cubs could get past Miami, but it will be difficult against the Marlins’ starting rotation in Alcantara and Lopez.
PREDICTION: Cubs win 2-1
San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Along with the White Sox, the Padres make their long-awaited return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006. During the season, the Padres quickly caught fire and found themselves in the top-10 in batting average, runs, and homers. The Padres were led by Manny Machado in his second season with San Diego and led the team in batting average with a .304 average, while another exceptional player is the NL Rookie of the Year candidate Jake Cronenworth with a .285 average along with 20 RBI’s and 26 runs. While the rotation for the wild card is still TBD for the Padres, the Cardinals have Kwang Hyun Kim, Adam Wainwright, and Jack Flaherty to lead the rotation with batters such as Paul Goldschmidt and Yadier Molina to lead the lineup. However, with the Padres on a big streak, the Padres’ batting may overpower the Cardinals’ rotation and slip into the NLDS.
PREDICTION: Padres win 2-1
Here are my quick picks for the rest of the postseason:
NLDS: Dodgers over Padres (3-1) and Braves over Cubs (3-2)
ALDS: Yankees over Rays (3-2) and Twins over A’s (3-2)
NLCS: Dodgers over Braves (4-2)
ALCS: Yankees over Twins (4-2)
World Series: Dodgers over Yankees (4-3), MVP – Mookie Betts