The NL West divisional race came down to game 162, but the boys in blue must win on Wednesday to continue their playoff journey.
Analysis by Benjamin Royer, Valley Life Editor
Crowds are filing in. Rally towels are waving. Playoff baseball is back in town.
The Los Angeles Dodgers tied its 2019 franchise record for a 106 win season, but that was not enough to win the division as the San Francisco Giants became the NL West Champions on the final day of the regular season. Sunday, the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres and won the division for the first time since 2012 sending the Dodgers to their first-ever NL wild card game. The rest of the postseason provides fans with enticing matchups and an all-time historic rivalry game in the first round.
Chavez Ravine will host the NL wild card game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have played spoiler to the Dodgers in playoff games past, most recently in 2013 and 2014. The pitching duel has two well-known arms taking the stage. Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright is a 16-year veteran and Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer joined the team at the trade deadline - becoming a NL Cy Young Award candidate after his 11 starts with Los Angeles. Second baseman Trea Turner arrived with Scherzer in July from Washington in a trade and also slowly became an MVP candidate by the season’s end. Turner had the highest batting average in the MLB, batting .328 and has hit two grand slams in his last three games. The winner of this matchup will play SF Friday in the NL division series.
Playoff baseball will start off Oct. 5 with a classic. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will face-off in the AL wild card game at Fenway Park Tuesday after securing their playoff fates last Sunday. The Red Sox and Yankees both struggled in their respective final series, so momentum could be up for grabs early in the night. Look out for Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge - his walk-off hit sent the pinstripes to the playoffs and the 6-foot-7 power bat could be the impact needed for the Bronx bombers.
Tampa Bay waits for the winner of the Yankees and Red Sox game. The Rays appeared in the World Series last year and few expected a return so quickly to success after trading its ace pitcher Blake Snell to San Diego. Now the top seed in the AL, the Rays have a clear route to the World Series but its divisional foes could throw a wrench into their path. The top seed in the NL, the Giants surpassed all expectations in 2021. A team which by fans and media alike were predicted to play closer to .500, won more games than any other team in baseball this year.
The Dodgers and Giants have never faced off in the playoffs and if their rivals defeat the Cardinals, it will create a one-of-a-kind matchup in the bay.
The Houston Astros had a problem in their 2017 championship campaign in which MLB punished the team for its role in cheating during the regular season and postseason. Now under the guidance of manager Dusty Baker, the Astros made the AL division series with a clean slate. Players such as pitcher Justin Verlander and shortstop Carlos Correa will have their contracts expire this offseason, making this the last chance to win a ring, fair and square in Texas. Traveling to Houston to play in the ALDS will be the Chicago White Sox. The Southside has not had much to root for since 2005 when these two teams faced off in the World Series. The Astros have since switched from the NL to the AL, but this rematch in the playoffs could provide some monumental moments. White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson has made a name for himself with the flair he plays with, so watch out for the 28-year old to make his mark on the series.
On the NL side of the bracket, the final NLDS matchup taking place will be the Milwaukee Brewers versus the Atlanta Braves. The city of cheese and beer made the postseason with some help from their arms, earned run average leader Corbin Burnes and pitcher Brandon Woodruff. Both right-handers have the ability to carry the Brewers late into games providing relief to an offense that does not have the same spark as the rest of the NL playoff field. On the opposite side of the coin, the Braves’ offense has the same impact as their opponents’ pitching. Outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. and first baseman Freddie Freeman both have accolades to their names with a Rookie of the Year award and the MVP award respectively.
Whether rooting for Los Angeles or not, the MLB postseason is expected to provide exhilarating moments throughout.