If you told us you saw these four teams playing in Major League Baseball’s two wild-card games, we wouldn’t believe you. Nobody thought the 103-loss Minnesota Twins would be back in the postseason one year later. Maybe some diehard New York Yankees fans thought they’d be able to rebuild this quickly, but even those people would have never expected to see the Twins on the other side.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, like the Twins, went from colossal disappointments (93 losses last year) to playoff team much quicker than almost anybody expected. As for their opponents? Many people liked the Colorado Rockies as a postseason sleeper team, so it’s not a surprise they’re here. But it’s a surprise the NL West was strong enough to send three teams to the playoffs and the Giants still weren’t one of them.
So here we are, ready for this year’s MLB wild-card games: Twins vs. Yankees at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday (TV coverage on ESPN) and Rockies vs. D-backs at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday (TV coverage on TBS). There are a lot of storylines to dissect. A lot of reasons these games might go one way or another.
But you have to remember, it’s also a do-or-die game — it’s a Game 7 disguised as a Game 1 — so you can’t ever really predict what’s going to happen. Nonetheless, our Big League Stew bloggers are giving it their best try:
AL: The Yankees have the better pitcher in Luis Severino, the better offense and the better bullpen. The team is suited perfectly to their home park too, where Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez can mash home runs to their hearts’ content. The Twins will once again be sent home early in the postseason by the Yankees.
NL: The Rockies, not surprisingly, hit much better at home than on the road. Take them out of Coors Field and put Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke on the mound, and it’s tough to see a scenario where they explode offensively. Take that away, and the D-backs seem like the easy favorite in this one.
One wild prediction: The Diamondbacks jump all over Rockies starter Jon Gray, who doesn’t make it past the fourth inning.
AL: The baseball forces are conspiring to help the Yankees get back into the deeper portion of the postseason, and earlier than planned. Getting to play the Minnesota Twins? They like that. Getting to play the Minnesota Twins at home? They like that too. Sure, Ervin Santana can come out and throw a no-hitter. It’s a one-game playoff, anything can happen. But everything about this says the Yankees would win most often if they played 100 times, so I’m rolling with the Yankees here.
NL: My default in a win-or-go-home baseball game is the pitcher. Who’s the D-backs ace? Zack Greinke and he’s quite good. Who’s the Rockies ace? It’s OK if you need to go look it up, because that proves the point. Give me Greinke. Give me the guy who has postseason experience and a 3.20 ERA this season.
One wild prediction: Greinke stops play to take an autographed baseball card to Pat Neshek in the Rockies bullpen.
AL: The Twins always lose to the Yankees. Thus it ever was, and will be again. I want the Twins to win, not just to break that narrative, but because they’re a fun underdog team that’s made huge strides in just a year. But it’s just one game, and the Yankees are strong all around. And also, Aaron Judge is insane. It’s hard to see the Twins breaking their Yankees curse this year.
NL: This is a tough choice. Both teams are so much fun, and have waited so long for another shot at the playoffs. But the game’s not being played at Coors, and the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff has been lights out this year. In the end, it just feels like the Diamondbacks just have “it” this year. Whatever “it” may be — scrappiness, stick-to-itiveness, that underdog spirit — they’ve got it. And “it” is hard to beat.
One wild prediction: Aaron Judge hits a baseball so hard that the cover comes off and the core rips a hole in the space-time continuum, and the entire stadium is transported to another dimension.
AL: I’m envisioning a pitcher’s duel here, which might surprise some people. When he’s locked in, Twins right-hander Ervin Santana has been a tough pitcher to crack this season. That‘s evidenced by his league-leading five complete games and three shutouts. The Yankees won’t get to him, but I don’t see the Twins getting to Luis Severino either. The difference will be the bullpens, and that’s where I think New York gets the edge. Look for a walk-off win courtesy of true Yankees hero Ronald Torreyes.
NL: The Rockies swept Arizona in the 2007 NLCS and I think they’re going to deliver some more postseason heartbreak Wednesday. Nolan Arenado is the main reason I feel confident about that. No disrespect to Zack Greinke or Paul Goldschmidt, but Arenado will be the best player on the field. He‘ll be hyped too, in a good way. I don’t think people realize how much this opportunity means to him. He’s not going to let it pass without doing something special, and I think whatever moment or moments he provides will be the difference.
One wild prediction: The Twins will lose, but not before Byron Buxton provides the postseason’s first defensive gem by robbing Aaron Judge of a home run. Not deterred, Judge will then return the favor, robbing Buxton of a home run later in the game. And he won’t even have to jump.
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