Monday, October 5, 2015
2015 MLB Wild Card Game previews
By Rick Morris
Houston at New York Yankees: Yankee fans have to be getting a troubling ’03 World Series vibe about this matchup: young team thought to be ahead of their time against an aging, veteran core. How have the Yankees had an aging, veteran core for the entire 21st century? That’s another question for another day. But, surface appearances aside, New York should be feeling pretty good. After arguably playing way over their heads when they were the toast of the American League, the Astros regressed to the mean in September even as slugger George Springer returned from injury. And by falling as far as they did, they lost the chance to host the playoff game, which inexplicably would have benefitted them in the form of ace Dallas Keuchel pitching better there for whatever reason. Minus Mark Tex, even with a number of great revivals this year, the Yanks are probably a hair less dangerous offensively than Houston; interestingly; both teams mirror one another with a number of hole-in-the-swing sluggers. But without Houston just pouring it on offensively, say Carlos Correa making a legendary playoff debut, it’s hard to envision them getting over on the steady Yankees. And if they’re behind going into the late innings, of course it’s all over. Pick: Yankees.
Chicago Cubs at Houston: There’s a lot of angst in Pittsburgh about winning 98 games – the second-biggest haul in baseball – and having nothing to show for it except a single-elimination home game against Jake Arrieta, who boasted the lowest second-half ERA (0.75) in history. Well, the 1993 San Francisco Giants, who won 103 games – also second in baseball – but missed the playoffs altogether in the final season prior to expanding to six divisions might not be very sympathetic! But the point is generally well-taken. However, the Bucs do have Gerrit Cole, himself a dominant ace and a proven big-game pitcher, to counter this massive threat. Like the Astros, the Cubs were thought to be more of a team of the future than of 2015, but unlike the Astros, they didn’t fade late in the year. This team, while extraordinarily young, is for real and they boast arguably the game’s best manager in Joe Maddon. If anyone can have his team ready to surmount Pittsburgh’s edge in postseason experience, it would be him. This game is extremely hard to forecast. Never before has a division like the National League Central contained the three best records in the game, so this means that it’s the first time in baseball history that two of the top three teams in the game are meeting in a single-elimination playoff game. Ultimately, Arrieta’s overwhelming streak cannot go on forever and you get the sense that Chicago’s odds are riding to an overwhelming degree on another superhuman performance. The guess is that he is tough but not unhittable and that may be the difference. Pick: Pirates.
Kansas City over New York Yankees in 4
Toronto over Texas in 4
St. Louis over Pittsburgh in 5
New York Mets over Los Angeles Dodgers in 4
Toronto over Kansas City in 6
St. Louis over New York Mets in 6
St. Louis over Toronto in 6