Baseball's postseason begins today! The playoffs start with the National League Wild Card game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, then tomorrow the Tampa Bay Rays meet the Cleveland Indians in the American League Wild Card game. The Wild Card round might be the most exciting of the playoffs — it's win or go home, and none of the teams want to see their seasons come to an end.
In the NL, the Pirates host division rival the Reds in the first playoff game ever played at PNC Park. It's also the Pirates' first playoff appearance in 21 years. The Buccos hold an 11-8 edge on the Reds this season, including a three-game sweep the end the regular season. But the Reds have been here before — sort of. This is the team's third playoff appearance in the past four seasons, falling both times in the divisional round, but this is its first Wild Card game. The winner faces another familiar NL Central foe: the St. Louis Cardinals, who have home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. The NLDS begins Thursday.
In the AL, the Indians host the Rays in Cleveland's first playoff trip since 2007. The Rays, meanwhile, needed to play a one-game playoff last night just to make it into the postseason — they defeated the Texas Rangers in the season's 163rd game to determine who would travel to Cleveland. This is the Rays' fourth playoff appearance in six seasons, which included a loss in the World Series in 2008. And while Cleveland hasn't been to the post season in a while, their manager is a proven winner. Terry Francona led the Boston Red Sox to two World Series championships, in 2004 and 2007. (Fun fact: The Red Sox defeated the Indians in the AL Championship Series in 2007, the last time Cleveland was in the postseason.) The winner faces the Red Sox in the divisional round, which begins Friday.
Prediction time: Who will come out on top in these Wild Card games? Will any of these teams make it to the World Series? Let us know in the comments section below!
Photos: (from top left) Joe Sargent/Getty Images, AP Photo/Tim Sharp, Hannah Foslien/Getty Images, AP/Al Behrman