After 162 games, the MLB regular season is over — finally. And the playoffs begin with a bang: tonight (October 6) and tomorrow’s (October 7) Wild Card Games will be, arguably, the two most exciting baseball games of the season. Both are one-and-done showdowns between the two non-division winners with the best records in each league: in the American League, the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros; in the National League, the Pittsburg Pirates and the Chicago Cubs. The winners immediately advance to play in the Division Series. The losers go home.
The Wild Card Game is relatively new to the MLB postseason. Introduced in 2012, the format gives two teams who previously would have gone home for the winter the chance to continue playing October ball. The addition has undoubtedly injected new life into the postseason, as proven by last season’s games between the San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 9-8 thriller between the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics.
Because they’re both single-elimination games, each will have an atmosphere of unpredictability. At no other time, other than a game 5 or 7 of a playoff series, is a baseball contest put down to just one game. This changes strategy. Each team will have their whole pitching staff and bench players at their manager’s disposal. A starter might pitch one inning. He might go all nine. Each pitch, each at-bat, will be played like it’s the bottom of the ninth. So even if you’re not a fan of the Yankees, Astros, Pirates or Cubs, grab a beer and tune in. After all, the winner of the Wild Card Game has a chance of going all the way. Just ask last year’s Giants and Royals.
The American League Wild Card Game, between the Astros (A) and the Yankees (H), will be played tonight (Tuesday, October 6) at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.
The National League Wild Card Game, between the Cubs (A) and the Pirates (H), will be played tomorrow (Wednesday, October 7) at 8 p.m. EST on TBS.