After 162 regular season games, it all comes down to this. After a grueling grind of the regular season, two excellent teams meet with everything on the line. When the dust settles, one team’s journey continues, while the other club’s dreams get crushed. The best part? We get to do this twice.
Tuesday’s matchup promises to be a slugfest featuring two familiar foes who hit the ever-living daylights out of the ball. Mark Trumbo and the homer-happy Baltimore Orioles will travel to Toronto to take on reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson and the Toronto Blue Jays. Either the most powerful offense in baseball is going home, or Jose Bautista’s Blue Jays career is going to come to an unceremonious end.
If fireworks aren’t your thing, maybe Wednesday’s game is more to your liking. Noted postseason hero Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants take on young ace Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets. Syndergaard might be the next coming, but the Giants’ even-year magic looms large.
Given the nature of one-game playoffs, anything can happen in either of these games. With that in mind, we asked the Yahoo Sports crew to offer up some predictions on how they see each game shaking out. Which teams will win? What crazy prediction is sure to come through? Let’s find out!
AL: The ball will be in play, as they say. Marcus Stroman in four 2016 starts against Orioles: 7.04 ERA. Chris Tillman in past nine starts at Rogers Centre: 8.06. Bullpens will be critical. O’s, therefore, by the breadth of a dinger.
NL: There are few absolutes in baseball, which doesn’t mean there are none. You don’t count the fingers on Mr. Met. You don’t leave the San Francisco Giants for dead in an even year. And you don’t bet against Madison Bumgarner in October.
One prediction: Matt Harvey will not, under any circumstances, start the ninth inning.
AL: Chris Tillman had a fantastic comeback season, but that all comes to an end in Toronto. Tillman’s 3.77 ERA was just fine this season, but I’m betting against his history at Rogers Centre. In 13 career starts in the stadium, Tillman owns a 7.01 ERA. The Orioles are never truly out of a game due to their offense, but I suspect Toronto piles it on thick early and doesn’t let up.
NL: Madison Bumgarner is great and all, but I say out with the old and in with the new. Noah Syndergaard will match Bumgarner throughout the contest, forcing both teams to turn to the bullpen late. We all know how that’s going to work out for San Francisco. I’ll take Syndergaard and the Mets on a clutch hit by (who else) Yoenis Cespedes.
One prediction: If Syndergaard loses, he immediately shaves his head on the field after the game.
AL: The Blue Jays don’t feel like the same dynamic team that won the AL East last year, but they were good enough to at least earn home field in the wild-card game against the Orioles. Playing in front of a sure-to-be raucous Toronto crowd, there’s no better time for a star-studded lineup that’s had its ups-and-downs this season to break out and roll into an ALDS rematch with the Rangers feeling prepared to pull off an upset.
NL: Madison Bumgarner in the playoffs? Yes, please. We all remember his dominance for the Giants back in 2014 when they won the World Series, which all started with a complete-game shutout of the Pirates in Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game. This time around the game is in New York, and Noah Syndergaard takes the mound for the Mets, but expect Bumgarner to rise above again and with some help from the offense, send San Francisco to the NLDS.
One prediction: Book this: there will be at least one memorable bat flip in the Orioles-Blue Jays showdown.
AL: I think it’s going to be a 1-0 pitchers’ duel! Sike! Like everybody else, I’m anticipating a slugfest. In that situation, in that stadium, I’m going with the Jays. As much as Mark Trumbo and crew are able to hit the ball out of the yard, I like the Jays lineup just a little bit more. Chris Tillman’s past at Rogers Centre isn’t great either. I’ll take the Jays on the strength of at least three homers.
NL: The Giants come into the wild-card game on a roll, having just swept the rival Los Angeles Dodgers to clinch their postseason spot. They’ll have Bumgarner on the mound. For a team that blew it in the second half, they’ll enter this do-or-die game with a lot to feel good about. Including one more dude picking them to win. I’m taking the Giants and I anticipate Bumgarner going the distance.
One prediction: Noah Syndergaard looks at Madison Bumgarner.
AL: The uncertainty of this game can be encapsulated by the fact that neither had a clear-cut choice to start it. Ultimately, the one-game, empty-your-bullpen nature of this plays right into Buck Showalter’s strengths — and away from John Gibbons’. In a game of mixing and matching, there’s a clear choice. Orioles
NL: Thor vs. Bum? Yes, please. Last time Madison Bumgarner pitched a wild-card game, it was on the road and he threw a four-hit shutout. Bet against Bum in the playoffs? Not this guy. Giants
One prediction: Yoenis Cespedes kicks a fly ball.
AL: Chris Tillman and Marcus Stroman aren’t bad pitchers … unless their teams are facing each other. Knowing that, this game might as well be played in a magical place called Dinger City. The Jays know how to hit homers, but the Orioles hit more than any other team in baseball this season. And when you add Zach Britton, the Orioles’ stellar closer, to that equation? I’ll take the Orioles.
NL: Betting against Noah Syndergaard in nearly any situation seems like a bad idea, and this is no exception. The guy doesn’t just look like Thor, he pitches like him, too. Don’t get me wrong, Madison Bumgarner is excellent, but this will come down to the bullpens if both pitchers are on their game. Don’t forget: one of the main reasons the Giants got a wild-card spot instead of winning their division is because their bullpen helped engineer an epic second-half collapse. The Mets may have some offensive issues, but their bullpen is a lot stabler than that.
One prediction: Yoenis Cespedes and Madison Bumgarner will embrace on the mound and lead a stadium-wide “Kumbaya” sing-a-long.
AL: The Blue Jays are going to be glad they locked up home field. This feels like a slugfest that will come down to the last at-bat, and I see Josh Donaldson spoiling Zach Britton’s basically perfect season with a walk-off homer.
NL: As great as Noah Syndergaard is, it’s impossible to bet against Madison Bumgarner on a big stage. He’s succeeded there too many times, proving over and over against that he’s unaffected by pressure. The Mets hot and cold offense will not have the answer.
One prediction: Both Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard are capable of hitting one out. Bumgarner though is a legit hitter and I can see him driving home the dagger while silencing Citi Field.
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