THE FINISHING KICK – OCTOBER 4
By Paul Wales

LET TE PLAYOFF BEGIN

The regular season has finally come to a close and, my goodness, it was an exciting finish to an entertaining season of baseball. This campaign showed that every game counts as four teams battled for two Wild Card spots in the American League while the 106-win Giants held just a 1 game lead over the 105-win Dodgers in the NL West going into the final regular season game. It almost came down to a 163rd game to determine the future of these 6 teams, but the playoff picture remained unchanged after a highly anticipated final day of regular season baseball.

After a walk-off infield single for the Pinstripes by Aaron Judge and a 4-run comeback against the Nationals by the BoSox, the Yankees and Red Sox gave their fans a sigh of relief after a stressful day of watching their teams overcome adversity making way for baseball’s most historic rivalry to meet at Fenway Park on Tuesday in a win-or-go-home showdown. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the Dodgers defeated the Brewers 10-3 to give themselves a chance at a 163rd game against the Giants to determine the NL West champion, but the Giants secured the division and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with an 11-4 win against the Padres, capping off one of their best regular seasons in franchise history. The Dodgers will host the red-hot Cardinals in Los Angeles on Wednesday to determine who will head to San Francisco to face the Giants in the NLDS.

With the regular season coming to an entertaining close, the playoffs are officially underway starting tomorrow with what promises to be another playoff game to add to the historic rivalry between Boston and New York. Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole will be taking the mound for the Yankees as Nathan Eovaldi will start on the mound for the Red Sox. The last time  when the Yanks came to Fenway last week, when NY, led by Stanton who hit 3 homeruns and 10 RBIs, swept the Sox in a series with huge playoff implications. In the first game of that series, Cole and Eovaldi faced off against each other with Cole pitching 6 innings allowing 3 earned runs while striking out 6 batters, and Eovaldi only lasted 2.2 innings giving up 7 runs. The Bronx Bombers never looked back after jumping to an early lead, defeating the BoSox 8-3 and setting the tone for the rest of that series. Despite New York winning their last 6 games against the Red Sox, Boston still won the season matchup against the Yanks with 10 wins outnumbering their 9 losses. The Red Sox also were able to bounce back and win their last 3 games heading into this Wild Card matchup, while the Yankees lost 2 of their last 3 against the Rays, who will host the winner of Tuesday’s game.

The Wild Card matchup in the National League the following night shows no signs of being a disappointing matchup as well. The St. Louis Cardinals surged out of nowhere, winning 17 games in a row in the month of September, and 19 of their last 22 games, and are facing off against the Dodgers, who have the second best record in baseball and arguably the most star-powered roster in the league. The Dodgers finished their season on fire as well, winning their last 7 games led by Trea Turner, who was named the National League Player of the Week. This Wild Card matchup showcases a pitching duel between two of the most dominant pitchers over the last decade who have shown no signs of slowing down, as Dodgers ace Max Scherzer and long-time Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright are set to take the mound for their respective teams. These teams only played each other 7 times in the regular season, with the Cardinals winning 4 of those games. Almost a month ago, Wainwright pitched 8.1 innings and allowed 4 runs to hold off Los Angeles for a 5-4 victory. The winner of Wednesday’s matchup will have to travel to San Francisco and face the Giants who had the best record in baseball this year.

These Wild Card matchups feature four of the most historic franchises baseball has to offer, and anything can happen. Will the Red Sox put on a show for their home fans and come out on top against their arch rivals? Or will the Yankees play spoiler and kick Boston out of the playoffs on their home turf? Will the Dodgers survive and advance in a quest to defend their title? Or will the Cardinals overthrow the defending champs and continue to be one of the hottest teams in baseball? I hope you’re excited as I am, because the playoffs have finally arrived.

So what do you see in your crystal ball?  Meet you at he TV set to see how this plays out.