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2022 MLB Wildcard Weekend Preview and Predictions

Now that we are a few days into October, most Americans are excited to watch football, enjoy the fall season, prepare Halloween costumes, and some extreme individuals may already be getting ready for the holiday season. However, baseball fanatics are gearing up for their favorite time of year: the MLB playoffs. With the new playoff format, 12 teams, six from the National League (NL) and six from the American League (AL), are preparing to battle. With a fresh slate and all teams on even playing ground, this Friday, October 7th, at noon, the quest for becoming world champions begins. What teams will win? What storylines will we witness? But the biggest question of all, who will hoist the Commissioner's Trophy? Detailed below are series previews, probables, and predictions for Wildcard weekend:

American League

5. Seattle Mariners (90-72) vs. 4. Toronto Blue Jays (92-70)

Game 1: Luis Castillo (8-6, 2.99 ERA) vs. Alek Manoah (16-7, 2.24 ERA)

Game 2: Robbie Ray (12-12, 3.71 ERA) vs. TBD

Game 3 (If necessary): Logan Gilbert (13-6, 3.20 ERA) vs. TBD

Let's begin with the Seattle Mariners, who finally snapped a 21 year playoff drought, the longest in the major leagues. As a general fan of the sport, you can’t help but root for the AL West team, especially because of the exciting young players they have. Julio Rodriguez, for one, should be the AL Rookie of the Year after slashing .284/.345/.509 with 28 HRs and 75 RBIs. Cal Raleigh has also been an unsung hero for the Mariners, coming up clutch in crucial situations throughout the playoff race. The area in which this team really shines, however, is pitching. Their top 3 starters, Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Robbie Ray, have had great seasons despite showing some inconsistencies in performance. Kirby in particular has been amazing (2.63 ERA in the second half), which is why it is surprising that they will not give him a start in the wild card series. Overall, this team is very well rounded and have a chip on their shoulder to make a deep postseason run.

As for the Blue Jays, the team from Canada finished their final 30 games of the season with a record of 19-11. Despite an increasingly thin starting rotation, they have managed to stay hot, in part thanks to Bo Bichette, who had a monster month of September. Just like 2021, Bichette finished the season with the most hits in the American League, a stat that is surprising due to his on-and-off production. It hasn’t just been Bichette, however, as several Blue Jays have helped this team remain an elite offense. You may expect names like Vladamir Guerrero Jr. or Teoscar Hernandez to be on that list, but a name that you may not expect is Danny Jansen. Jansen is slashing .260/.339/.516 with 15 HRs and 44 RBIs in ONLY 215 at-bats. If you extrapolate those numbers for a full season, you could easily expect a 30 HR 80 RBI season for the Jays’ catcher. That being said, if the Blue Jays can find the arms to give them quality innings, the offense will most certainly do the rest against Seattle.

Prediction: Despite Seattle’s sneaky good lineup and elite starting pitching, we believe that the Blue Jays will win this wildcard series in 3 games. Although their starting pitching is thin, all they need is 3 quality starters to win this series, which they have in Alek Manoah (2.24 ERA), Kevin Gausman (3.35 ERA), and Ross Stripling (3.01 ERA). Although Seattle’s rotation is more well rounded than Toronto’s, the Blue Jays offense is really what makes the difference here.

6. Tampa Bay Rays (86-76) vs. 3. Cleveland Guardians (92-70)

Game 1: Shane McClanahan (12-8, 2.54 ERA) vs. Shane Bieber (13-8, 2.88 ERA)

Game 2: Tyler Glasnow (0-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. TBD

Game 3 (If necessary): TBD vs. Cal Quantrill (15-5, 3.38 ERA)

Despite not having the most eye-popping lineup, the Tampa Bay Rays are once again in the playoffs. No matter the circumstances, it seems that this team always finds a way to win ball games, which is a quality that manager Kevin Cash has really instilled since he was hired in 2015. Surprisingly, however, the team has had one of the worst records in the majors over their last 30 games at 12-18, showing that they may not be trending in the right direction for the playoffs. This has mainly been because of their inability to put up runs against good pitching, which is something they will surely face against Cleveland. That being said, the Rays’ have incredible pitching themselves, with four starters sporting ERAs under 3.00 (Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Jeffrey Springs, Tyler Glasnow). Granted, Glasnow has only had 2 starts this season due to injury, but everyone knows how good he can be when he is healthy. Although the Rays may not pose much of an offensive threat, look for them to pull out narrow victories on the backs of their elite starting pitching.

Now for the AL Central champions, the Cleveland Guardians. This team, like the Mariners, is very well rounded. They may not blow you away with offense like the Jays or shut you out like the Rays, but they will do a little bit of everything and exploit any chances you give them. Their top 3 starters Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill can pitch with anyone, and their lineup, although not amazing, is able to produce when it matters (2nd best batting average with RISP among AL playoff teams with .254). Their star Jose Ramirez had another amazing season, batting .280 with 29 HRs and 126 RBI. Along with guys like Josh Naylor and Amed Rosario, this Cleveland offense is nothing to overlook. Additionally, the Guardians have the BEST record in the majors in their last 30 games at 22-8, putting them in a perfect spot to go deep in the playoffs.

