With 162 games in the books for each team in baseball, the playoff picture still isn’t completely set. The second American League wild card spot is up for grabs between the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers. The two clubs will square off on Monday for the right to visit the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.
The two National League wild card teams have been set for some time, and they will officially begin the 2013 MLB playoffs on Tuesday. The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates will meet in a one-game playoff, with the winner facing the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
The Rangers enter game No.163 playing as well as any team in the majors. Texas needed to win its last seven games, in order to get one final opportunity to make the postseason. Tampa Bay blew a chance over the weekend to avoid a one-game playoff, but losses on Friday and Saturday have them visiting Texas on Monday night.
The Rays may have the edge in the starting pitching matchup, as they send David Price to the mound against rookie Martin Perez. However, the Rangers might not mind facing the defending Cy Young award winner. In four regular season starts in Texas, Price has a 10.26 ERA. He’s also struggled against the Rangers in meaningful games, going 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA against the Rangers in the playoffs.
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With this being his first year, Monday will be the biggest game of Perez’s young career. However, he hasn’t been fazed during his important starts down the stretch. He beat the Houston Astros in a game last week that Texas needed to win and his September ERA was actually better than what he had pitched to the rest of the season.
Even though they are on the road, the betting odds have the Rays (-111) as slight favorites over the Rangers (+101). The contest will begin on TBS at 8:07, but myTBS will allow fans to watch a free live stream online.
Prediction: Texas 4, Tampa Bay 1
Cincinnati Reds vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
These two teams know each other all too well after facing off in six of their final nine regular season games. Pittsburgh swept the last series to secure home-field advantage in their game on Tuesday night. They enter the wild card playoffs on a high note, having won five of six. Cincinnati, on the other hand, hasn’t won a game in a week.
The Pirates will look to finally have some success against Johnny Cueto, who has rarely had any trouble with Pittsburgh. In 17 career decisions, the right-hander has 13 wins with a 2.37 ERA, including a 1.80 ERA in Pittsburgh. It’s just Cueto’s third start since the end of June, but he’s allowed one run in 12 innings since returning from the disabled list.
Cincinnati will face, perhaps, the leading candidate for NL Comeback Player of the Year in Francisco Liriano. His 16 wins have been one of the biggest reasons why the Pirates are back in the playoffs. The left-hander, though, hasn’t been the same pitcher since the All-Star break. In the second half, his 3.95 ERA is almost twice what it was in early July.
Like Monday night’s AL play-in game, the NL wild card game will air on TBS at 8:07 p.m. At home, the Pirates (-128) are favored over the visiting Reds (+118)
Prediction: Cincinnati 6, Pittsburgh 2