The shortened Major League Baseball regular season has come to end, and playoff baseball is finally here. The MLB playoffs first round bracket looks a bit different this year with the special Wild Card Series round.
If you don’t remember what that looks like, all teams that have made the postseason this year will play a best-of-three series. We still have a standard bracket here — 1 vs. 8; 2 vs. 7; 3 vs. 6; and so on and so forth, but each game of the three-game series is going to be played in the higher seed’s stadium. Home-field advantage is going to be huge in these short first series of the MLB postseason.
Here a quick glance at each MLB playoffs first round series, with our free picks in bold after each series roundup.
Tampa Bay Rays (1) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (8)
Tampa Bay is back in the playoffs for the second straight season and is continuing one of the best seasons it has had in a really long time. The Rays won the AL East for the first time since 2010, and they did so by seven games. Can they keep their momentum and push all the way to a World Series championship?
The Blue Jays just squeezed into the postseason with a win over the Yankees on the final day of the season. Quite frankly, they’re going to need to play some perfect baseball if they’re going to take down the Rays here in the Wild Card round.
Toronto Blue Jays (+200) at Tampa Bay Rays (-235)
Oakland Athletics (2) vs. Chicago White Sox (7)
The AL West winners, the Oakland A’s, will host the Chicago White Sox in this first-round series. The A’s have been great in all phases of the game and aren’t a team to go down swinging. In fact, the A’s are one of only four teams with a .500 or better record when trailing this season.
With that said, the White Sox are finally back in the postseason after a long drought and want to see if Jose Abreu can have three big games to push them onto the next round of the playoffs. It’s possible, but it doesn’t feel likely. Given the odds on this one, however, probably best to stay away.
Chicago White Sox (-105) at Oakland Athletics (-115)
Minnesota Twins (3) vs. Houston Astros (6)
Here come the mighty Minnesota Twins in their third postseason appearance in the last four seasons, hoping to have a bit of a better experience this year as they did not have a good time in 2019. They’ve got home-field advantage for this best-of-three series after winning the AL Central, so we can anticipate they’ll improve their postseason play.
With Dusty Baker at the helm, the Astros fell to .500 at the end of the regular season. Even though on paper, this is not the strongest Astros team in a while, I can see them having a little postseason magic in this first series. Sometimes, you just have to go with a hunch.
Houston Astros (+150) at Minnesota Twins (-175)
Cleveland Indians (4) vs. New York Yankees (5)
I’m calling this as the series to watch as it should make for some entertaining baseball. The New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians are no strangers to postseason baseball, and they should be in for a fight.
This is going to come down to whether or not the powerful Indians defense can keep the Yankees scoreless. New York has been nothing to trifle with at the plate recently, and I’m not quite sure which way this series tilts.
Is it a slugfest? The opposite? I’m excited to watch this one play out. With the odds, though, you have to take the Indians.
New York Yankees (-150) at Cleveland Indians (+130)
Los Angeles Dodgers (1) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (8)
This feels like a no-brainer, and not just because it’s a top seed against an eighth seed, but because it’s the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have been nothing short of tremendous this season and have been unanimously the best team in baseball.
Whether or not they win it all is a question for the gods, but for this first round, there’s no way they drop it.
Milwaukee Brewers (+265) at Los Angeles Dodgers (-330)
Atlanta Braves (2) vs. Cincinnati Reds (7)
The Atlanta Braves are a fun team to watch. They’re pitching well, and they’re hitting the ball equally well.
Injuries and some inconsistency have been their downfall, so this postseason might make fans a little weary. Do they have what it takes to win the championship? It’s a good question. But winning the first round? It’s hard to say no.
The Cincinnati Reds are a terrifying team to hit against, led by the likes of Trevor Bauer and an equally strong bullpen. Unfortunately, though, they have to create a lead to hold onto it, and they’re going to be hard-pressed to develop one against such a strong Braves offense.
Cincinnati Reds (Even) at Atlanta Braves (-120)
Chicago Cubs (3) vs. Miami Marlins (6)
Sixto Sanchez and the Miami Marlins are ready to show the MLB doubters what they’re made of. Everybody seems to be saying that they just slipped into the playoffs and aren’t quite deserving, but nobody doubts Sanchez — the player nobody can figure out how to handle. The Marlins can easily take this one if they keep their momentum rolling.
The Chicago Cubs are the veterans here, as their core, led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, has a lot of postseason experience. Their bullpen, however, could spell a lot of trouble for this team of sluggers if they can’t hold the Marlins on the scoreboard. I think the Cubs might be in for a surprise against this exciting Marlins team.
Miami Marlins (+170) at Chicago Cubs (-200)
San Diego Padres (4) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (5)
The Cardinals do not do well against home-run hitting teams, and unluckily for them, their path is riddled with them. If the St. Louis pitching staff can keep the ball in the ballpark and keep these postseason games tight, they’ll have a good shot at making their playoff run interesting.
The Padres are, at their very core, a home run reliant team, which makes their matchup against the Cardinals fantastic. If their pitching staff can remain impressive, they’ll not only do well against the Cardinals but against just about any team that gets thrown in their way.
St. Louis Cardinals (+150) at San Diego Padres (-175)