National League Wild Card: Chicago Cubs (97-­65) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (98­-64):

The opening round of the National League playoffs features two teams not used to playing October baseball. The Cubs and Pirates have been franchises stuck in the wilderness for many years. The Pirates set a record for futility with 20 losing seasons from 1993­-2012. The Cubs are enjoying their first winning season since 2009. After finishing last in the NL Central four out of the last five years, Cubs fans are finally seeing the fruits of general manager Theo Epstein’s analytical approach to team building. The Cubs and Pirates finished with two of the three best records in baseball. Despite being stuck as wild cards, both of these teams have a legitimate shot at winning the World Series. The two teams have been seeded to play each other in the wild card for much of the season, so the coaching staffs have been able to rest their better players in preparation. Two of the best pitchers in the NL will square off: Chicago’s Jake Arrieta and Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in wins by starting pitchers by the major league this year. The Pirates have played some of their worst baseball against the Cubs this year. Pirate’s center fielder Andrew McCutchen, one of the best hitters in the major leagues, has managed just a .222 average against the Cubs this year.

American League Wild Card: Houston Astros (86­-76) vs. New York Yankees (87­-75):

Unlike the Cubs and ­Pirates, which has been in the making for months, the Yankees­ and Astros matchup was not finalized until the final day of the regular season. Houston had Dallas Keuchel on the mound against the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka started the game striking out the first three batters he faced, but the Astros would connect in the following inning on a first pitch homer off the bat of Colby Rasmus. The Astros would strike again in the fourth as Carlos Gomez connected on a pitch by Tanaka for the second homerun of the game. Houston added another run to seal off the 3-0 win. The Yankees’ bats were no match for the pitching of Keuchel as he pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and striking out seven. The Astros will now advance to face off against the Kansas City Royals in the American League Division Series.

National League Divisional Series: New York Mets (90-­72) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (92-­70):

The Mets and ­Dodgers should be a low-scoring affair, as it features two of the best pitching rotations in baseball. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey will start the first three games respectively for the Mets, with either veteran Bartolo Colon or rookie Steven Matz ready for Game 4. The Dodgers will start Clayton Kershaw for Game 1, while most likely playing Zackary Greinke for Game 2. Kershaw and Greinke both played phenomenal for the Dodgers this year; Greinke managed to top Arietta for the lowest earned run average in the majors. The “x” factor for this series will be the play of Dodgers’ outfielder Yasiel Puig. Puig has only played in 77 games this year due to injuries. Dodgers’ management had previously expected him to be out for the year. However, he played in the Dodgers’ final series of the year against the San Diego Padres. Puig is a dangerous hitter, and has a big arm to help the Dodgers in the right field.

American League Divisional Series: Texas Rangers (88­-74) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (93­-69):

It has been a very quick turnaround for the Rangers. They have become just the fifth team in majors history to go from last place in their division (67­-95 in 2014) to first place the following year. Cole Hamels, the Rangers’ best pitcher, will likely not see action until Game 2 of the series after pitching a great game in the regular season finale. The Rangers will need their pitching staff to be at the top of their game during this series, as the Blue Jays are by far the best offensive team in baseball. The Blue Jays are in a win-now mode. They aggressively traded for David Price and Troy Tulowitzki this summer in hopes to increase their playoff chances. Price is a free agent after this year, and outside of players such as Marcus Stroman and Dalton Pompey, they are a very old team. The Rangers will rely on the play of third baseman Adrian Beltre to lead them at bat. The Rangers bullpen simply isn’t deep enough to handle Toronto’s explosive batting order. The Blue Jays have sold the farm to try and win the World Series this year.

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