It took an extra day, but Major League Baseball now has the 10 teams that will compete for the honor of hoisting the World Series trophy this year.
Making the postseason was so contentious that we needed an extra game to punch the ticket for the Tampa Bay Rays. After winning the AL tiebreaker Monday, the Rays face the Cleveland Indians in the do-or-die wild-card game Wednesday night. The NL version comes first, pitting the Cincinnati Reds against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night. Once those are done, only eight teams will remain for the LDS rounds. (See the schedule here).
There's a lot of baseball to be played this October. But before the first postseason game begins, The Stew wants you to go to know who's in it, what their chances are, and a few other silly things about each team. Have a look below.
Why they're here: Balance. The Braves can win with an offense that ranks fifth in the NL in runs. They can shut an opponent down with a mix of youth and experience in their starting rotation. And when they turn to their bullpen, anchored by closer Craig Kimbrel, it‘s usually lights out. Also, don‘t overlook their defense. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons provides a nice anchor.
They'll make the World Series if: They can find a way to average four runs a game.
They'll get knocked out early if: The bullpen has a hiccup. The series with Los Angeles should be tight throughout, so they‘ll need to stay air-tight.
Player who can't slump: Freddie Freeman. The Braves lineup is full of players capable of carrying them through a series, but Freeman is the link that makes them whole. If he falls into a slump, they’re relying on too many hit-or-miss bats.
Player who might be a surprise hero: B.J. Upton. It’s tough to envision a .184 hitter catching fire in the postseason, but crazier things have happened. Upton has some pop, and if he’s able to get on base and utilize his speed, the Braves will have a new dimension.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Most likely to kick you off their lawn for staring too long.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "Eye of the Tiger" — The Braves are a fiery group that doesn’t take well to perceived disrespect. A fighting spirit isn’t a bad thing, unless you fail to harness it.
— Mark Townsend
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BOSTON RED SOX
Why they're here: GM Ben Cherington did a masterful job of putting the pieces back together following two disappointing seasons, including a last-place finish in 2012. Adding veterans such as Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara made them a deeper team across the board, and that depth is why they’re going to be the team to beat in the AL.
They'll make the World Series if: They advance through the ALDS. A lot of times the wild-card teams get into a groove and make life difficult in a short series. For Boston, it’ll be all about surviving that charge and advancing. Of course they won’t face a pushover in Detroit or Oakland, but they can wear anybody down over seven games.
They'll get knocked out early if: They start slow. The first two games of the ALDS might be the key to their survival.
Player who can't slump: They look like slump-proof team, but David Ortiz is the guy they need mashing the ball all over the yard.
Player who might be a surprise hero: Mike Carp has been a nice piece off the bench for John Farrell. Another excellent pickup by Cherington who makes an impact from the seventh inning on.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Team most likely to get their beards shaved by a fastball.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "Fear the Beard" by Cashbox — Love the beards or hate them, it’s their identity.
— Mark Townsend
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Why they're here: A combination of offseason moves that paid off and some well-timed surprise seasons (Hello, Scott Kazmir). You also can't underestimate the importance of having manager Terry Francona leading them.
They'll make the World Series if: They stay on the right side of the streak. The Indians come into the playoffs having won 10 straight. This season they had an eight-game winning streak in July, a six-game winning streak in April and 10 instances where they won at least four games in a row.
They'll get knocked out early if: If their pitching doesn't hold up. The Indians have benefited from better-than-expected seasons from Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir. They're giving the ball to rookie Danny Salazar in the wild-card game. This is not the time for any of those guys to fall down.
Player who can't slump: Nick Swisher. He didn't have a monster season for the Tribe, but in the final month (Cleveland's best of the season), he was their most dangerous weapon, hitting seven homers and driving in 17 runs.
Player who might be a surprise hero: Michael Brantley, who hit .345 in the last month of the season with 14 RBIs.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Team with the player who looks most like the principal. (Yes, you, Jason Giambi)
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "I Got Mine" by The Black Keys — The Indians got their wild-card spot without a tiebreaker. Plus, The Black Keys are from Ohio, and we can imagine Nick Swisher listening to this song and saying "bro," over and over.
— Mike Oz
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Why they're here: Cincinnati’s starting pitching held up well despite Johnny Cueto missing three months. Unfortunately, it sounds like Mat Latos’ arm may not be 100 percent, but if he’s able to bounce back, Dusty Baker will have a strong top three with Cueto, Latos and Homer Bailey. The Reds bullpen has done its part as well with Aroldis Chapman, Sam LeCure and J.J. Hoover leading the way.
They'll make the World Series if: The top of their lineup heats up. If Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Ludwick can create some consistent traffic, Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce will cash them in.
They'll get knocked out early if: Cueto and Latos aren’t 100 percent. Cueto has looked good in his two return starts, but a step back on Tuesday probably ends their postseason immediately. Should they advance, Latos might be needed twice in the NLDS.
Player who can't slump: Votto would be the choice, but he never really slumps. Instead the Reds will need Bruce to stay locked in as their premiere run producer.
