It’s the best time of the year for sports. College and pro football are in full swing, the NBA and the NHL will be starting up in a matter of weeks, and our national pastime enters October baseball. This year, the playoff picture is more unpredictable than ever. The current Wild Card teams (the Royals, Athletics, Giants, and Pirates) all have legitimate shots at winning the World Series. You can rarely say that for other years and especially other leagues. The parody in baseball makes it even more enjoyable. Everyone has a shot. With that being said, here are my MLB wild card predictions.
American League Wild Card: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals
It’s been two totally different seasons for these two teams. The A’s were presumably the best team in baseball entering July. Since then, pretty horrific. The A’s have lost 20 of their last 30 games and have a .433 winning percentage since the All-Star Break, the worst ever for a playoff team. Even with how bad they have been, they still have a very strong staff, anchored by Jon Lester who has an outstanding post season record.
The Royals, while not being a dominant team for most of the season, have been on the journey of a lifetime. The city of Kansas City hasn’t seen their baseball team in the playoffs since 1985. This year, they have battled and defied all odds. They are the first team in Major League Baseball history to be last in the league in home runs and walks to make the postseason. They have done it on timely hitting, stealing bases, and incredible defense and pitching staff.
The A’s and the Royals don’t have much pop in their lineups. I am a much bigger fan of the Royals lineup though. Eric Hosmer and Nori Aoki have been hot as of late and Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon have carried their lineup all year. There isn’t much to get excited about in the A’s lineup. Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss better step it up in this game.
It’s a heavyweight matchup between “Big Game James” (James Shields) and Jon Lester. I’m torn on who is going to win this. While the A’s have been awful as of late, they can definitely win this game. But, I am going to go with the Kansas City Royals here. I think James Shields goes a dominant seven or eight innings and Jarrod Dyson will have a big stolen base late in the game.
Final Score: 2-1 Royals
National League Wild Card: San Francisco Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates
Another incredible Wild Card matchup. Again, both of these teams have a shot to go a long way. The Giants have “been there and done that” and when you are led by Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence, you have a solid chance at winning some big games.
Madison Bumgarner and Edinson Volquez is one of the more interesting pitching match-ups I could imagine. Bumgarner is an obvious choice for the Giants. He is 18-10 this year with a 2.98 ERA and on the road, an impressive 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA. He is the ace of their rotation and has proved himself throughout the year.
On the other hand, you have Edinson Volquez, who signed a cheap one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates in the offseason. I was a big fan of the signing at the time. He has a ton of upside, but hadn’t lived up to some pretty lofty expectations prior to. Also, $5 million is very cheap for any starting pitcher, let alone a guy with is talent. He went 13-7 this year with a 3.04 ERA. He is currently riding an 18 consecutive inning scoreless streak and has been dominant in September. While Volquez led the Pirates in innings, wins, and ERA, many would have liked to see Gerrit Cole and even Francisco Liriano throw in the big game.
The lineups for both of these teams are very formidable. Like I mentioned earlier, the Giants have Posey, Sandoval, Pence, and many other solid players. Posey, Sandoval, and Brandon Belt are each career .440+ hitters against Volquez, so that should make for an interesting matchup. On the other hand, the Pirates lineup has been red hot as of late. With Josh Harrison, Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Russell Martin, these guys can make some noise.
I’m tempted to go with the Giants in this game because of their matchup against Edinson Volquez. But, I’m going to go with my gut once again and take the Pirates. I think McCutchen carries this team to a victory with a big hit from Russell Martin, who better stick around in Pittsburgh for years to come.
Final Score: 4-3 Pirates