2017 MLB Wild Card Preview

Story posted October 3, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Christian Katt

Before we get into the heart of the post season, there are two play-in games that are played to decide the winner of each league’s Wild Card. In their short history, the Wild Card games have created a reputation for being electric.

We remember the 12-inning classic between the A’s and the Royals in 2014 that had the Royals winning after overcoming a 4 run deficit going into the eighth-inning. We also can look back to Edwin Encarnacion’s 11th-inning walk-off three-run blast that gave the Blue Jays the AL Wild Card victory over the Orioles and made the Rogers Centre absolutely erupt. When it’s win or go home, the MLB delivers its best product.

AL Wild Card Game: Minnesota Twins (85-77) vs. New York Yankees (91-71)

The New York Yankees are heavily favored in the AL Wild Card game against the Minnesota Twins and for good reason. At its best, the Yankees offense is one of, if not the best in the MLB.  Led by the “Baby Bombers” Aaron Judge (52 homeruns this season) and Gary Sanchez (33 homeruns this season), the lineup is balanced from start to finish.

The Yankees starting rotation is led by Luis Severino. Severino has put together a sparkling season, holding a sub-3.00 ERA. He is going to start the Wild Card game despite speculation of saving him for the ALDS. One thing that could be the Yankee’s fatal flaw is their tendency to lose close games. This is what has kept a ceiling over an otherwise impressive season. If this game goes down to the wire, the Twins may have the edge in that situation.

The Minnesota Twins are the most improved team in the MLB. They’re the first team in MLB history to make the postseason a year after losing 100+ games. Although less star-studded than their Wild Card opponents, the Twins have a couple bright spots in their lineup. Brian Dozer brings the power, having the most homeruns as a second basemen in the MLB this season with 34. Joe Mauer brings the consistency and leadership with a team leading batting average of .304.

The Twins will trot out veteran Ervin Santana to start the Wild Card game. This will be his eighth time pitching in the postseason, giving him one of his only advantages versus Severino. Santana has a 5.56 ERA against the Yankees during postseason starts. This may seem like it tips the scales in favor of the Yankees, but this isn’t the Yankees teams he has seen throughout much of the 2000’s. These are new faces who are mostly playing in their first October baseball game.

This game’s outcome seems to come down to whether or not Santana will be able to harness the explosive Yankee offense in the hostile environment of the Bronx.

NL Wild Card Game: Colorado Rockies (87-75) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69)

Probably the MLB’s second most improved team, the Arizona Diamondbacks are back in the playoffs a year removed from an ugly season in which they lost 93 games. The Diamondbacks suffer from a rather weak lineup. Other than sluggers J.D. Martinez and Paul Goldschmidt, their lineup is rather lackluster. This will prove to be very important if the Diamondbacks are in need of a big hit in crunch time and neither Goldschmidt nor Martinez are at the plate.

Starting the game for the Diamondbacks is Zach Grienke. Leading the team with 17 wins on the season, Grienke seems to give the Diamondbacks the advantage when it comes to starting pitching. Grienke allowed just two earned runs in seven innings in his only outing against the Rockies this season.

The Colorado Rockies have an offense that rocketed them into the playoffs. With the likes of Charlie Blackmon and MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, this offense is more than just the beneficiary of the thin Rocky Mountain air. Colorado leads the NL in runs and batting average and doesn’t seem to be slowing down soon. They have been heating up at the right time, scoring 48 runs in the last six games combined. The Rockies have accepted the reality of this season. They simply need to live and die on their offense.

The Rockies will start Jon Gray in the Wild Card game. Gray has been pretty overlooked thus far but to his credit, he has only given up 5 earned runs in 11 innings this season against Arizona. The young right-hander has, however, had trouble against Arizona’s stars. Goldschmidt and Martinez have had a combined 3 home runs against Gray. These will be two matchups to watch on Wednesday night.

This game seems to come down to whether or not the Arizona pitching staff will be able to contain the dangerous Colorado offense.

 

Christian Katt is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email cjk5620@psu.edu