After a 162-game season that’s comparable to a marathon, the MLB playoffs are more of a sprint. And the one-night, winner-take-all wildcard game the Rays find themselves in is the shortest sprint of all.
It all comes down to one game — a game that, especially given the tricks and innovation between two of the lowest-budget clubs in the league — appears to be near unpredictable.
But that didn’t stop baseball writers throughout America from taking their guess at who’ll move on to face the Houston Astros, as well as taking a shot at predicting how the rest of the MLB playoffs will pan out.
Here’s what they said — and the reason behind their pick, if they provided it.
Before the predictions began, Yahoo was blunt with what they believe will be the reality for the winner between Oakland and Tampa Bay: A swift ALDS defeat to the Houston Astros.
“In the American League, it’s most likely the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays are playing for a chance to get clobbered by the Houston Astros,” Yahoo wrote. “But we’ve seen big October upsets from a wild-card team before.”
Six writers then provided their predictions — and why they made them — for both the AL and NL wildcard games. Of the six, two picked the Rays to top the A’s.
Both writers who favored Tampa Bay pointed heavily at Rays’ starter Charlie Morton as being the key advantage Wednesday night.
Here was the full explanation from writer Tim Brown.
“This would appear to be the fairest of fights, starting with the fact the Rays won 48 road games (only the Minnesota Twins won more), and the A’s won 52 home games (bested by the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.) Both pitched better than they hit. The A’s are the superior defensive team. They’d both like to bulldoze their ballparks. And so the game is a crapshoot, as it should be. The lean here is toward veteran right-hander Charlie Morton, who starts for the Rays following the best season of his 12-year career. In two starts this season against the A’s, Morton allowed a run in 13 ⅓ innings. That’ll play.”
NBC Sports was kind to the Rays in its picks for Wednesday’s wild-card matchup in the Coliseum. The three writers that provided predictions all took the Rays to top the A’s. They, however, also picked the Astros to easily skid by Tampa Bay in the ALDS. Two of the three writers predict the Astros to go on to win the World Series, while the other predicts the Braves will take down Houston in six games.
Of the nine writers who provided predictions, five picked the Rays over the A’s on Wednesday night. None of those five, however, have the Rays making it past the Astros in the ALDS, should they make it there.
Two of the five writers who made predictions for the MLB postseason have the Rays beating the A’s. Again though, of the two that picked the Rays to advance out of the wildcard game, neither see the Rays getting past the Astros in the ALDS. All five writers predict the winner of the World Series will either be the Yankees or the Astros, and three are predicting an Astros-Dodgers World Series.
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Only one writer provided predictions for Bleacher Report.
Jacob Shafe, however, did provide his reasoning behind each pick. Starting with why he’s taking the A’s over the Rays on Wednesday.
"The American League Wild Card Game will be a battle of two small-market Davids who capably used their slingshots to beat the odds and make the playoffs.
"This will be the Oakland Athletics’ third appearance in the Wild Card Game in the past six seasons. They lost to the Kansas City Royals in 2014 and the New York Yankees in 2018, though they’ll host the game for the first time this year. That’s good news for the A’s, who went 52-29 at RingCentral Coliseum in 2019, the fourth-best home record in baseball. They also went 4-3 against Tampa Bay.
“This one’s a toss-up. But with home-field advantage at last on the Athletics’ side, we’ll give it to Oakland.”
Shafer went on to predict that the Astros would beat the Dodgers in seven games in the World Series.
The Show did not release predictions for the winner of the A’s and Rays.
It did, however, simulate the entire MLB playoffs in a popular video game, The Show 19, with the current lineups as is.
Not only did the simulation have the Rays winning in Oakland on Wednesday, it had Tampa Bay advancing past Houston and winning the World Series.
The full simulation results can be found here.
Crazy? Yes. But you never know what can happen in October baseball.