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MLB Playoff Previews - Wild Card Series
American League Wild Card Series

Texas Rangers (90-72, 2nd AL West) @ Tampa Bay Rays (99-63, 2nd AL East)

Game 1: St. Petersburg, Florida; Tuesday, October 3, 3:08 pm EDT

Game 1 starters: Rangers: Jordan Montgomery (10-11, 3.20 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 166 strikeouts); Rays: Tyler Glasnow (10-7, 3.60 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 162 strikeouts)

Starters for game 1 of this AL Wild Card Series are Jordan Montgomery (10-11, 3.20, 166 K) for Texas and Tyler Glasnow (10-7, 3.60, 162 K), which looks to be a fairly even match-up.

Montgomery is well-traveled, having gone from the Yankees to St. Louis in 2022, then picked up by the Rangers just prior to the trade deadline in July. He went 6-9 with the Cardinals and started 11 games for the Rangers with a 4-2 mark and five no-decisions. Montgomery's last four starts have been terrific, going seven innings in three of them and six in his final outing against Seattle, allowing five hits and one run in a 3-2 losing effort, though he did not get a decision.

The prior three starts were all seven inning outings. On 9/13 he earned the win, allowing four hits and no runs in a 10-0 rout of Toronto. On 9/23, he again earned a win with seven innings of shutout ball that produced a 2-0 win over the Mariners.

30-year-old Tyler Glasnow broke in with the Pirates in 2016 and was traded to Tampa Bay in mid-2018. He's had five full seasons with the Rays, but missed most of 2022, starting only two games.

He's compiled a record of 27-16 with Tampa Bay and is considered to be the team's ace. In nine post-season starts, he's 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA, though his last start, in 2022, was excellent, giving up just two hits over five scoreless innings.

Glasnow went 3-3 in September, his most recent performance a two-hit, five-inning shutout stint in a 5-0 win at Boston on September 27.

Looking beyond the opener, Tampa Bay appears to be better suited for the short series, having plenty of recent playoff experience and the second-best record in the AL, just missing 100 wins.

Both teams have solid hitters up and down their lineups, but the Rangers have a deadly lineup full of power strokers with eight starters in double figures for home runs.

For Texas, Marcus Semien batted .276 with 29 homers and an even 100 RBI. Adolis Garcia led the squad with 39 home runs and 107 RBI. Corey Seager knocked 33 dingers and tallied 96 RBI.

Tampa first baseman Yandy Diaz finished 4th in the AL batting race with a .330 average. He knocked in 78 runs and left the park 22 times. He will be the Rays' leadoff hitter most of the time.

Third baseman, Isaac Paredes (31 HR, 98 RBI), and and left fielder, Randy Arozaena (23 HR, 83 RBI), are major threats to go long and drive in runs. Arozarena also stole 22 bags during the regular season.

DH Hector Ramirez batted .313 with 68 RBI.

The winner of this three-game series will play the Baltimore Orioles in the second round best-of-five series, starting Saturday, October 7.

American League Wild Card Series

Toronto Blue Jays (89-73, 3rd, AL East) @ Minnesota Twins (87-75, 1st, AL Central)

Game 1: Minneapolis, Minnesota; Tuesday, October 3rd, 4:30 pm EDT

By virtue of winning the AL Central in front-running fashion, the Twins have home field for this wild card best-of-three series despite Toronto having a better regular season record.

The Blue Jays send out ace Kevin Gausman to face Venezuelan Pablo Lopez.

Gausman went 12-9 with a 3.16 ERA for the Jays, finishing with 237 strikeouts, tops in the AL. Lopez, who arrived from the Marlins after the 2022 season, started 32 games for the Twins, compiling an 11-8 record with a 3.66 ERA. Lopez fanned 234 batters this season, right behind Gausman, second in the league and tied for third overall with San Diego's Blake Snell.

The Twins have lost 18 consecutive post-season games dating back to their last win in 2004, over the NY Yankees.

Along with game two starter, Sonny Gray, the Twins boast a solid pitching staff. Their starters were tops in the AL with a collective 3.82 ERA, but the Blue Jays were second, at 3.85.

Major threats to what appears to be a series dominated by pitching are Max Kepler (24 HR, 66 RBI) and shortstop Carlos Correa (18, 65). While all of the Twins regulars have at least 10 homers this season, not one drove in more than 70 runs. Injuries to (DH) Byron Buxton and starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel are areas of concern for Minnesota. Both are doubtful to see action this series.

