|It's Miller Time! But are the Nationals going to shut down the Brew Crew's party? (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)|
What's going on, everyone? This is your favorite fearless forecaster, Joey Beartran. And I don't know how effective I'll be picking other teams to win, especially since I'm still on a high from the Mets' season-ending walk-off victory.
Finishing ten games over .500 wasn't good enough to get the Mets into the playoffs, as they finished three games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the second wild card. But at least they're not the 93-win Cleveland Indians, who became a fringe playoff team themselves when they allowed the small-market Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics to beat them to the postseason party.
Speaking of fringe teams, the Philadelphia Phillies paid $330 million to Bryce Harper, who led them to the promised land of a .500 record. That's over $100 million more than the Washington Nationals are offering Anthony Rendon, otherwise known as the player who was the real offensive leader of the Nats all these years. And the player who could possibly be one of just 25 who can say they helped Washington advance in the postseason for the first time ever.
But will Washington finally celebrate something other than a division title or wild card berth? Will Milwaukee continue to win one for the Yelich? How about the Rays, who are making their first playoff appearance with a skipper not named Joe Maddon? Or will the A's move on for the first time in five trips to the postseason under manager Bob Melvin?
I guess it's time for me to put on my thinking cap (or the hood from my Mets hoodie, since that's the only article of clothing I wear) and share my predictions for the American and National League Wild Card games. And of course, there's no chance those picks will be biased. Not at all.
National League Wild Card Game
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Washington Nationals
We all know the Nationals' history in the postseason. Four appearances, four quick exits. Meanwhile, every time the Brewers have qualified for the postseason since moving to the National League in 1998, they've won more playoff games than they did in their previous playoff appearance. Milwaukee won one postseason game in 2008, then followed that up with five playoff victories in 2011. Last year, the Brewers fell one win short of their second-ever trip to the World Series.
Both teams are hungry. Milwaukee is hungry for a pennant, while Washington is hungry for their first-ever October champagne celebration (which is weird because how can a team be hungry for a liquid?)
Let's look at the pitching matchup, because as we all know, pitching wins Wild Card Game championships.
The Nationals will trot out Max Scherzer, whose seven-year, $210 million contract has produced zero postseason wins in three starts and one relief appearance. Scherzer will also be pitching on six days rest, which usually helps a pitcher. However, this season Scherzer made four starts on six or more days rest. He won none of them, producing a 3.28 ERA in those well-rested appearances, which was nearly half a run higher than the 2.86 ERA he put up in his other 23 starts.
Milwaukee's starter will be Brandon Woodruff, who has a lifetime 1.46 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in four career postseason appearances. Those numbers look good on paper. You know what looks better on paper? His 0.96 ERA and 0.70 lifetime WHIP against the Nationals in four appearances. And I haven't even mentioned that he's struck out 23 Washingtonians while walking just two. (Okay, maybe I just did.)
|The face of a philosopher. (Getty Images)|
I believe it was the great former Mets shortstop Rafael Santana who once said, "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." (I also believe my Studious Metsimus colleague is passing me a note saying that it was actually George Santayana who said this. What does he know about famous quotes?) With or without Bryce Harper, the Nationals will always be doomed to repeat their postseason failures. Scherzer might be a future Hall of Famer, but 'Ol Blue Eye is not a future wild card game winner. At least not until he signs with another team.
Prediction: Milwaukee will advance to the NLDS.
American League Wild Card Game
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Oakland Athletics
So remember what I said about pitching winning championships? Well, we're going to get some pitching in this game. Unless things change, Oakland will be going with Sean Manaea, who made just five starts this season, but posted a 1.21 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in his September to remember. Tampa will be going with All-Star Charlie Morton, who went 16-6 and struck out 240 batters in just 194.2 IP. And if you recognize his name, it's probably because you recall how great he was for the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning the seventh and deciding game to give Houston its first-ever championship. In other words, he's got what it takes to pitch in a win-or-go-home game.
Manaea was great in September, but his last four starts were against the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers (twice) and Seattle Mariners. Those three teams combined to finish 99 games under .500, meaning Jeurys Familia and Edwin Díaz could probably shut them down as well.
In addition, Tampa's lineup is as consistent as they come. Nine players had 300 or more plate appearances. Eight of those players had between 14 and 21 home runs. (The one who didn't, Austin Meadows, hit 33 taters.) No one on the Rays had as many as 90 RBI, but eight players drove in over 50 runs. No player hit .300, but eight of the nine regulars hit over .250, and the one who didn't (Kevin Kiermaier) led the team in stolen bases. How consistent were the Rays throughout the season? They had 11 players with a bWAR of at least 2.0, but none with a WAR above 5.0. And who is the one player worth exactly 5.0 WAR? Why, it's wild card game starting pitcher Charlie Morton.
The game is in Oakland, but Tampa had the second-best road record in the majors at 48-33. This team knows how to win on the road. And their starting pitcher knows how to pitch when the team's season is on the line.
|Touch 'em all, Travis. (Scott Audette/AP)|
The Coliseum hasn't seen a playoff victory in six years. That streak isn't ending this year. Right, Travis?
Prediction: Tampa Bay will advance to the ALDS.