Major League Baseball Playoffs

Major League Baseball Playoffs

Peyton Rohr, staff writer

October is finally here! As fall approaches, so do pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween, and the best of all – playoff baseball. The 162 game MLB regular season came to an end on October 5 and the all-new Wildcard series will begin on October 7. The playoff format expanded from 10 teams to 12 teams this year, and the one game wildcard play-in has been expanded to a best 2 out of 3 series.

On the American League side of the bracket, both the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros received first round byes past the wildcard series since they had the 2 best records. The 2020 world series runner-up Tampa Bay Rays received a 6 seed and will face off against the Cleveland Guardians in the first round. The Guardians are an interesting team who relies on small ball (bunts, singles, baserunning,etc) rather than home runs and power. It will be intriguing to see how they fare against a seasoned Rays team. The winner of this series will play a tough Yankees team, with Aaron Judge, who just set the American League record for single-season home runs with 62. It will be extremely difficult to beat the Yankees, which is why I see them in the AL Championship Series and going all the way to the World Series. On the bottom of the bracket, the 4 seeded Toronto Blue Jays will play the 5 seed Seattle Mariners in their first playoff appearance since 2001. As hard as it would be to not to root for the Mariners,  I think I have to give this matchup to the Blue Jays, who are led by one of the best hitters in baseball, 2 time All-Star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The winner of this matchup will play the Houston Astros who are probably the most controversial team in baseball in light of their 2017 cheating scandal.

Despite being surrounded in controversy, the Astros have proven themselves to be one of the best teams in baseball for the last few years, making deep playoff runs for 5 straight years. With their history in pressure situations, I see the Astros facing the Yankees in the Championship Series but ultimately falling to the world series hungry Yankees. Moving over to the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies(6) will play the St.Louis Cardinals(3) in the opening round. The Cardinals are hoping for a storybook ending for Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, two greats who are both retiring at the conclusion of this season. Pujols recently hit his 700th career home run, entering an elite club with Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth. I can’t help but root for the Cardinals, as the legacy of Pujols and Molina is hard to ignore. However, the winner of this series plays the defending champions in the Atlanta Braves. I don’t think either team will be able to defeat the Braves and their stacked pitching lineup led by starter Max Fried and a solid bullpen.

The other wildcard series is between the San Diego Padres(5) and the New York Mets(4). This series will be interesting because the Padres have been one of the most inconsistent but great teams in baseball. On paper, they should have dominated this year, with Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and a stacked pitching rotation. However, Tatis was not a factor all season, battling injuries and a steroid suspension. They even acquired 2022 home run derby champion Juan Soto midway through the season. The Padres seem to be peaking at the right time, but there are still some questions about their performance in big moments. I am extremely interested in this series in particular, since Mets ace, Jacob DeGrom has not been his peak self after coming back from injury. DeGrom will be a key to postseason success for the Mets and once he is firing on all cylinders, he gives his team a chance to win. No matter who wins this series, they have a tough draw against the heavy favorite to win it all in the Los Angeles Dodgers. They lead the MLB in and set a franchise record with 111 wins.

I think the Dodgers will win the Division Series and it will be a great series against the Braves, but I see the Dodgers taking it home and even winning the world series title. While I may be biased as a Dodger fan, it is hard to ignore their success and absolute domination of the historically tough National League West. One key to success for the Dodgers is going to be clutch hitting. Key players like Cody Bellinger have historically struggled in the playoffs, so it is going to be a matter of continuing the success that they have had in the regular season in the playoffs.

As baseball season goes on,  the Mariners and the Cardinals most excite me, as the Mariners have a chip on their shoulder after their long playoff drought. (And I would love to see just how many home runs Pujols will hit.) This postseason should shape up to be a great one with the new 12-team format and some great stories playing out so tune in and watch some baseball curled on the couch with a pumpkin spice latte this October.