This weekend of Wild Card baseball turned out to be pretty thrilling, especially on the AL side. The Mariners punched their ALDS tickets with a a seven-run comeback to sweep Toronto (aww – poor Blue Jays) while the Guardians completed their sweep with a 1-0 win over the Rays in 15 innings. People grouched a lot about the revised Wild Card format, and it did feel strange that the 101-game winning Mets and the Cardinals, with their three future HOFers, were bounced from the playoffs so soon, but three games feels way less random than the one game sudden-death version we saw MLB experimenting with recently.
Today is another day of wall-to-wall postseason baseball, with four division series Game 1’s to be played, kicking off at 1 pm and continuing until the end of the 9:30 PM West Coast game.
One interesting thing about how the ALDS/NLDS matchups played out: the only non-division rivalry is Cleveland vs. the Yankees, the lone remaining AL East team (not that anyone on this site is crying about that). All the others—Atlanta-Philly, Houston-Seattle, and Los Angeles-San Diego—know each other very well, having played 19 times this season.
1:07 – Phillies at Braves, Game 1, FOX
Starting pitchers: Ranger Suárez (PHI) vs. Max Fried (ATL)
Season series: 11-8 Braves (+3 run differential)
The Phillies made it here by knocking off the Cardinals, their first playoff series win since 2010. The season series between Philadelphia and the reigning champions was awful close, with seven of the 19 games decided by two or fewer runs. The last time these two teams met in the postseason was 1993, when Philadelphia downed Atlanta in six games to advance to the World Series.
Philadelphia lefty Ranger Suárez (10-7, 3.65 ERA) gets the nod in Game 1. He had a good second half of the season (putting up a 2.95 ERA in his final 14 starts), and went 1-2 with a 3.21 ERA in five starts against the Braves this season.
Since his 2017 debut, Max Fried (14-7, 2.48 ERA) has turned into an elite starter for Atlanta. Last season, Fried pitched six scoreless innings in Game 6 of the World Series to lead Atlanta to victory over the Astros. In four starts against the Phillies this season, he went 0-1 with a 3.13 ERA.
3:37 - Mariners at Astros, Game 1, TBS
Starting pitchers: Logan Gilbert (SEA) vs. Justin Verlander (HOU)
Season series: 12-7 Astros (+8 run differential)
The Mariners came back from a seven-run deficit to shock the Blue Jays in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card series, but they face a tougher opponent in the Astros, who won the AL West by 16 games. The season series was closer than meets the eye, though, with just eight runs separating the two teams.
Both of these teams finished in the top five among AL staffs in ERA, the Astros at 2.90 and the Mariners at 3.59. The Astros also had the best OPS in the AL, led by heavy hitters Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker—and of course, Trey Mancini.
Not surprisingly, the Astros are starting AL Cy Young Award frontrunner Justin Verlander in Game 1 at Minute Maid Park. At age 39, Verlander led the MLB in ERA, wins, WHIP, ERA+ and hits per game. In six starts against the Mariners this year, the ageless right-hander went 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA.
Logan Gilbert (13-6, 3.20 ERA in the regular season) didn’t pitch in the Wild Card series against Toronto, so he’ll be on 10 days’ rest entering today’s start. Arguably the Mariners’ most successful starter against the Astros in the regular season, the 25-year-old Gilbert held Houston to a .228/.283/.348 (.631 OPS) slash line with a 2.52 ERA in four starts.
7:37 – Guardians at Yankees, Game 1, TBS
Starting pitchers: Cal Quantrill (CLE) vs. Gerrit Cole (NYY)
Season series: 5-1 Yankees (+24 run differential)
The only matchup that isn’t a division rivalry, the Guardians and Yankees meet in the postseason for the second time in three years. The last time was in 2020, when New York swept Cleveland in the AL Wild Card Series.
The Yankees have experienced some roster drama, with Aroldis Chapman left off the ALDS roster after missing a team workout, but they’re getting Matt Carpenter back from the injured list, and of course, they still have Aaron Judge, fresh off breaking the AL record for most homers in a season with 62. The Yankees ranked first in the Majors in homers this season with 254 and second in team OPS at .751.
Gerrit Cole’s 13-8 record and 3.50 ERA this season weren’t his best, but he also led the league with a monster 257 strikeouts. In four postseason starts as a Yankee, Cole is 2-1 with a 3.98 ERA. He went 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in two starts vs. Cleveland this year.
Guardians pitchers really shone in their two Wild Card Series games against the Rays, allowing a single run across 24 innings. Their No. 3 guy behind former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and newcomer Triston McKenzie, Cal Quantrill went 15-5 with a 3.38 ERA in the regular season. In one start against the Yankees, Quantrill gave up three runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
9:37 – Padres at Dodgers, Game 1, FS1
Starting pitchers: Mike Clevinger (SD) vs. Julio Urías (LAD)
Season series: 14-5 Dodgers (+62 run differential)
Padres owner Peter Seidler has described the Dodgers as “the dragon up the freeway that we’re trying to slay.” Good luck with that. Even after the Padres scored the biggest trade of the season, acquiring slugging outfielder Juan Soto from the Nationals in August, the 111-win Dodgers pretty much owned them, outscoring the Padres by 62 runs in 19 games this season.
The last time these two met up in the postseason, in 2020, the Dodgers swept the Padres in the 2020 NLDS en route to winning it all.
The starter matchups already look lopsided. The Dodgers Julio Urías (17-7, 2.16 ERA) gets the start in Game 1, with Clayton Kershaw (12-3, 2.28 ERA) slated for Game 2. Urías went 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four starts vs. the Padres this season.
Meanwhile, the Padres are going with Mike Clevinger (7-7, 4.33 ERA), who joined the Padres in 2020 after four-and-a-half solid seasons with Cleveland. Clevinger missed 2021 with Tommy John surgery, and he was left off the Wild Card Series roster while battling an illness. His 2022 season has been up and down, with a 4.90 ERA in the second half. Against the Dodgers, he went 0-2 with a 9.69 ERA in the regular season. I’m rooting for the upset, but not necessarily betting on it.