The 10 playoff teams are finally confirmed and tonight the postseason kicks off with the Colorado Rockies travelling to Chicago to play the National League Wildcard game. Ben Steele looks through the best bets of an enticing matchup.
The Rockies bullpen had the third lowest ERA in the majors in the final month of the season and closer Wade Davis collected an NL best 43 saves.
The National League playoff race came all the way down to the wire, and in the end even a 162-game regular season wasn't enough to separate those at the top of the NL Central and NL West. Both the Rockies and the Cubs played tiebreaker games yesterday, hoping to avoid this one game wildcard playoff, but after losses to the Dodgers and Brewers respectively they will meet tonight at Wrigley Field.
Rocks bullpen the difference maker
Tonight's starters, Jon Lester (18-6) and Kyle Freeland (17-7), are at opposite ends of their careers but have both delivered impressive seasons and will be relied upon to be at their best in what will be a tight game.
Lester, making his 22nd playoff start, led the National League in wins this season and will be crucial for a Chicago side who have struggled for consistency from their bullpen this term.
While Cubs' starters have pitched well the bullpen have been beset by injuries and often leaked runs, it is a different story in Colorado. The Rockies bullpen had the third lowest ERA in the majors in the final month of the season and closer Wade Davis collected an NL best 43 saves. In a close game, the bullpen could be the difference that sends Colorado through to the next round.
Shortstops battle at the plate
Trevor Story and Javy Baez are two of the best infielders in the game. Not only are they defensively solid, they are both invaluable offensive players. Baez, a leading MVP candidate, hit 34 home runs and 40 doubles on his way to an impressive 111 RBIs while Story bettered his Chicago counterpart in homers (37) and doubles (42) he did have fewer RBIs (108).
Both men will be featured in the heart of their batting lineups tonight and it will be up to the opposing pitchers to keep them quiet. Expect at least one of them to get on the scoreboard tonight, with Baez in particular crucial to his side's chances.