Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - With the Pittsburgh Pirates' first playoff win in more than two decades, Major League Baseball's postseason is officially underway.
Whether you agree with the wild card format or not, you have to admit there is nothing better than a one-game playoff. Decisive games in any sport are the bees knees, now baseball has two every year. This year, MLB fans have three.
Understandably, though, you may feel differently if you live in Cincinnati, but you can't argue with the drama that the game holds.
The argument against the new format is valid. You earn a playoff spot after playing 162 games only to be knocked out after just one game. But if you are a Reds fan today, you have nothing to complain about. Your team had a chance to secure home-field advantage for this game, but lost five straight and six of their final eight regular-season games.
By the way, four of those losses - not including Tuesday's - came to the Pirates.
You want to avoid the one-game playoff? Play better. Win your division. The whole point of the extra wild card is to have more teams involved late in the season and that is exactly what we had, especially in the American League.
But, how about that crowd at PNC Park on Tuesday? That's 21 years of frustration that was let out on Tuesday. For my money, PNC is the best ballpark in baseball and it's awesome that it is now going to be showcased on the big stage.
"Our city showed up tonight," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Our fan base showed up. The park showed up. Then the players went out and played, and they showed up. I couldn't be more proud."
Now the Pirates play another team they are very familiar with in the National League Central champion St. Louis Cardinals.
From June 21 on, it was pretty much a two-horse race in the division between the Cards and Pirates, who narrowly won the season series, 10-9, winning seven of the 10 matchups at home.
The key to this upcoming series could be Pirates righty Gerrit Cole, who will likely throw one of the first two games in the series. Cole got better as he went along this year and capped his first taste of big league action by pitching to a 1.69 ERA in five September starts, all of which were Bucs wins.
And St. Louis has yet to face him.
Hurdle has not named his starter yet for Game 1, but you'd have to think he'd rely on A.J. Burnett to go up against Adam Wainwright and save Cole for Game 2 against Lance Lynn.
After Tuesday, I am all in on this whole Bucstober thing. The Pirates will get a split in St. Louis, then come home, get another Francisco Liriano home win and roll from there.
Give me the Pirates in four.
As for the rest of the Division Series? Well, here you go:
DETROIT-OAKLAND: If it seems as if we have been here before, it's because we have. These teams met in a terrific five game series a year ago that Detroit won thanks to a shutout from Justin Verlander in the decisive contest. This series comes down to Detroit's outstanding starting pitching going up against a free-swinging A's lineup. Always go with the pitching, but the A's have enough grit and pitching of their own to make this a series. In the end, though, they'll again come up short. DETROIT in FOUR
LOS ANGELES-ATLANTA: There's always one series that seems to fly under the radar. This is going to be the one. With Pittsburgh now playing in the NLDS, nobody is going to pay attention to the other series in the NL. That's good, too, because it may be a quick one. Atlanta is as well balanced as any team in the postseason, but the Dodgers' pitching is just so good. The one X-Factor could be Atlanta outfielder B.J. Upton, who has traditionally been a postseason stud, but hit only .184 this season. Barring a Superman-like performance from him, the Dodgers should roll here. DODGERS in THREE
TAMPA/CLEVELAND-BOSTON: It's hard to break this one down, obviously, because the wild card game between Tampa and Cleveland is to be played on Wednesday, but for these purposes it does' matter. Boston is going to beat either team. First of all, Tampa is going to beat Cleveland. The Tribe were just 36-52 against winning teams this season and needed an epic 10-game winning streak to close the season just to get into this position.
But again, anything can happen in a one-game playoff.
Still, we like Boston against either team. The Red Sox have been the best team in the AL East all season long. They have the pitching, they have the lineup and with Koji Uehara anchoring their bullpen, they have an edge there, too. They just seem too good to go out early. BOSTON in FOUR
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