A wild ride that we called the 2012 Major League Baseball regular season came to an end, culminating in a postseason that should provide even more thrills for fans.
In the American League, two teams (Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles) qualified for the postseason that haven’t in quite some time. In the National League, the Washington Nationals qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1989, when they were the now defunct MontrÃ©al Expos.
The remaining teams are quite familiar with the postseason. In the American League, the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers secured playoff spots. In the National League, the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds all qualified.
Here is what to look out for as the postseason begins.
Entering the season with a bounty of pitchers, the Yankees’ pitching depth quickly evaporated when Andy Pettitte went to the disabled list and Ivan Nova fell short in his sophomore season. They still won 95 games, which secured the AL East division title and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Orioles threatened to steal the AL East from the New York Yankees, but they fell short of an improbable comeback. After a season full of close victories, the Orioles will play the Texas Rangers in the new wild-card playoff game, with the winner of that game playing New York in the American League Division Series.
If Texas prevails after squandering a sizable lead in the AL West, the Yankees will get a chance to avenge their loss in the 2012 American League Championship Series.
The AL West Champion Oakland A’s made their way to the postseason with outstanding pitching down the stretch, which should make for a good series with the Detroit Tigers’ high-powered offense. Miguel Cabrera leads the way after winning the Triple Crown with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBI. The Tigers, who finished 2012 at 87-74, also have Cy Young hopeful Justin Verlander at their disposal.
In the National League, the Atlanta Braves will play the St. Louis Cardinals in the one-game wild card round of the playoffs on Friday in Atlanta. Kris Medlen, who has posted a 0.94 ERA in 95.1 innings since the All-Star break, will take the mound for Atlanta against St. Louis’ Kyle Lohse.
The winner will then move on to play the NL East champion Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series. Regardless of who wins the Wild Card game, the series will feature plenty of pitching and will come down to a battle of the bullpens. The Nationals, however will not have Stephen Strasburg at their arsenal after shutting down the young ace to rest his arm.
The other NLDS matchup will feature more pitching. The NL Central champion Cincinnati Reds will face the NL West champion San Francisco Giants. Cincinnati has an edge in the offensive department with reigning 2011 NL Most Valuable Player Joey Votto and slugger Jay Bruce, but San Francisco will look to combat that with an elite group of starting pitching featuring Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum.