Overview – Wild Card
As much as the World Series is the coveted prize in all of baseball because the seven-game series embodies exactly what baseball is – removing the potential for abnormalities and crowning the consistent best – these Wild Card games are the most exciting 18 innings in baseball.
This year, we’re treated to four teams who could all conceivably reach their respective Conference Championship Series, and it’s not often you can say that.
For Brandon Woodruff, Max Scherzer, Charlie Morton and Sean Manaea or Mike Fiers, these will be the toughest, most pressure-laden innings they’ll ever face.
Just this once a year, the MLB are happy to let teams roll a dice and test their mettle. Welcome to Wild Card week.
Milwaukee Brewers @ Washington Nationals
While the Nationals is technically a hitter-friendly ball park, it really isn’t. The average WHIP is in or around 13th in the league, and it’s nowhere near the ERA people come to expect of a ballpark in the middle of D.C.
The humidity is still an issue, even into October – and with a muggy forecast expected over the coming days, expect to see something similar to last year’s National League Wild Card game which saw the Rockies prevail in Wrigley Field.
Interestingly, Scherzer has been better away from Nationals Park, posting a 3.16 ERA at home and just a .444 win percentage.
Does this become the key storyline leading upto the game, or is it simply that the Nats can expect to overpower the Brewers, as only three of Christian Yelich’s 44 home runs have come in his last 21 games of the season?
Home advantage means a lot in pressure situations. If there’s a shift, perhaps you’re ever so slightly more comfortable hitting opposite field in home comforts.
If you’re on a 3-1 count as a pitcher, perhaps fan encouragement rather than a chorus of uncertainty can aid you.
This is not a normal game of baseball. It’s a one-and-one situation.
Tampa Bay Rays @ Oakland A’s
The A’s, have not only got the most pointless apostrophe in sports, but they’ve also come a long way from their embarrassing opening day defeat to Seattle.
The Rays are set, and Charlie Morton will pitch. This gives both the defence behind him and himself time to compose themselves and plan ahead of the opposition lineup before this titanic clash.
But the A’s, while definitely not publicly and most likely not even in-house, have not decided who between their two aces – Mike Fiers or Sean Manaea – will start the American League Wild Card matchup.
Psychologically, this throws off the entire dugout.
While the obvious play would be to go to Fiers given his postseason experience, he’s struggled in recent months. This means the favourite, at least in this writer’s mind, should be Manaea.
The primary reason for this is to avoid all possible blame and to be seen as going for the form pick. That being side, due to the indecision, I believe this one is already in the books.
Whoever takes to the mound now, knows the decision wasn’t fully in favour of them. The mound gets ever so slippy when it’s not reinforced with confidence.