It's finally time. The 2020 Major League Baseball postseason is upon us, beginning with four AL games tonight followed by the NL series starting tomorrow night.
This year's postseason is going to be among the weirdest in history, but also one of the most exciting. The expanded playoff format means that eight teams from each league made the postseason, beginning with the best-of-three Wild Card round.
All three games in this round will be played at the home stadium of the team with the higher seed, on three consecutive days. While I don't necessarily like the idea of a team's season coming down to a three-game series, especially for the one seeds, it will provide plenty of entertainment over the next few days.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the most exciting Wild Card round matchups coming up.
Indians vs. Yankees
The Yankees have been a streaky team all season, and they didn't exactly end on a high note. They earned the five seed in the American League playoffs, setting up a matchup against the four seed, the Cleveland Indians.
This matchup is exciting for plenty of reasons, but first and foremost is the Game 1 pitching matchup. Tonight we will be blessed with watching Gerrit Cole pitch against presumptive AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber.
Bieber's stellar season saw him win the triple crown, finishing the year with an 8-1 record, 122 strikeouts and a 1.63 ERA.
Cole was no slacker this season, although he did struggle at times. The Yankees' ace finished the season 7-3 with 94 strikeouts and a 2.84 ERA.
But after the aces go in Game 1, the Indians might have the advantage. Cleveland led the AL with a 3.29 team ERA this season and a 1.11 WHIP. Bieber will be followed in the rotation by Carlos Carrasco and Zach Plesac, both of whom had productive seasons this year. The Yankees might want to get a win in Game 1, because it looks dicey for them after that.
A's vs. White Sox
The White Sox have been one of the most exciting young teams in baseball this season, anchored by stars Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez and Jose Abreu.
Abreu has played at an MVP level this season, batting .317 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs. Anderson just missed out on a second consecutive batting title, finishing the season hitting .322.
Those stars, paired with the White Sox pitching staff, have led the South Siders to their first playoff appearance since 2008, and although they missed out on winning the AL Central, this team is ready to prove that they want more than just an appearance.
Waiting for them in the Wild Card round, though, is a team that is making its third consecutive playoff appearance. The Oakland A's have finally broken past the Houston Astros in the AL West, winning the division for the first time since 2013.
Oakland finished the season with a .713 team OPS, but the pitching is where they shine. The A's pitchers finished the year with a 3.77 ERA, fifth in the league. While their starters weren't fantastic (only one of five finished the season with an ERA below 3.00) their bullpen is rock solid. In fact, they had the best bullpen ERA and third-best bullpen FIP this season.
Pitching is what wins championships, so the A's should be set to make a run, but it all starts against this young White Sox squad.
Rays vs. Blue Jays
Speaking of exciting young teams, how about the team that has Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr? The Blue Jays earned the eight seed in the AL playoffs and they are rewarded by taking on division rival Tampa Bay.
The Rays were the best team in the American League this season, and a large part of that was due to their pitching, which featured the third-best ERA in all of MLB. While the Blue Jays don't quite have the pitching they might need to really contend for a title, they can hit the ball with the best of them.
Toronto posted a .766 team OPS in 2020, good for 11th in MLB. The Blue Jays knew they would get to the postseason with the core group of young players that they have right now, they just didn't know it would be this soon. Now they have to show that they're ready for more, and give the Rays the best they've got over the next three days.
Now I know I didn't include any National League series in my list, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited for them. The Braves are back in the playoffs, so obviously I'm excited to see my team finally win a playoff series. Plus, the Padres are in the postseason for the first time in over a decade, and they might just be the most exciting young team in baseball. So I'm ready to watch all the playoff baseball this week, but the three games listed here are the best ones to keep an eye on.
Matthew Atkins, Journalist and Baseball fan.