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It’s Brewers-Nats and A’s-Rays in Do-or-Die Wild Card Matchups

Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals, MLB NL Wild Card Game
Tuesday, October 1, at 8pm ET on TBS
The Brewers somehow managed to win 89 games despite outscoring their opponents by just 3 runs, which would normally earn you a record of 81-81. And they did it despite their best player, Christian Yelich, going down with a busted knee on September 10. They were 76-68 after winning that day, and promptly went 13-4 to seize the second spot. How important was Yelich to the team’s offense? He was responsible for 38.4 percent of the Brew Crew’s oWAR. There’s the tiniest chance he could be back in time for the World Series, but realistically…

The Nats started the year by going 19-31 and making everyone wonder if letting Bryce Harper walk was a huge mistake. But they’ve since turned it around, thanks largely to the three-headed monster at the top of their rotation: Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin, who are the first trio of teammates ever with 230+ strikeouts in a season. The lineup features Anthony “He’s so underrated he’s overrated” Rendon and young stud Juan Soto, who has a higher career OPS than A-Rod, Mike Trout and Mickey Mantle did at the same age. Given the fact that Max Scherzer is taking the hill for Washington versus Brandon Woodruff so the Nats have to be heavy favorites to win this one.

Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics, AL Wild Card Game
Wednesday, October 2, at 8pm ET on ESPN
These have to be the two most anonymous teams ever to face each other in a playoff game. If you’re a Red Sox or Indians fan, you’re likely pulling out your hair wondering how it is that you got outplayed by these guys.
The Rays won 96 games despite not a single player with 5 WAR or more and an offense that is the very definition of average, as their pitching and defense carry the load this year. The 2018 Cy Young winner, Blake Snell, has struggled to get back into his groove following elbow surgery that kept him sidelined for two months, while journeyman starter Charlie Morton continued his late-career renaissance going 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 4.21 SO/BB. The Rays’ real strength is the bullpen, which led the Majors in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched and was second in ERA, games, and WHIP.

The A’s at least have a verifiable star in Matt Chapman, arguably the game’s best defensive third baseman and possibly the best overall. Additionally, they’ve gotten a breakout season from shortstop Marcus Semien, who’s set career highs in runs, hits, 2b, 3b, HR, RBI, BA, OBP, SLG, and total bases while playing excellent D. The rotation is a patchwork of journeymen and has-beens, led by Mike Fiers’ (who earlier this season debuted one of the more horrifying facial hair configurations the game has ever seen), who’s gone 15-4 with a 3.90 ERA.

The A’s went 4-3 against the Rays this season, despite being outscored 30-26, and they’re at home. Morton gets the start for the Rays, while the A’s are as yet undecided, though it’s Fiers’ turn in the rotation, so in the absence of any glaring difference between the two teams in terms of overall talent, let’s call it advantage: A’s.

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com