Prediction: If you have not guessed by now, we think that the Guardians will win this series. However, we believe that the series will go to 3 games, as the Rays are bound to out-duel Cleveland in at least one game due to their pitching. Overall, the Guardians are the better team and should look to potentially challenge the Yankees in the divisional series.

National League

3. St. Louis Cardinals (93-69) vs. 6. Philadelphia Phillies (87-75)

Game 1: Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.82 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (3-2, 2.01 ERA with Cardinals)

Game 2: Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) vs. Miles Mikolas (12-13, 3.29 ERA)

Game 3 (If necessary): Ranger Suarez (10-7, 3.65 ERA) vs. TBD

The Phillies head to Busch Stadium this weekend to take on the Cardinals in what should be a competitive series. The Phillies go into this series sporting a 14-17 record over September and October, which is certainly not a lot of momentum heading into the playoffs. They have been as streaky as a team could be, going 52-29 over the middle three months of the season, but going 21-29 to start the year and obviously ending the year 14-17. Consistency is not the strength of the Phillies. With that being said, the postseason is about getting hot at the right time and, as we have seen this year, Philadelphia can get really hot. With a three man rotation of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez, they possess a staff that is as good as and possibly better than any other in the postseason. Their unstable defense and bullpen that has cost them games this season, but that has since calmed down with the trade deadline acquisitions of David Robertson and Brandon Marsh. Overall, the Phillies have a legitimate shot to go on a roll with their powerful bats and arms, but if they continue to play the way they have been recently then they may be in trouble.

The St. Louis Cardinals have been a steady team all year long and have been on cruise control since the Brewers fell behind in the divisional race. They rely on elite defense (68 Defensive Runs Saved Above Average) and high offensive production from corner infielders Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, who are both MVP candidates this year. On the pitching side of things, they have gotten quality years from veterans Miles Mikolas, Jose Quintana, Jordan Montgomery, and Adam Wainwright to couple with elite bullpen play from Ryan Helsley (1.25 ERA, 13.08 K/9). The Cardinals seemed poised to make a run. However, there is uncertainty surrounding the health of outfielder Tyler O’Neill and the indecision of the team’s game three starting pitcher. This leaves the outfield and starting pitching lacking compared to other playoff teams. Despite this, the consistency the team has shown all this year is a keynote in this series with the Phillies and can be the deciding factor.

Prediction: We are rolling with the Phillies in 3 games. At the end of the day, pitching wins championships and the Phillies starting rotation is better than the Cardinals. Wheeler and Nola have outpitched both Quintana and Mikolas this season. If the Phillies high powered offense can scratch out a few runs against these starters, then the Cardinals are going to have to beat Nola and Wheeler, which many teams have failed to do.

4. New York Mets (101-61) vs 5. San Diego Padres (89-73)

Game 1: Max Scherzer (11W-5L, 2.29 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (16W-8L, 3.10 ERA)

Game 2: Jacob deGrom (5W-4L, 3.08 ERA) vs. Joe Musgrove (10W-7L, 2.93 ERA)

Game 3 (If Necessary): Chris Bassitt (15W-9L, 3.42 ERA) vs. Blake Snell (8W-10L, 3.38 ERA)

The San Diego Padres take off for Flushing, Queens to play the New York Mets this Friday in a best of 3 series. The Mets are coming off a disappointing finish to the season, as they lost the NL East to the Braves this past weekend. Despite this, the Mets had one of their best seasons in franchise history, accomplishing multiple feats, such as a combined no hitter and Pete Alonso breaking the franchise record in single season runs batted in. Backed by an amazing pitching staff, a quality lineup, and one of the most electrifying closers in the league, New York will look to take out their pain of losing the division on the Padres. They do not want to just win the series, but would like to make a statement to reporters and MLB fans nationwide that they are not the same old Mets. Manager Buck Showalter is already thinking of the bigger picture for his team, as reports are circulating that if the Mets win game one behind Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt may pitch game two so they can save the two time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom for the Dodgers. The Mets are more than capable of making a title run, but they have to shake off the disappointment of September, wake up the bats, and have their trio of starters dominate unlike they did this past weekend in Atlanta.

The Padres are back in the playoffs for the second time in three years and are searching for a chance to dethrone the Dodgers as the kings of west. With All-Star third baseman Manny Machado and superstar Juan Soto headlining the offense, this team is filled with stars and can make a really deep run into October if everything clicks. The Padres made more moves than any team at the deadline, acquiring Soto and Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals, veteran infielder Brandon Drury from the Reds, and Brewers star closer Josh Hader. With these moves, the Padres front office expected this team to flourish in the second half of the season. However, these acquisitions have underperformed for the team. Hader, Soto, Drury, and Bell all got off to slow starts in San Diego, but have begun to turn it on as of late. If they can carry this momentum into the postseason and get hot, then they really have a shot at winning it all as the 5 seed.

Prediction: We believe the Mets finally prove all the critics wrong and break the curse of the “Mets are going to met”. In this series, the Mets take down the Padres in two pitchers duels behind the home crowd and get ready to prepare for the postseason titan that is the Dodgers. The Padres will falter in this competitive environment and will be sent home with the sound of Timmy Trumpet’s “Narco” as Edwin Diaz puts an end to their season.

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