The wild-card games have wild right there in the name, so you know by now that you can’t expect normal. In do-or-die baseball, everything is more urgent — each at-bat, each pitch thrown with a runner on base, each hit that goes by without a reliever warming in the bullpen.
And for that reason, it’s probably a fool’s errand trying to predict what will happen in the wild-card games. Looks like we’re fools then, because the Yahoo Sports MLB crew is back with its predictions again. That includes Tuesday’s NL game between the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies in Chicago, and Wednesday’s game between the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics in the Bronx.
Who’s going to win and why? Here’s how we see it.
NL wild card
JEFF PASSAN: Jon Lester is one of the most accomplished postseason pitchers in baseball history, has his full complement of rest and wants to avenge his only previous wild-card game start, in a brutal loss to Kansas City in 2014. Kyle Freeland is making his postseason debut, going on short rest and may just want a nap after trucking from Los Angeles to Chicago on Monday afternoon. Cubs craving another crack at the Brewers, Rockies away from Coors? It’s October, so weird things happen, but the indicators — porous bullpen aside — point in the direction of the Cubs. Pick: Cubs
TIM BROWN: Not that the Cubs look like world beaters, exactly. The Rockies are, however, a different team at home than they are on the road, their typical malady. They managed to make it work over a full season – 47-34 at home, 44-39 on the road – but, lately, they’re vulnerable at anything close to sea level. Lately counts. Pick: Cubs
MIKE OZ: The Cubs certainly haven’t shown the killer instinct that October survival often requires. They had plenty of opportunities to avoid even being in a wild-card game, but here they are. But the Cubs still have two things that will help them against the Rockies: Jon Lester, first off — who has big-game experience that Rockies starter Kyle Freeland doesn’t. The Cubs are also at home, which means they won’t be playing in their third park in as many days like the Rockies will be. Pick: Cubs
CHRIS CWIK: The focus will be on the Rockies’ pitching, and that’s fair. But it’s worth pointing out that the Cubs have hit just .239/.303/.367 since the start of September. Jon Lester has a reputation for upping his game in the postseason, but the Rockies have hit well against lefties in 2018. It will be close, but Colorado wins a tight one. Pick: Rockies
LIZ ROSCHER: The Cubs don’t have that “Team of Destiny” feel about them anymore, but this game could change that. Denied the NL Central crown by their longtime division rival whose fans invaded their ballpark for Game 163, a wild-card win sends the Cubs to face the Brewers in the NLDS. The Cubs badly want another shot at the Brewers, and for more than one game. So they’re sending Jon Lester to the mound at Wrigley to face a Rockies team that’s had major problems away from Coors Field. This feels like a Cubs win. Pick: Cubs
MARK TOWNSEND: Everything seems to set up better for the Cubs here, especially from a travel standpoint. But the Rockies have proven resilient this season and have been surprisingly good on the road too, winning 44 games away from Coors Field. The teams are honestly pretty even in the star department, meaning it will likely come down to a role player contributing a big play. I have my money on Colorado’s David Dahl. Pick: Rockies
AL wild card
JEFF PASSAN: The Oakland A’s, who won 97 games this season, do not have a starter they consider good enough to warrant a wild-card start, so they will become the first team ever to bullpen a win-or-go-home game. The New York Yankees, who won 100 games this season, have a bunch of starters who, they feel, sorta maybe kinda eh can start a do-or-die game. There is no purer distillation of baseball in 2018 than the AL wild card. Pick: A’s
TIM BROWN: Don’t underestimate the A’s. Or, rather, don’t continue to underestimate the A’s. They hit and pitched with the Yankees for six months, give or take. A month ago, they beat the Yankees twice in three games in Oakland. And, now, they just seem like the kind of team that will foul up everyone’s plans for a Red Sox-Yankees series. Pick: A’s
MIKE OZ: What we saw in the Game 163s only confirmed what I was already thinking here: Give me the team that can change the game with one swing of the bat, especially in a do-or-die. And while the A’s offense is very good too, the Yankees’ can mash like no one else. Quite literally — they set an MLB record for homers this season. Pick: Yankees
CHRIS CWIK: Everything about the A’s has defied expectations this season. The team with the lowest payroll in the league was supposed to finish last in their division. Despite their rotation being devastated by injuries all year, the A’s have somehow persevered. There’s no reason to think that stops now, even with the big, bad Yankees in their way. Pick: A’s
LIZ ROSCHER: The A’s are the underdog in this matchup, which feels weird since they won 97 games and came in second in their division. And it’s hard not to root for the underdog against the Yankees, who feel like they’re on the cusp of achieving evil empire status once again. It’s just one game, and anything can happen in one game. The A’s feel like the kind of team who can make anything happen. Pick: A’s
MARK TOWNSEND: There’s just something about this A’s team that makes it impossible for me to pick against them. It might be the offense. It might be the bullpen. It might be the confidence that seemingly never wavers. It might be all the above. Yes, anything can happen in one game, but I think the A’s will set the tone offensively and lock it down with their strong bullpen. Pick: A’s
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