Playoff Baseball is Here: Previewing Tonight’s Wild Card Games

Tonight, Major League Baseball will hold its much-anticipated Wild Card games. For the first time in the history of the MLB, four Wild Card teams will take to the field and battle in a one-game playoff to clinch a spot in the “real” playoffs: the best-of-five Division Series. In the past, only one team in each league was awarded a Wild Card spot, but this year, the top two teams on the outside looking in were granted the honor. However, it isn’t that simple, as only one team can move on past this new phase.

Brace yourself for two thrilling and intense Wild Card games tonight. Four teams earned the honor to play for a playoff spot, but only two can move on.

Make sure you tune in tonight, because with everything on the line, it will be an instant “Game 7″ environment. At 5:00 p.m. EST, the Atlanta Braves will attempt to eliminate the St. Louis Cardinals, last year’s World Series Champions. At 8:30 p.m., the Texas Rangers look to continue their quest for a third-straight World Series appearance when they take on the Baltimore Orioles. Friday night will surely be the most exciting day of the season to date, and below, we take a stab at predicting the outcome of these great games.

Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Atlanta Braves third-baseman Chipper Jones will retire after the season, and he would love nothing more than to make a deep playoff run. Tonight, that journey begins against the St. Louis Cardinals.

With 2011 ace Chris Carpenter sidelined, Kyle Lohse will take the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals (88-74 in the regular season) as the birds take on Kris Medlen and the Atlanta Braves (94-68) in what promises to be a thrilling Wild Card showdown. The Braves finished the year with a much stronger record, and all signs point to Chipper Jones and the Braves moving on to the National League’s “final four.” Make no mistake – the Cardinals are the defending World Series Champions, and are certainly a good team – but they are missing star players like Carpenter and Albert Pujols. However, Lohse has had an exceptional season for St. Louis, so this could be a tight one if he pitches up to par. The winner of this showdown will move on to face the surprise NL East winners, the Washington Nationals. Game one of that best-of-five series slated for Oct. 7. Prediction: Braves defeat Cardinals by a score of 5-3.


Texas Rangers vs. Baltimore Orioles

If all goes right for the Texas Rangers in their game against the Baltimore Orioles, Josh Hamilton will be enjoying some delicious ginger-ale tonight.

The Texas Rangers (93-69 regular season record) were considered a lock to win the American League West, but the team collapsed under pressure and allowed the Oakland Athletics to reel off six straight wins – including a three game sweep over Texas to end the season – to steal the division. Now, the Rangers will fight for their playoff lives against the Baltimore Orioles (also 93-69), a team that nearly dethroned the New York Yankees atop the AL East. The two teams have identical records, and it’s hard to say which team is better. Led by Josh Hamilton, the Rangers are favored by many, but the skid they’re in after choking against Oakland is going to be hard to turn around. Joe Saunders takes the mound for the O’s, while Yu Darvish will pitch for Texas. The winning team will move on to face the Yankees in a five-game series beginning on Oct. 7. Prediction: Orioles wallop Rangers by a score of 7-2.

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