The best part of the baseball season is yet to come.
After spending the past five months grinding out another season, 10 teams will turn the page to next week’s postseason, although eight of those teams have already clinched a playoff spot.
Despite losing a three-game series, season series and division title on Wednesday to the Dodgers, the Giants snuck into the postseason the same day after Milwaukee completed a minor collapse with a loss to Cincinnati. San Francisco, though, still trails Pittsburgh by two games (pending Thursday’s games) for the top wild card, and unless the Giants sweep San Diego this weekend at China Basin and the Pirates forget how to win one more game, the Giants will be on the road next week.
But the beauty of the postseason in any sport is it’s a rebirth for some teams as they try to forget the regular season and start anew. And while some teams are not coming into the postseason on a good streak, like the Giants and possibly the Royals and A’s, this year’s Oktoberfest features a good mix.
Baltimore and Washington already clinched their divisions earlier this month, while the Los Angeles Angels overtook Oakland to win the division. The A’s, and even the Giants, had the best record in the majors as late as two months ago.
The rest of the playoff picture has been tight with the central divisions providing the most excitement.
Detroit and St. Louis sit atop the division in the American and National leagues, respectively, but both still haven’t clinched, although they are in the playoffs regardless. Detroit won a crucial series in Kansas City last weekend to take control, while the Cardinals are trying to hold off the red-hot Pirates.
It’s still possible San Francisco will visit St. Louis on Wednesday in a one-game showdown, while the American League wild card playoff game on Tuesday is still to be determined.
This is what makes America ’s favorite pastime so enjoyable, especially the recently added wild-card sudden death match that put the Cardinals into the divisional series two years ago. St. Louis proceeded to defeat Washington, the best team in baseball, in five games before succumbing to the Giants in the National League Championship Series.
But trying to determine who will advance is as tricky as trying to pick four correct football teams on a parlay card.
The Angels and Nationals appear to be the favorites, as of now, in their leagues as Los Angeles is finally seeing productive results after it signed Albert Pujols a couple years ago. Baltimore is back in it after Boston stole the show last year and brought home the title just six months after the deadly marathon attack. Of all the teams in the league, the central has the most experience recently with Detroit starting to play and pitch well.
If Oakland does manage to survive and avoid an epic collapse, could the A’s finally turn it around in the playoffs and make it past the divisional series? Don’t count the Royals out either if they can hold on.
The National League has a little local flavor, not just with the Giants.
Who would have thought that a Nevada product, Matt Williams, could guide Washington to a divisional title after the Nationals were horrendous last year?
Williams’ lack of managing experience in the postseason (this is his first year as a manager but was on Arizona’s staff in 2011) shouldn’t be overlooked but the Carson slugger’s playing experience could benefit the Nationals and help them reach the NLCS. The Cardinals are always a threat, but the Dodgers might finally have enough star power to make a deep run in the playoffs and reach the World Series for the first time in almost 20 years.
Next month’s set up to make for another exciting and memorable rendition of playoff baseball.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at email@example.com.