Every year, as the weather starts to get cooler, hockey and football start up again, and major league baseball comes to a close. While professional baseball of some sort is being played somewhere almost all year round, most of us are paying much more attention to the Division and League Championships, and of course the World Series, than to which players are reporting to the Arizona Fall League (six Phillies prospects, if you were wondering).
The pigtail match to decide the wildcard winner is still strange and new, but the matchups are both pretty interesting: the Oakland A’s, who, despite making it to the post-season for the third season in a row this year, haven’t even seen the World Series since 1990, will face the Kansas City Royals, who are rallying behind the fact that Lorde thought their team name was cool enough to write a song about, for the American League Wild Card. Meanwhile, in the National League, the San Francisco Giants, who are starting a pattern of making it to the post-season every other season (they won the World Series both of the past two times they’ve made it, in 2010 and 2012) will face the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were knocked out during this same pigtail match last year – their first post-season appearance since 1992.
The teams already safely in the post-season contain very few surprises. Teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first NLDS pairing, are familiar with the post-season, as are the Los Angeles Angels and the Detroit Tigers.
The Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals are the biggest shocks, though both teams had stellar seasons – and identical finishing records with 96 wins and 66 losses. The Orioles made it to the wildcard pigtail match in 2012 and no further, while before that, they hadn’t played October baseball since 1997.
The Nationals, who have zero World Series appearances, even including their time as the Montreal Expos, have been slowly making a name for themselves. Though they last appeared in the post-season only two seasons ago, that team was drastically different from the team that claimed the highest winning percentage in the National League this year. The Nationals are, to be quite honest, a force to be reckoned with. They are hungry for it. But will that be enough to defeat the more seasoned teams with more – or really, any – post-season experience?
This is what October is all about.