With the stretch run in full sprint, it’s time to think about playoff matchups. Here are five playoff matchups that the baseball world would like to see.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Kansas City Royals
Who wants to see it? Fans of controversial trades.
Back in December, the Royals traded part of their future to bolster their present. They sent OF Wil Myers and RHP Jake Odorizzi to the Rays for RHPs James Shields and Wade Davis. Myers and Odorizzi were top prospects, but the Royals wanted proven pitchers in their starting rotations. The Royals took a lot of criticism for making this move. But as of 2013, the results of this trade have been mixed.
September 4, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Wil Myers (9) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
“Big Game” James has had a typically good season for the Royals, going 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Davis, on the other hand, has a grotesque 5.61 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. In the outfield, they’ve been trying fill a void in right field all year-long, a void that most certainly would have been filled by Myers, had he stuck around.
Myers has been a vital piece of the Rays’ offense since his mid-season call-up. He has 11 homers and a .286/.348/.468 slash. Odorizzi, meanwhile, has made 4 starts and has a 5.09 ERA. He wasn’t able to fill the rotation spot vacated by Shields, nor the one left behind when Matt Moore missed all of August with an injury.
In the short term, the jury’s still out on the trade, so why not decide it on the baseball field?
Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
Who wants to see it? Fox, TBS and ESPN
The Yankees have labored to stay in the playoff race all year, piecing their team together with the remnants of last decade’s All-Star teams. Players like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner have replaced the likes of Bernie Willams, Mark Teixeira and Paul O’Neill in the Bronx. But the Bronx Bombers have made a run of late, and are only 2.5 games out of the wild card.
Sep 7, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner (11) slides into home plate of New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox baseball game at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports.
Familiar names like Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano have returned to give the offense a boost. The veteran starting rotation is backed up by the fierce eighth-ninth-inning combo of David Roberston and Mariano Rivera. So good has been Rivera that manager Joe Girardi has asked Mariano to stick around for one more season. Does that mean he’d have to give back all of his retirement gifts?
The Red Sox have been good all year. Gone are the memories of the 2011 collapse, and the ensuing train wreck in 2012. Their ability to hit the ball out of the park is exceeded only by their ability to grow facial hair. Half the roster looks like they should be wearing overalls instead of uniforms.
But no matter what the makeup of the Yankees or Red Sox rosters, people tune in when they play each other. Fox and TBS would love the increase in ratings, and ESPN may actually talk about baseball in October.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Baltimore Orioles
Who wants to see it? Old school fans.
The Pirates have 81 wins, thereby assuring their first non-losing season since 1992. After second-half collapses in 2011 and 2012, the Pirates seem to be on course for a playoff berth.
Sep 1, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau (36) greets center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) at home after McCutchen scored a run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The St. Louis Cardinals won 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Orioles have a bit of a longer climb, though they are only a couple of games back of a struggling Rays team for the final wild card spot.
Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Last year, the Braves-Cardinals play-in game was decided by an infield fly rule call. On a ball that was in middle-depth left field. Let’s see what these two teams can really do when the umpires don’t get in the way.
They’re two great, winning franchises in the National League, and for that alone it would be a treat to see these teams go head-to-head in the postseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Detroit Tigers
Who wants to see it? Baseball fans.
The Dodgers have Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp. The Tigers have Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The unstoppable force versus the immovable object for the World Series trophy.
Yes, the Braves have a better record than the Dodgers as of this writing, but the Dodgers are the sexier team. They’re from LA, Magic Johnson owns them and they have big personalities on the field.
Sep 6, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers third basemen Miguel Cabrera (24) singles in a run against the Kansas City Royals during the second inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Plus, the Dodgers and Tigers are two of the oldest franchises in baseball.
The main intrigue for the Tigers will be to see if they can overcome their disappointing sweep at the hands of the Giants. And you can bet the stories about how the Tigers are trying to boost the morale of a beleaguered city will run rampant.