Due to the abbreviated 60-game regular-season schedule, the Major League Baseball postseason was expanded to 16 teams. The playoffs begin Tuesday with four American League Wild Card series taking place entirely in the higher seeds’ home stadiums.
The Wild Card series are best of three, and future rounds will be played in neutral sites.
It was a wild final day of the regular season, with all 15 games beginning at the same time. But you’re here for professional analysis and expert sports picks.
There were four National League teams vying for the final two playoff spots. The Cardinals earned their way in with a win over the Brewers, who qualified despite the loss. The Phillies or Giants could have advanced with wins, but they’re headed to the golf course instead.
Cleveland Hosts the Yankees
The Cleveland Indians secured the fourth seed in the American League by beating the Pirates while the Chicago White Sox were losing to the Cubs. The White Sox fell to the seventh seed and will travel to Minnesota to meet their divisional rivals.
Top handicappers know the Yankees were shut out 5-0 by the Miami Marlins but secured the fifth seed when Toronto lost. By losing, the Blue Jays will now play the top-seeded and divisional foe Tampa Bay Rays.
In the regular season, the Indians compiled a record of 35-25, one game behind the Twins in the AL Central. They allowed the fewest runs in the major leagues, a stingy 3.5 runs per game. It was a good thing, too, since their run production tied for 13th in the American League.
Cleveland was 18-12 at home and was 16-15 against teams with an over-.500 winning percentage. The Indians had an anemic team batting average of .228, 27th out of 30 major league teams. Their team ERA was 3.29, trailing only the Dodgers’ stellar baseball leading 3.02.
They’ll face a team in the Yankees that finished 33-27, seven games behind the Rays in the AL East. They led the American League in scoring, averaging 5.25 runs a game while allowing 4.5 to their opponents.
Top online sportsbooks currently have the Yankees at +300 to win the AL Pennant, with Cleveland at +650.
New York ended up 11-18 on the road and 10-17 against teams with winning records. This series is in Cleveland, where the Indians finished 10 games over .500, so something will need to change.
The Yankees were fifth in the majors with a .247 team batting average and 95 home runs. Their team ERA of 4.35 was in the middle of the pack, 14th among baseball’s 30 teams.
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The Indians were able to set up their pitching staff so that Shane Bieber can start Game 1. The ace right-hander was 8-1 with an ERA of 1.63 in 12 starts. In 77 1/3 innings, he gave up 46 hits, struck out 122, walked 21, and gave up seven home runs.
Bieber cooled off in September, with a 2-1 record and an ERA of 2.55. For the season, he gave up three earned runs in three games, with two of those in September.
For the Yankees, their ace Gerrit Cole is also available to pitch the series opener. Cole went 7-3 in the regular season with an ERA of 2.84. He struck out 94, walked 17, and yielded 14 home runs in 73 innings.
In this short series, it will be critical to get a win in Game 1. No team had more than six hits or fewer than eight strikeouts against Bieber. The Yankees will need to find some offense and get a strong performance from Cole. The Indians need Bieber to pitch well and have their offense scrounge out some runs, their season-long formula.