I do enjoy the MLB Postseason, especially that first day. The first day of every sport's playoffs has that different feel. The aura around it says, "It's big. It's more than just a game now." It's true, though. Every sport's playoffs has a lot more at stake, and it's not any different in baseball. I still remember when the Postseason started with the Division Series, though it's been the Wild Card round (in some form) since 2012. From 2012-2021, it was the single Wild Card Game, though the COVID-affected 2020 season gave us the Wild Card Series. It was supposed to be just for that year, but MLB decided to make the Wild Card Series permanent in 2022.
The Wild Card Series is played under a best-of-three format, and it features seeds 3-6 in each of the two leagues, while the top two teams get byes straight to the Division Series. In one series, #3 faces #6, and the winner faces #2, while the other pits #4 against #5, with the winner facing #1. Home field belongs to the team with the better seeding, and said teams host all three games. This year, the 12 postseason were set on September 30, though the final seeding wasn't set until the final day on October 1. Here are the four series that will take place:
Rangers @ Rays
The Rangers locked in a postseason spot on September 30, but they still needed one more win to capture the American League West and avoid all this Wild Card Series business. All the Rangers had to do was defeat a Seattle Mariners team who ended up eliminated after all of Saturday's madness. Funny thing: when teams have literally nothing to lose, that's when they become the most dangerous. Ask any NFL fan. In the case of the Mariners, they decided to rob Texas of their opportunity to win the division by shutting them out. The Rangers lost 1-0 at a bad time, as the Houston Astros were still blasting the Arizona Diamondbacks, and when that game went final, it would be Houston with the division crown and the extra days off, while the Rangers would have to deal with the Wild Card Series.
The Rangers will be on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays, who were in their own heated division battle with the Baltimore Orioles, though that was nipped in the bud just a bit earlier. The Rays are three years removed from their appearance in the World Series, but they haven't come close to reaching that pinnacle in the few years that passed. A Division Series loss in 2021, and 2022 saw them shut down in the Wild Card Series. The Rays are looking to improve, and improve fast, and I would think failure to do so would result in manager Kevin Cash getting the boot.
This is the third postseason meeting between the Rays and Rangers, but the Rays are 0-for-2 in October against Texas. Both of the Rangers' pennants began with victories over the Rays; in the Division Series in 2010 (Texas' first ever postseason series win) and in the Wild Card Game in 2011.
Blue Jays @ Twins
The American League Central was quite rocky this season, but somebody had to win it. Surprisingly, that somebody ended up being the Minnesota Twins--despite expectations that it would be the Cleveland Guardians. The Twins, despite everything, finished atop a tepid AL Central, and actually had a chance to get a bye to the Division Series. They'll have to settle for hosting this best-of-three series, and hope to end their long postseason game losing streak.
The Twins aren't the only team looking to end some suffering. The Toronto Blue Jays are coming of an embarrassing postseason collapse; leading 8-1 in Game Two of last year's Wild Card Series, only to lose 10-9. I've said this season that this year's Jays team is nothing more than Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. carrying the load, but even he needs to wake up when it counts. He was 1-for-8 in that series last year. That's not going to do it. The Jays have won two series since their back-to-back championships three decades ago. They need to get it together if they want to advance this year.
This is the second postseason meeting between the two clubs. Their only other encounter was in the ALCS in 1991, which saw the Twins defeat the Jays in five games, and later go on to win the World Series.
Diamondbacks @ Brewers
This series has to be the most unlikely of the four Wild Card Series matchups. I myself didn't think either of these two teams would play October baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers were coming off a down year, while the Arizona Diamondbacks entered this season still rebuilding. I honestly didn't know who would win the National League Central in 2023. A few months into the season, I ended up knowing less. It actually looked like the Pittsburgh Pirates, of all teams, had a chance to win the division. Then, it was the Cincinnati Reds who became the hot team. The Chicago Cubs were a threat for a brief while. Yet despite all of that, all three teams fizzled, and it was the Brewers who picked up the pieces and took the division crown.
In addition, I figured that the National League's postseason party would involve the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets, and the Philadelphia Phillies, somehow. The Phils did their part, but the Padres and Mets (who clashed in the Wild Card Series last year) completely fizzled. Disappointing seasons from both of them. Their loss is other teams' gain, and one of the teams who gained just happened to be the Diamondbacks. They really had quite the strong season, and as a result, they snagged one of the NL's Wild Card spots.
This is the second postseason meeting between the Brewers and Diamondbacks. Their last encounter came in 2011, with the Brewers winning a five-game NLDS over the D-Backs.
Marlins @ Phillies
2022 was such a crazy year for the Philadelphia Phillies. They gave Joe Girardi the long overdue boot, and after that, they went on a big winning tear that saw them not only reach the postseason, they went all the way to the World Series. They fell two wins short of winning the whole thing, but even so, it was quite an improbable run by the Phillies. They are looking to do it again, and in spite of Bryce Harper's injures and a home run drought that plagued him, the team managed to go all the way to the postseason, finishing with a higher Wild Card position than they did last year.
Though the Phillies had an improbable run in 2022, they will start the 2023 postseason against the masters of the improbable run: the Miami Marlins. We know their story. Never won the division. Won two World Series in 1997 and 2003 out of nowhere. "Out of nowhere" seems to describe this run to the postseason. Similar to the Diamondbacks, very few had the Marlins playing October baseball, but here they are. There has to be something in the water in Florida; the NHL's Panthers and the NBA's Heat made shocking waves this year. Now we have the Marlins in the postseason. Amazing.
Out of all four series, this is the only one to have no history. The Phillies and Marlins have never met in the postseason.
The Wild Card Series will take place in three consecutive days. The Game Ones will take place on October 3, the Game Twos on October 4, and any and all needed Game Threes will occur on October 5. The entire Wild Card Series will air on the ESPN networks (ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC) for the second straight year. As for the other four teams, the Baltimore Orioles and the Houston Astros have byes in the American League, while the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers have byes in the National League. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, the postseason has arrived!