Baseball Playoffs start tonight with AL Wild Card Game

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Photo above: L.A. Dodgers take batting practice in Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

Today is the start of Major League Baseball’s playoff season, if you count the Wild Card Games as part of the Playoffs. We didn’t know for sure all the teams that would be in the Wild Card games until the last day of the season. The Seattle Mariners had a chance, they swept the Angels in Seattle to end the season, but the Oakland A’s won two of three in Texas against the Rangers, so the A.L. Wild Card spot went to the A’s.

the Angels celebrating after clinching the American League West Division title.
the Angels celebrating after clinching the American League West Division title.

The American League Wild Card Game is tonight with the Oakland A’s visiting the Kansas City Royals to decide who meets the L.A. Angels in the American League Division Series (ALDS). The game should be just starting as this is published.

The first ALDS gets under way Thursday in Angels Stadium in Anaheim. The other ALDS begins in Baltimore where the Detroit Tigers will meet the Orioles.

Wednesday the National League Wild Card Game takes place in Pittsburgh where the San Francisco Giants will meet the Pirates. Then on Friday the winner of that game will meet the Washington Nationals In Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park and the St. Louis Cardinals will travel to L.A. to start their NLDS against the Dodgers.

The Dodgers celebrate after clinching the National League West Division title.
The Dodgers celebrate after clinching the National League West Division title.

As of today, California has four teams that could make it to the World Series and possibly win it all: the L.A. Angels of Anaheim, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants.

Two off the teams have homefield advantage, at least in the first round, the Angels and the Dodgers, and if the Angels win their ALDS they will have homefield advantage for the American League Championship Series (ALCS).

The Nationals have the best record in the National League so if they win their NLDS they get homefield for the NLCS.

The American League won the All-Star Game this year so the winner of the ALCS will have homefield in the World Series.

In August there were several teams that were on pace to win 100 games this season, but that didn’t happen. The Angels won 98 games and the Nationals and Orioles won 96 games.

What that says is this will be a very tight playoff season, and the teams will be well matched when the division playoffs start on Thursday.

Dodger bats during batting practice.
Dodger bats during batting practice.

Right now the Angels have a deep lineup with some very potent hitters; Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun. And they have some great pitching to go with their hitters: starters Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker and C.J. Wilson, plus the setup and closer combination of Joe Smith and Huston Street. These six pitchers, along with the powerful hitters, will be the core of the Angels winning it all. Plus they have catcher Chris Iannetta who is hitting .252 this season, about 20 points above his career average.

The Angels are the best team going into the playoffs.

The Dodgers have big bats that are getting into their groove right now: Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Dee Gordon, Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez — the Dodgers probably have the deepest lineup of hitters in the playoffs. And the best pitcher in the major leagues: Clayton Kershaw. He has 21 wins this season and Zack Greinke has 17. Hyun-Jin Ryu has 14 and Dan Haren has 13 wins. Their starters alone make the Dodgers a favorite, at least in the National League.

My girl Bella isn't shy picking her team for the World Series.
My girl Bella isn’t shy picking her team for the World Series.

But they meet the St. Louis Cardinals in the ALDS and Dodgers fans remember how that turned out last season when the Dodgers and Cardinals met in the NLCS. Starting for the Cardinals on Friday will be 20-game winner Adam Wainwright. So it will be tough for the Dodger bats. But, Clayton Kershaw starts for the Dodgers so it will be even tougher for the Cardinal bats.

  • The Dodgers won three of four against the Angels in August so if we get another California freeway series, the Dodgers might have the edge. If that happens let’s hope there isn’t another earthquake.

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The last freeway series in California was the Oakland A’s vs. the San Francisco Giants in 1989, called the “Earthquake Series” because of the Loma Prieta Earthquake that occurred minutes before Game Three was about to start. It was officially titled “The Battle of the Bay.” There was a 10-day delay to resume play, Candlestick Park was badly damaged and the Oakland A’s went on to sweep the Giants.

All photos by Claudia Gestro