National League Wild Card Preview + Prediction
After an insane regular season that featured as many twists and turns as any in recent memory, including two Game 163s, it’s time for the best time of the year: October. October is many things, the 10th month of the year, the month that is home to Halloween, but most importantly, it is home to the MLB postseason. This year’s field is absolutely loaded, and it all kicks off on Tuesday, October 2 with the National League Wild Card game. The American League playoff picture opens on Wednesday with their Wild Card game, and then we’re only a couple weeks away from the World Series.
It’s time to open Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes, Soundcloud, or wherever you stream your music, find Written in the Stars by Tinie Tempah and blast that as loud as you can and never stop until a champion is crowned (for those who don’t get the reference, click here).
In the National League, the Wild Card game will be between the Chicago Cubs and the Colorado Rockies at Wrigley Field. Both the Cubs and Rockies played a 163rd game in order to determine whether or not they won the division or would play in the Wild Card game, and they both lost so here we are. The Cubs have home field advantage and had a record of 95-68 in the regular season, and the Rockies were 91-72. The bottom line here is that both these teams are legit.
The Cubs are sending Jon Lester to the bump against the Rockies, who had a very good season (18-6, 3.32 ERA, 181.2 IP, 149 Ks). He did pitch against the Rockies once this season, and he picked up a win after throwing 5.2 shutout innings. The Rockies are sending Kyle Freeland to the hill after his breakout season (17-7, 2.85 ERA, 202.1IP, 173 Ks) that saw him become a bonafide ace. Lester has postseason experience, and has been on three World Series Champions.
The Wild Card game isn’t always mainly about starting pitching though, in fact it rarely is. Last year the AL Wild Card game became a bullpen game pretty quickly, and the NL Wild Card game was an offensive shootout. The best pitching performances in the Wild Card game have come in the form of two complete game shutout from the greatest postseason pitcher of all time, Madison Bumgarner. Basically, I don’t expect either starter to steal the show in the NL Wild Card game.
Both the Cubs and the the Rockies have incredible offenses. The Cubs had the second-best batting average in the league this season, hitting a combined .259, but the Rockies were sixth-best and hit .257. The Rockies out-homered them 208 to 166, but they also played their home games at Coors field. Nolan Arenado hit 37 homers to lead the National League, and Trevor Story hit 36 bombs. Javier Baez hit 34 homers and Kyle Schwarber hit 26. So, all things considered, these offenses are pretty evenly matched.
From a relief pitching perspective, the Cubs had the second best bullpen in terms of ERA in the majors, pitching to the tune of a 3.34 ERA. The Rockies were 26th with a 4.63 ERA. That’s the big difference between the two teams bullpen, at least from a statistical standpoint.
Of the two Wild Card games, the National League game is the one I truly view as a toss-up. It could go either way. Ultimately, I think the Colorado Rockies will end up taking the game 6-4. The Cubs had to use their bullpen in more high-leverage situations during Game 163, whereas the Rockies bullpen weren’t in high-leverage situations in their own 163rd game. I think Nolan Arenado will steal the show offensively and take Jon Lester deep early in the game to set the tone, and the final score will indicate the game was closer than it really was.
My dark horse for player of the game is David Dahl, who just won the National league player of the Week award after hitting six homers to help the Rockies finish the season strong.
At the end of the game tomorrow, Rocktober will officially be in full force heading into the NLDS.
The American League Wild Card game preview will be posted following the end of the National League Wild Card game tomorrow night.