Wild Card Games Preview


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Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.

On my way to 40 baseball games this season, I went to exactly two ballparks that weren’t home to Phillies affiliates or the Phillies- PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Yankee Stadium in New York. It should be no shock or coincidence that I picked those parks, and they are going to host Wild Card Playoff games the next two nights. There is luck in those visits, clearly.

One match-up is no shock, the other one is a game I never would have predicted before the 2015 season, and still am a bit surprised about. Of course, both are one and done games, and bring about a lot of intrigue. The second and third best records in baseball will play for their lives between Pittsburgh and Chicago, the utterly predictable game since Spring Training. In the Yankees and Astros game, two teams that more people predicted to finish at the bottom of their division than in this game will clash. Here’s my take.

NL Wild Card- Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh Pirates-

Ok, I’ll admit it, I hate the Cubs now. It’s not something that I should feel or admit, but it’s just honesty. They didn’t “need” Cole Hamels the Chicago Tribune said, as the Phillies arrived in the Midway in July, which irked me in a big way. After 107 years of coming up short, I don’t care if you think he’s your second or third starter, a guy with his post-season resume is something you need. Then there were the internet trolls that insisted the Phillies should take Javy-freaking-Baez and some garbage, and like it for Hamels, made it even worse. All of this brought up other beefs I had with the Cubs too. I had some ill will towards them for choking up the 2003 NLCS, because I couldn’t stand that Marlins team. Ok, ranting about my Cubs hate is done. Anyway….

Chicago is a beautiful city. I’ve always really wanted to go to Wrigley Field for a game, and I haven’t. That’s a sad. Pittsburgh, it turns out after visiting it for the first time in 7 years this Summer, is also a really awesome city. I did go to PNC Park this year, and well, it’s got maybe the best view in all of sports of it’s downtown. That is not a sad. Primanti Brothers is really cool, and so is the Clemente Bridge, by the way. Totally unrelated, but if Pitt and Northwestern decided to play a football game in place of this baseball game, it might be the worst piece of replacement entertainment in American history, and might produce even less points than an Arrieta-Cole match-up. Really. Yeah though, this is a match-up of two really cool cities, my primate-esque hating on the Cubs aside. Just to even up the hatred column here, I will mention that Sidney Crosby plays hockey in Pittsburgh, and I’d totally be rooting for the Chicago team to beat the crap out of him in hockey.

Ok, the game itself. Two guys who are going to be in the Cy Young’s top five are going to throw a baseball game that is do-or-die for both teams. If that hasn’t caught your eye yet, you’re not American. The young star-power in this game from the likes of McCutchen, Rizzo, Bryant, Marte, and others means this might not be the last time we see these teams play in the post-season in the coming years. All those talents don’t add up to much in a game with these types of pitchers. One would tend to think going in that this is going to be a very low-scoring kind of game, where catching the ball and pitching well is the difference. Without looking at any advanced metrics right now, I would tend to think the Pirates have a better defensive alignment taking the field tonight. They are going to have to be, because they did not hit Arrieta at all this season, and really no one did after he lost the Hamels’ no-hitter game at Wrigley. As awesome as Cole has been, Arrieta probably gets the tiniest of edges going into this game.

The Cubs had the better of the Pirates most of the season head-to-head, and have a pitcher going who dominated the Pirates all year. The Pirates are home, have done this the last two years, have an ace of their own, and beat up the Cubs in the last head-to-head series. This is a pretty tough game to predict. My guess is that the Vegas crowd will give a slight edge to Arrieta, and frankly that’s hard to argue with. I’ll be pulling for the Pirates though. I’d like to see my favorite non-Phillies player right now, McCutchen, win a ring this year.

I’ll conclude this with three minor points that I missed in all of this-

  1. My apologies to Pitt and Northwestern, two pretty decent football teams that I picked on for playing good defense. I should have said Penn State and Illinois here- now that would be some ugly football.
  2. Clearly the nation’s sentimentality will lie with Pittsburgh, a city that hasn’t had a baseball parade since 1979. I mean, Chicago had a World Series parade in 2005, why do they need another one?
  3. I think billy goats are awesome animals. I bet that you could find one in like Westmoreland County and bring it to PNC Park, Pirates fans…. just saying.

AL Wild Card- Houston Astros @ New York Yankees 

I’m going to tell you flat out to start this that I do not hate the Yankees like most non-Yankee fans do. First off, I think New York City is the greatest city in the world. For real. If you disagree then you hate America. I mean, in what other city could you go from people trying to figure out a legal way to deny Alex Rodriguez the money he is contractually obligated to in February, but in October they have his jersey on and talk about what a good influence he was on some of the younger Yankees? In what other city could 2009 World Series winning ace C.C. Sabathia check into rehab, and some fans question his timing on Twitter? I know, this kind of hypocrisy happens in every city with a sports team, but dammit, it’s a helluva lot better when it happens with callers to WFAN talking to Mike Francesca.

I don’t really have anything to say about Houston. Enron? I don’t know, what else can I really talk about? I certainly don’t have anything against the Astros. Players like Altuve, Correa, and Keuchel are fun to watch. This team really wasn’t supposed to be here yet this year. Suddenly Houston sports fans don’t have to care as much about whether Dwight Howard will actually care enough to win them a championship, because this young group has the talent to do it instead. With that said, I’ve never been to Houston. I love me some Texas barbecue, beaches, and women, but yeah, I don’t have a damn thing to say here.

I’m going to be pulling for the Yankees though. I like October baseball in the Bronx. I like tormenting Mets fans by telling them they’ll always be New York’s JV team. I like that Yankees fans were almost as happy as Phillies fans when the Mets collapsed in 2007 and 2008. I like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. I like the way A-Rod bothers the commissioner’s office. Oh yeah, I like New York’s food, ocean, scenery, and women too (more in fact, since I’ve been there). Add all of this up, and I can discount that I can’t stand Rudy Giuliani, provided that the Yankees get someone like Jay Z on TV in a seat by the dugout too. i’m pulling for the Yankees.

I don’t think the Yankees will win though. They also over-achieved this season. I thought for sure they’d be a bottom-feeder in the AL East, and yet they kept it together all year. The problem in this playoff game for them is that Keuchel is a lefty, which neutralizes their heavily lefty line-up, in a lefty-friendly ballpark. The Astros suddenly got their mojo back this week, and made me believe they might make a run. They’ll probably win.

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