Player who might be a surprise hero: It might come from the middle-relief core. A guy like LeCure, Hoover or even Logan Ondrusek might have to cover key innings. Bridging the game between starters and Chapman will be critical.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Team most likely to spoil a great story. Look out, Pittsburgh.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "Nobody's Listening" by Linkin Park. The Reds seem to be the team nobody's talking about going into the postseason. That could make them very dangerous.
— Mark Townsend
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Why they're here: Deep and rock-steady starting pitching, along with a solid lineup centered around the most feared batter in the game, Miguel Cabrera.
They'll make the World Series if: Justin Verlander joins Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez in pitching like a top Cy Young contender again.
They'll get knocked out early if: Injuries continue to dog Cabrera and limit him to singles or less.
Player who can't slump: Prince Fielder (especially with Cabrera iffy)
Player who might be a surprise hero: Alex Avila has a knack for coming through unexpectedly.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Best dressed. They've got the best home uniforms in baseball.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "Crying" by Roy Orbison — Because it doesn't take much to set off the water works on manager Jim Leyland.
— David Brown
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LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Why they're here: Let's just focus on three stats here: 19-6 (the Dodgers' record in July), 23-6 (their record in August) and 1.83 (Clayton Kershaw's ERA for the entire season). Enough said.
They'll make the World Series if: Don Mattingly makes them believe it's August again.
They'll get knocked out early if: Kershaw and right-handed ace Zack Greinke somehow falter.
Player who can't slump: Hanley Ramirez. When he's healthy and in a groove, the Dodgers are much more dangerous.
Player who might be a surprise hero: Brian Wilson. The Dodgers have a lights-out closer in Kenley Jansen, but having Wilson, a guy with World Series experience, around to set him up, might prove invaluable. He's got a fresh arm, having pitched only a short season — and he's still got something to prove.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Most likely to succeed — the potent Dodgers are a World Series favorite.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "All Me" by Drake, 2 Chainz and Big Sean — at first it seems pretty bad (2 Chainz' part), but then it gets darn good. Plus, it's a hip-hop song full of extravagance and braggadocio. Hellllllllo.
— Mike Oz
* * *
Why they're here: The A's, again, got the most out of their players. Using a roster that's mostly full of non-stars and youngsters with potential, the A's got hot in September and charged to the AL West title.
They'll make the World Series if: Guys you don't pay much attention to, like Brandon Moss and Jed Lowrie, continue to deliver for the A's when it matters.
They'll get knocked out early if: Their pitchers show their age. The A's depend on a bunch of young pitchers (oh, and Bartolo Colon). If the young guys can't cut it or if Colon has a senior moment, the A's may be in trouble.
Player who can't slump: Yoenis Cespedes. Yes, Josh Donaldson has been their best overall bat, but Cespedes can get hot and be dangerous. He drove in 19 runs in the final month of the season.
Player who might be a surprise hero: Catcher Derek Norris, who isn't even an everyday player, but he's shown a knack for delivering in the clutch.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Most likely to go the whole school year unnoticed.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "Too Legit to Quit" by MC Hammer, because of course.
— Mike Oz
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Why they're here: Great scouting and defense.
They'll make the World Series if: Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett pitch as well as rookie Gerrit Coles does.
They'll walk the plank early if: Liriano has a big hiccup, which he has been prone to during his career.
Player who can't slump: Pedro Alvarez. They need his power.
Player who might be a surprise hero: Russell Martin had a great year on defense, but can pop home runs too.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Most likely to make an eye patch look good.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "Truckin'" by The Grateful Dead (only with "Bucn' " subbed into the lyrics)
— David Brown
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ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Why they're here: Crazy organizational depth, mature young players.
They'll make the World Series if: Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller continue to pitch beyond their age.
They'll get knocked out early if: Something comically horrendous happens to Matt Holliday in left field.
Player who can't slump: Yadier Molina. Probably the most important player to his team in the NL.
Player who might be a surprise hero: David Freese. He had a down year and they tried to replace him, but he's been through the playoffs before and everything went OK.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Most likely to produce multiple MVP candidates.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "Deep" by Pearl Jam — For example, with RBI machine Allen Craig unavailable, slugger Matt Adams steps in. He had a season that was nearly as good.
— David Brown
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TAMPA BAY RAYS
Why they're here: The Rays have some great players and while they didn't put the pieces together throughout the entire season, they did enough at the very end of the season.
They'll make the World Series if: Evan Longoria and David Price play like they did in Monday's AL tiebreaker game.
They'll get knocked out early if: If the travel catches up with them. They played at Toronto on Sunday, at Texas on Monday and will be in Cleveland on Wednesday. If they win, it's on to Boston.
Player(s) who can't slump: Longoria and rookie Wil Myers. The Rays will need both of them to be hot at the plate.
Player who might be a surprise hero: Alex Cobb. The 25-year-old pitcher had a 2.57 ERA in September, going 3-0 and having the best opponents' batting average of any Rays starter, .226.
In the 2013 MLB yearbook, they'd win this award: Most resilient. The Rays yo-yo'd in the standings at various stages of the season, but they showed a lot of fight getting to the playoffs.
If this team were a song, what song would it be? "Traveling Man" by Mos Def — Not only for being on the road so much lately, but also for their stylish road trips.
— Mike Oz