If watching baseball all day is a thing that you would like to do, the first day of MLB’s postseason will have you covered. Games begin at 12, 2, 4, and 8pm Eastern. Well, they’re scheduled for :07 in each of those hours, but you know what I mean.
That’s a lot of baseball, although probably not technically nonstop baseball since there’s a big gap there between 4 and 8. It’s possible, though - last year’s one-game NL wild card between the Dodgers and Cardinals took four hours and 15 minutes, most of which was played with the game tied at 1-1, before the Dodgers won it with a walkoff dinger with two outs in the ninth. When the stakes are high, everybody slows everything down. Some of them are already agonizingly slow to begin with.
One interesting thing for this year’s postseason is that it’s the first one with the new, 12-team format. Where the “first round” used to be a one-game wild card in each league, these have now expanded to two best-of-threes in each league, with all games being played in the better seed’s home stadium.
The two division winners with the best record in each league get a bye through this round. If any bomb out in the Division Series round, people will wonder if they got rusty in the layoff. If the 99+ win teams romp, it’ll be because they had time to be fresh. It’ll be for next week to figure that out. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday if necessary, it’s all about the wild card round.
12:07 - Rays at Guardians, ESPN
Starting pitchers: Shane McClanahan (TB) vs. Shane Bieber (CLE)
A Shane-off! What are the odds of that? Both of these guys pitched great this year, with ERAs under 3.
If the Orioles had made it into the postseason and they drew the 12:07 game, I would have been annoyed about that. It’s not hard to see who the league and the broadcasters think is “worth” prime time. On the other hand, there are benefits to getting the postseason day game slot. You don’t have to be up late seeing if your favorite team wins. If you go to the game, you get daytime temperatures rather than chilly October nights.
The ZiPS postseason projections on FanGraphs have the Rays as 52.8% favorites for the series, although the Guardians are 53% favorites to win the first game.
2:07 - Phillies at Cardinals, ABC
Starting pitchers: Zack Wheeler (PHI) vs. Jose Quintana (STL)
I was very surprised to discover, upon the Phillies clinching the final NL wild card spot, that they were last in the postseason more than a decade ago. Shows you how much attention I pay to the closest Orioles neighbor to the north. It must feel good for a Phillies fan to be back - though again, this wild card business means they might get two games, neither of which are at home.
Of the four wild cards, I think this one interests me the least. There aren’t any long title droughts at play here. The ex-Oriole consideration is nonexistent. It’s just a team that’s lucky it plays in a bad division and a team that’s lucky the league expanded the postseason.
The Phillies get the slight edge in ZiPS at 51.2%.
4:07 - Mariners at Blue Jays, ESPN
Starting pitchers: Luis Castillo (SEA) vs. Alek Manoah (TOR)
The most interesting matchup of the first round for me, if only because this is the one where my preferred team for the round (Mariners) is playing my least preferred team of the round (Blue Jays). The wickedness both in decades past and in the present season of Toronto-affiliated baseballers does not need to be recounted here. Do this dang thing, Seattle!
The ZiPS projection favors the Mariners today (51.1%) though the Blue Jays are 54.2% favored overall.
8:07 - Padres at Mets, ESPN
Starting pitchers: Yu Darvish (SD) vs. Max Scherzer (NYM)
Manny is on one team and Buck Showalter is managing the other. It’s kind of a shame these two teams are facing each other in the first round. Much more fun if it was lined up so they could potentially both advance. Oh well. No surprise that this series gets the prime-time billing. The Mets have the two big aces. The Padres have star power, including their blockbuster trade acquisition Juan Soto. I’ll be pulling for whichever of these teams wins the series into the next round.
By ZiPS, this is the most lopsided series, with the Mets favored at 59.8%. They get a big edge for having Scherzer and Jacob deGrom lined up for the first two games.