While the American League keeps playing meaningful games on the final weekend of the regular season, things in the NL are a little more settled. The five teams know who they are, and the only question being asked is, will the Dodgers and Mets open in New York.
But knowing who is going to play whom and knowing how it is going to turn out are two entirely different things. The Cubs will open in Pittsburgh to start the post-season, and it will be one hell of a pitching duel as Jake Arrieta will more than likely face Gerrit Cole in the one game Wildcard game.
So while two teams (The Dodgers and Mets) who will barely have 90 wins on the season will get to play a best of 5 series, Chicago and Pittsburgh who will both have more than 95 wins will get the joy of playing a winner take all, 1 game playoff. The prize for winning that game?
A date with what has been the best team all season long, the Cardinals.
So who does fortune favor in that one-game Wild Card? You would like to think the experience, plus the fact that they are home would mean the Pirates will be moving on to St. Louis for the NLDS, but the Cubs do have Arrieta on the hill, and this is a pitcher who has given up a total of four runs since August 1st.
Which means another season that the Pirates play exceedingly well, and another season when they don’t even get a sniff of the World Series. Sadly having to face Arrieta, away from Wrigley so the pressure will be off the young Cubs and the Pirates will be sent home.
But before Cubs fans get all excited, remember that means you will have to face Michael Wacha and the Cardinals with Arrieta until Game 3. Which means the Cardinals will be moving on to the NLCS after disposing of the Cubs in 4 games. The real sad part about it is, the Pirates would actually stand a chance against the Cards, even if they used Cole in the Wild Card game.
On the other side of the bracket, while the Mets must have home field advantage to have any chance of getting past the Dodgers, I am not so sure that even that will matter. All indications are the Mets will start deGrom, Syndergaard, Harvey and Matz in the NLDS against the Dodgers. Which means Bartolo Colon and John Niece will be in the pen.
While it will be great experience for this Mets team, and will help them in future years, I am not so sure sending the kids against Grienke and Kershaw is a smart move, no matter the venue. But I guess it will be the only way they will ever learn. It was a great season for the Mets, one that has really seen them play with house money. They get a big bat to stay in their line-up as opposed to a rental player (like Cespedes) and with that young rotation, they will be great for years to come.
But for now, it brings us back to the one match-up that you KNOW the Dodgers want, just so they can try and get a measure of revenge, while the Cardinals, like a well-oiled machine probably didn’t care who they faced as they just win.
But I get the feeling the third time may be the charm for this Dodger team. The rotation can stack up with that of the Cardinals quite favorably, and this Dodger lineup is deeper and stronger than it has been in years past, especially with the additions of playoff vets Chase Utley, Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins, and of course the best hitter on the team in the month of September, Corey Seager.
So there you have it, the path is wide open this year for the Dodgers to finally break through and get to their first World Series since 1988. Of course, that would mean that Clayton Kershaw HAS to be Clayton Kershaw, unlike post-seasons past.