Since its birth in 2012, the Wild Card game has received its fair share of praise and criticism (mostly criticism) and while many of us (especially here at Bench Points) believe it should be a three game series, there will always be that air of excitement that surrounds a one-game sudden death playoff game.
To catch some of you up, in recent years each league in the MLB has awarded two teams the chance to earn the wild-card spot. The challenge? Play one game and hope you don’t mess up. Tonight, the newly American-Leagued and two-years-off-a-historically-awful-season Houston Astros take on the dynastic-“return-to-the-playoffs”-A-Rod-wielding-Jeter-less New York Yankees. WHO WILL SURVIVE? IT’S NO SALARY CAP VS. THE PROLETARIAT.
Despite the Astros winning the season series four games to three, the Yankees finished a whole game better than Houston in the regular season and have claimed home-field advantage.
Houston’s starting pitcher for the night is Dallas Keuchel. He shut New York out twice this year and though he’s fairly dominant at home, he’s struggled on the road this year. WHICH BEARD WILL SHOW UP? (hint: it’s not James Harden.)
New York’s starting pitcher is Masahiro Tanaka and he also carries two personalities on the mound. Sometimes his curveball is “on fleek” as the kids say and he manages to paint the corners with an elegance that warrants his status as the ace. Other times, that curveball hangs a little too high in the zone, his fastballs catch too much of the plate, and a few homeruns knock him out of the game within the first three innings.
C.C. Sabathia recently entered rehab for alcoholism, but in the scheme of one game, that shouldn’t matter. It only matters if his absence proves to be a distraction. In addition, Jacoby Ellsbury won’t be in the starting lineup, Chris Young will be taking his place.
Houston’s youth has come into question, and things like “are they ready for this?” seem to come up in general discussion amongst fans of the games. They remind me of the 2011 Thunder or the 2014 Golden State Warriors. They should have won their division, and perhaps their inability to close out the season will come back to haunt them.
X–Factor? How long will Tanaka stay in the game? Houston has plenty of proven bats in their lineup tonight but if Tanaka can last at least five innings, the Yankees have one of the better bullpens in baseball ready and available to close the game out. Look to the Astros to come out swinging, and swinging hard.
Prediction? Tanaka will survive through six innings, Keuchel through eight, and the Yankees will win in the bottom of the SEVENTEENTH off an ALEX RODRIGUEZ HOME RUN.