An MLB postseason without a New York team or the Boston Red Sox or St. Louis Cardinals doesn’t come around all too often, which should provide a moment or two for the neutral baseball fan to relish the 2023 playoffs.
The Wild Card Series is underway and with it comes gargantuan matchups that include the defending National League champions, a team that led the powerhouse AL West for most of the season, and a couple of potential Cinderella stories in rare postseason appearances.
MLB Wild Card Series previews
AL: Tampa Bay Rays (-160) vs. Texas Rangers (+135)
Why the Rays are favored: This is as complete a team that’s in the postseason field. Not only do the Rays own the fourth-best offense in baseball, but their bullpen is ranked No. 2 in the American League and their starting rotation is comparable to Texas’ impressive unit.
Why the Rangers can win: The Rangers’ offense has the third-best OPS against right-handed pitching in baseball. Adolis Garcia, Corey Seager, and Marcus Semien are one of the more imposing power-hitting trios in the league. If they can make the Rays’ bullpen a non-factor, their chances exponentially improve.
AL: Minnesota Twins (-115) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (-105)
Why the Twins are favored: This is an odd notion to write about considering the Twins entered the postseason losing 18 straight postseason contests. But they led the American League with 233 home runs this season and recorded the most strikeouts by pitchers. They’re also getting hot at the right time. They had the best September record in the league and so was their plus-74 run differential.
Why the Blue Jays can win: Toronto’s pitching has been brilliant down the stretch of the regular season. Behind Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios has a 3.25 ERA in his last 30 starts, Chris Bassit has a 2.88 ERA in his last 13 starts, and Yusei Kikuchi has a 3.39 ERA over his last 14 starts. A clicking rotation with a lineup that features Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, and Bo Bichette makes the Blue Jays dangerous.
NL: Milwaukee Brewers (-155) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (+130)
Why the Brewers are favored: Their stable of starters is unmatched with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta, but Woodruff could miss the Wild Card Series with a shoulder injury. Their deep bullpen hit its stride in September, too, which means runs will be hard to come by for Arizona.
Why the Diamondbacks can win: Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly provide a solid starting-pitching duo of their own to go toe-to-toe with Milwaukee. Their bullpen isn’t so bad, either, possessing the second-best ERA in the National League in September. They’re a fast, young team with developing stars like Corbin Carroll and Christian Walker to complement Kettel Marte who could make some noise.
NL: Philadelphia Phillies (-190) vs. Miami Marlins (+160)
Why the Phillies are favored: The defending National League champions possess an overwhelming amount of power with Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and Trea Turner, who combined to hit 123 home runs this season. Turner and Bryston Stott each boasted 30 stolen bases of their own. On the mound, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler pace a rotation that has almost gone the distance before.
Why the Marlins could win: The Marlins are defying the odds with their aces Sandy Alcantara and Eury Perez thanks to the heroics of Jesus Luzardo, Braxton Garrett, and Edward Cabrera. Luis Arraez is a batting champion (again), Jake Burger batted .303 with an .860 OPS, nine home runs, and 28 RBI in 53 games since being acquired from the Chicago Wihte Sox, and Jon Berti is batting .463 in his last 16 games.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings. For more, click here.