For Toronto, the man that Twins' pitchers need to work around is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who led the team with 26 home runs and 94 RBI. Bo Bichette, the team leader at the plate with a .306 average, knocked in 73 runs and stroked 20 homers.

The Houston Astros will host the winner of this series beginning Saturday, October 7.

National League Wild Card Series

Arizona Diamondbacks (84-78, 2nd NL West) @ Milwaukee Brewers (92-70, 1st, NL Central)

Game 1: Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Tuesday, October 3, 7:00 pm EDT

Game One starters are Brandon Pfaadt (3-9, 5.72 ERA, 94 K for Arizona and Corbin Burnes for the Brewers. Arizona, a team with more youth than experience, will hang their hopes on the right arm of Pfaadt in game one. The 24-year-old entered September with a 1-7 record, but notched two important wins down the stretch as the Diamondbacks barely held on to their wild card position.

On September 15, Pfaadt limited the contending Cubs to four hits over 5 1/3 innings, fanning six while walking only one batter in a 6-4 win. Two weeks later, he shut out the White Sox over 5 2/3 innings on five hits, striking out eight. When he's got his good stuff, Pfaadt can handle most hitters, with a 3.6 K/BB ratio, which has improved over the course of the season. In five September appearances, Pfaadt struck out 30 and walked just four.

Burnes was a stud for Milwaukee this season, going 10-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 200 Ks as the Brewers cruised to the Central Division title for the second time in three years, winning by nine games. Last years champs, St. Louis, were out of the race early and finished in last place, as the Brewers led most of the season, fighting off challenges from the Reds and Cubs, both of which narrowly missed making the playoffs as wild cards.

Burnes final three regular season starts all resulted in Brewer victories, though he received a winning decision in just one, a 16-1 romp over the Marlins on September 22. With 32 starts, Burnes was the top innings-muncher for Milwaukee, grinned out 193 2/3rds.

Top batting threats for the Brewers are shortstop Willy Adames, who knocked a team leading 24 home runs and 80 RBI. Reliable left fielder, Christian Yelich found his best stroke late in the season. He had 19 homers and 76 RBI and was complemented by catcher William Contreras, with 17 HRs and 78 RBI.

Arizona possesses the more power-laden lineup, led by first baseman Christian Walker and his 33 home runs and 103 RBI, both tops on the team. Second baseman, Ketel Marte, drove in 82 runs and had 25 HRs, the same number as left fielder Corbin Carroll, who drove in 76 runs.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. sent 24 balls out of the park and drove in 82.

The winner of this three-game series will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the best-of-five divisional round, October 7.

National League Wild Card Series

Miami Marlins (84-77, 3rd, NL East) @ Philadelphia Phillies (90-72, 2nd NL East)

Game 1: Philadelphia, PA; Tuesday, October 3, 8:00 pm EDT

Game one starters are Jesus Luzardo for Miami and Zach Wheeler for the Phillies. Luzardo led the Marlins with 10 wins against nine losses, tossing 178 2/3rd innings over 32 starts with an ERA of 3.63. Well rested, Luzardo last pitched on September 23 and notched his last win on the 17th in a 16-2 blasting of the Atlanta Braves. He led the team with 200 strikeouts.

Veteran Wheeler went 13-6 with a 3.61 ERA in one of his best seasons. Wheeler's won six of his last seven decisions, including three in September. Along with Aaron Nola (12-9) and Taijuan Walker (15-6), this trio seeks to go deep into games and through the post-season.

Top batting threats for Miami are Bryan De La Cruz with 19 homers and 78 RBI. NL batting champ Luis Arraez (.354, 10 HR, 54 RBI) and free-swinging Jorge Soler, who left the yard 36 times and drove in 75 runs.

Arraez is the most dangerous and consistent hitter, getting 203 hits over the regular season.

The Phillies are loaded with talent and boast nine players with at least 10 home runs on the season, led by Kyle Schwarber's 47. Schwarber drove in 104 runs, second to right fielder Nick Castellanos' 106, with 29 home runs. Shortstop Area Turner is the straw that stirs the drink, batting .266 with 26 homers, 76 RBI and 30 stolen bases. Alex Bohm (20, 97) and DH Bryce Harper (21, 72) add plenty of punch to a team that has playoff experience and were the top wild card.

The winner of this three-game series advances to play the Atlanta Braves, starting October 7.

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