Ten teams remain after the 2015 162-game Major League Baseball season. This is the first part of my full baseball playoff preview and predictions starting with the wild card one-game-series.
American League Wild Card: Houston Astros v. New York Yankees
Tuesday – October 6 – 7:00 pm CT
Yankee Stadium – New York
Believe it or not, but playing in Yankee Stadium gives the Astros more of an advantage than the home team. Houston is tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for the most home runs in MLB and they will take advantage of the hitter friendly field. Not that the Yankees don’t get their share of home runs, but their batting lineup is left-handed dominate and will match up against the left-handed, AL Cy Young front runner Dallas Keuchel (who gave up zero runs against the Yankees this season, according to ESPN). Masahiro Tanaka will take the mound for the Yankees.
Prediction: Houston Astros
The Astros win games with the long ball and Yankees’ pitcher Masahiro Tanaka gave up 25 home runs this season (tied for 9th most in the AL). Both teams had shaky Septembers so the all important momentum is up in the air. If the Yankees get to Keuchel early, look for the Yankees to attack the recently struggling Astros bullpen.
National League Wild Card: Chicago Cubs v. Pittsburgh Pirates
Wednesday – October 7 – 7:00 pm CT
PNC Park – Pittsburgh
This is a perfect example of the addition of the second team in the wild card series working. The Pirates (98-64) had the second best record in the NL just in front of the third best Cubs (97-65). With the old wild card rules, the third best team in the league does not make the postseason. Two Cy Young contenders as the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta will face off against the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole.
Prediction: Chicago Cubs
It’s unfortunate that this series is decided by one game. These teams are 2 and 2A in the league and in a five-game or seven-game-series, the edge would go to the Pirates. However, with a game on the line the advantage goes to Arrieta and the Cubs. This young clutch hitting team can turn it up in a one-game-series. The only concern is the lack of playoff experience on the Cubs that the postseason veteran Pirates could capitalize on. It would not be surprising if the Pirates win this game. Whichever team wins, expect a competitive series with the depleted St. Louis Cardinals.
An additional note on this series and division
The Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs have the best records in the league, respectively. In a maximum of six games, the three best teams will be reduced to one.
Come back to read my predictions on the division series after the wild card games have concluded which will include the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays match up.
*All stats and numbers courtesy of MLB.com.