The regular season is complete and the 2012 MLB playoffs are set to get underway on Friday with the first ever one-game wild card playoffs. We all know baseball has a long season and it can be tough to get sidetracked. The remaining teams and a summary of their seasons are listed below. Who do you like in the fall classic?
Oakland A’s (94-68)—Nobody thought the A’s could compete in a division with the two-time AL champion Texas Rangers and an Angels team that added Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Certainly nobody thought they would come back when they were 13 games out on July 30th. The young, cinderella A’s came back from 5 games down with 9 to play and won the AL West on the last day. The A’s are the hot team and, as the Cardinals proved last year, the hot team is tough to beat.
Texas Rangers (93-69)—The Rangers have been losers in the last two World Series. They lost Wilson to the Angels but added Japanese ace Yu Darvish. Texas has a loaded lineup and a bullpen loaded with power arms but they’ve been sputtering lately. They’ve lost 7 of last 10 games and were just swept in Oakland with the division title at stake. Owners and executives alike will be paying close attention to Josh Hamilton’s performance this October because his free agency is looming.
New York Yankees (95-67)—The Yankees are in familiar territory and have now qualified for the post-season in 17 of the last 18 seasons. They have an endless list of playoff experienced hitters, led this year by Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, who have had monster seasons. Throw in seasoned veterans like A-Rod, Jeter, Teixeira, Swisher, and Ichiro and you have the deepest lineup in baseball. One thing they won’t have is their perennial rock: Mariano Rivera. Will it even matter?
Detroit Tigers (88-74)—The Tigers are coming off a late-season rally to pass the White Sox and win the AL Central. They struggled for part of the season but rallied around the magical season by Miguel Cabrera. The one-two punch of Cabrera and Prince Fielder will create headaches for opponents but the real question is whether the Tigers can win games without Justin Verlander on the mound. If Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, and Doug Fister can keep the Tigers in the ballgames, they’ll be hard to handle. Just ask the Yankees.
Baltimore Orioles (93-69)—If the A’s are the best story to come out of the AL this year, the Orioles are a close second. Buck Showalter has brought life back into baseball fans in Baltimore and the Orioles are back in the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They were neck and neck with the Yankees for the majority of the season and played them tough head to head, winning six of the nine games at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles have the tough task of facing the Rangers in a one-game wild card playoff Friday night in Texas. They have played good ball lately, going 19-9 in September, but the Rangers won the series series 5-2.
Washington Nationals (98-64)—Just four years removed from losing 102 games in the 2008 season, the Nationals had the best record in baseball in this year. They steamrolled through the NL East with a crop of young talent that is stronger than any organization in baseball. The controversial decision to sit Stephen Strasburg hasn’t caused the Nats to miss a beat but questions will loom until the season is over. Can they overcome the loss of their ace? Can the Nats young talent, most notably Bryce Harper and Gio Gonzalez, handle the pressure of October?
Cincinnati Reds (97-65)—The Reds coasted to victory in winning the NL Central by 9 games. They’ve had little adversity to deal with until recently when manager Dusty Baker suffered a minor stroke. He should be back to see Reds ace Johnny Cueto (19-9) start Game 1 in San Francisco. The Reds will look to sluggers Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Ryan Ludwick to carry them enough offensively to compliment their excellent pitching. If the game gets to supreme closer, Aroldis Chapman, it is over.
St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)—The defending champs went through a major transformation last offseason and the fact that they’re still playing is a victory in itself. The Redbirds lost the two longtime faces of their organization, Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, but still managed to put together an impressive 2012 campaign. They’ll travel to Atlanta to face Braves’ 9-0 ace Kris Medlen in a one-game playoff on Friday.San Francisco Giants (94-68)—The Giants were easily able to fend off the high-priced L.A. Dodgers to win the NL West. Although they won it all in 2010, some key components of that team are missing just two years later. They’ll be without closer Brian Wilson and former Cy Young Winner Tim Lincecum hasn’t been himself. MVP candidate Buster Posey combined with the arms of Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain have gotten them to this point. They’ll do well to get past a tough Reds team to repeat that magic of 2010.
Atlanta Braves (94-68)—Braves legend Chipper Jones has been doing the “farewell tour” thing for what seems to be years now. Obviously, his teammates were inspired to give Chipper one last run at it. Led by a strong rotation, they have been a bit overlooked this season. The unbeatable Kris Medlen will get the ball on Friday in the one game wild card matchup against the Cardinals. They have won a remarkable 23 straight games in which Medlen has started. 24 means Chipper can play a little bit longer.
Joe Fries is a sports writer and golf pro living in Indiana. You can follow him on Twitter @The7thFreezer.
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