Okay, lets just get straight to the point. This year's Wild Card match ups are going to be interesting to say the least. These two games have the potential to be the most exciting part of the 2017 Postseason for a couple of reasons:
First of all, these teams have their whole season riding on one game! Aces will be thrown, calls will be challenged, and college-like hustling won't be sold separately. This perfect mixture is bound to have fans of the sport on the edge of their seat. I mean isn't this what we all wait to see? Grown men faced with the biggest challenge of their season getting to put it all on the line (pressure and all) in a 9 inning battle. If you aren't juiced for it in every way, (yes, every way) then I'm not sure you're human!
Second, and this is a big one, the home crowd is going to let it all hang out. Now, we don't necessarily want to see fans go crazy like they did in Atlanta over a botched infield fly rule call against the Cardinals in 2012, but I mean it wouldn't hurt! I mean think about it, when you're at home watching the games on TV, don't you want the fans to represent the fact that they would do anything in their power to boost their teams chances at the next series? Now, put yourself in their shoes. You just paid $100 for a chance to be a part of your team's run at the World Series - hell yeah you're getting out of your seat and losing your mind any chance you get!
Now, onto the match ups...
Okay, let's be real, you either love or hate the Yankees, there's really no way around it. Regardless of which side you are on, you have to tip your hat to the excitement they have caused throughout the league this year. The true story this year for the new Bronx Bombers was the outstanding offense, mostly sparked by HUGE rookie of the year candidate Aaron Judge (who will easily win the AL HR title with a chance to steal back the RBI title). But the sticks don't stop there, Gary Sanchez also boasted a great number of homers this season with 30+ putting him in the top 15 in the AL. Luis Severino claimed the "ace" title this year with a solid 14 wins and a strong 2.98 ERA on the year, something any Yankee fan can be proud of. Other notable standouts to look out for include: Pitchers: Flame throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, relievers Dellin Betances and David Robertson. Hitters: Didi Gregorious and Chase Headley.
The Minnesota Twins have landed their first playoff berth since 2010. Has it really been that long? Well, actually the real question is: Has it been that short of a drought?! The Minnesota Twins have been (in part) the definition of irrelevant when it comes to teams with spark or any shot at making it passed the regular season, but they've done it! It has been a true team effort this year as Ervin Santana has continued to hold the ace spot. Santana won 16 games, putting him in a tie for the 5th highest in the league, with a 3.28 ERA. It is no surprise that Joe Mauer has kept his position as the face of the franchise and this year he has done it with the a team leading batting average at .305 and OBP at .381. Brian Dozier has packed the much needed punch for the offense as he leads the team in RBIs, HRs, and Hits! Be sure to see Minnesota rallying behind those two offensive weapons. Other notable standouts: Pitchers: Closer Brandon Kintzler, RP Taylor Rogers and Matt Belisle. Hitters: Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano.
My bold prediction for this game is that the Twins will feel the breeze of having nothing to lose. Let's face it, nobody expects a whole lot out of the biggest underdog in the 2017 postseason so why would they have such a hard time? However, the Yankees have a ton of pressure on them from the fans (which was clearly expressed when they tried to sneak one passed us by celebrating the fact that they clinched the Wild Card with the division still in their reach). The truth is that most of that pressure will be placed on the 6' 7" rookie, Aaron Judge. Though he has been able to handle the pressure all on his own, like we saw at the home run derby and throughout the season with the outstanding pace he has kept, he will not live up to the ultimate expectations of his fans. I have him going 1-4 with a walk and an RBI. Aroldis Chapman will enter the game, but he will never have a lead as the Twins put together 4 runs in the first 6 innings of the game.
Final: Twins beat Yankees 5-2
There is so much to cover with what the D-Backs have been able to do this year, but I'll keep it short. In order to have the finish that they have had for the regular season, you have to give a bunch of credit to both sides of the ball. I'll start with the pitching that we may see during the Wild Card game. Either the funky righty, Zack Greinke or the smooth lefty Robbie Ray. After a rough first year in Arizona, Greinke has been the starter everyone knew he could be with an impressive 17 wins on the season and a 3.18 ERA. Robbie Ray was suited to finish the season with a couple of more wins than he had (15) had he not taken a line drive to the brain late July. When he bounced back from the injury that made a whole fan base freeze, he was back to mid-season form and finished the year with a 2.86 ERA. It would be hard to pick between the two studs, but either way Arizona knows they will be in good hands. As for the offense, it is as hot as ever with a lineup dripping with playoff potential. Paul Goldschmidt has been and will continue to be the fan favorite with a team leading .302 batting average and 36 home runs. J.D. Martinez has proven to be a great pickup at the trade deadline while he continues to pump out run support (29 home runs and .306 BA for the D-Backs). Jake Lamb is a big standout also with 29 home runs and 103 RBIs. Other notable players: Pitchers- Reliever Archie Bradley and closer Fernando Rodney. Hitters- David Peralta and Brandon Drury.
The Rockies may be the most uniquely one-sided team in the playoffs, or the whole league for that matter. Their pitching has done their part to piece things together and it will be a close call between the team's two best starters, Kyle Freeland (11 wins and 4.06 ERA) and German Marquez (11 wins and 4.38 ERA). On defense, they will probably rely on their relievers early, so expect to see Pat Neshek (team ERA leader) come out within the first 5 innings and closer Greg Holland will make an appearance no matter the score. Clearly lead by their ability to score runs, this year's Colorado team is very good at what they do. The first person you think of is Nolan Arenado (team leading 129 RBIs and 36 HRs), and I can't blame you, ESPN captures his every move. He is very good and will be sure to make an impression on fans as always, but Charlie Blackmon is the guy we should be focused on as he leads the team in batting average, HRs, OBP, and hits! He's an animal and I didn't even mention that he has 100 RBIs as a lead off batter. Yeah, I read that twice too. Other notable players: Pitchers- Relievers Adam Ottavino and Jake McGee. Hitters- Mark Reynolds, Trevor Story, and Carlos Gonzalez.
As hot as the D-backs have been it would be very hard to bet against them. I mean this is a team that put together a 13 game winning streak at the end of August that lasted until early September. This team has plenty of confidence, and who could blame them? Now, don't get me wrong, the Rockies have a good chance to pull a fast one on this Arizona squad. They have been known to be a very streaky team, so there is no telling for sure, but pitching is key and Greinke is hard to beat, especially at home! Though both teams are relatively "small market" they will have to duke it out one last time to advance to the NLDS - where I believe the Diamondbacks will face the LA Dodgers.