12 teams enter, but only one team will be left standing. That’s the reality of the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs. Let's take a moment to recap the events thus far.
The brooms were out in the American League (AL) Wild Card. Despite the Tampa Bay Rays boasting nine more regular-season wins than the Texas Rangers, the Rangers swept Tampa Bay out of the playoffs, defeating the Rays by a margin of two games to zero. The Rangers' offense proved they're still a force to be reckoned with thanks to Adolis Garcia's game two home run.
Similarly, the Minnesota Twins ended their 21-year-long wait for a victorious playoff series with a 2-0 sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays, breaking an 18-game playoff losing streak in the process. Their pitching staff outperformed Toronto’s, allowing only one run across two games.
Shifting our focus to the National League (NL) Wild Card, the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that barely clinched a playoff spot on the last day of the regular season, showcased their comeback skills. The Milwaukee Brewers had the lead in both games, but the Diamondbacks refused to give in, coming back to win both times. Once the Diamondbacks took the lead, their pitching staff held firm.
The Philadelphia Phillies, determined to redeem themselves after their 2022 World Series loss, swiftly swept the Miami Marlins. A seven-inning shutout from pitcher Aaron Nola in Game two and five RBIs (Runs Batted In) from second baseman Bryson Scott across the entire series played pivotal roles in this success.
Moving into the Division Series (DS), underdogs continued to provide unexpected upsets.
The Texas Rangers were on a roll, sweeping the 100-win Baltimore Orioles. With this victory, the final AL East team was eliminated. The Oriole’s fourth loss was history-making, admittedly for all the wrong reasons, as it marked the seventh straight loss by an AL East team this postseason, the longest such streak in a single postseason. This fact is made all the more surprising considering the AL East had the best record in the MLB this year with a combined 449-361 record.
The Diamondbacks continued to deftly defeat their opponents, as they swept the Los Angeles Dodgers, another 100-win team. It's a surprise to see a team with a payroll less than half that of their opponents come out on top.
In a similar fashion, the Atlanta Braves, who won the NL East off the back of a 100-win team, lost in four games to the division rival Philadelphia Phillies, who themselves were a 90-win squad. In Game four, Castellanos became the first player in MLB history to record consecutive multi-home run postseason games, powering the Phillies to an NLDS-clinching 3-1 victory.
Did the other division winner, the Houston Astros, suffer the same fate? Of course not. The Astros have made the postseason every year since 2017, and, even more impressively, they've gone to the ALCS (American League Championship Series) every year since 2017. They aren’t breaking their streak now. They finished the Twins with a score of 3-2 in Game four, with help from a Jose Abreu two-run homer in the fourth inning.
ALCS (American League Championship Series) and NLCS (National Championship Series) always produce exciting matchups, and this year is no different.
In the Texan ALCS, the series went the distance with the Rangers dominating in Game seven, a score of 11-4 to knock the final division winner left standing in the playoffs and prevent Houston from reaching their third consecutive World Series.
The NLDSs left us with two of the three lowest-seeded NL playoff teams facing each other for the pennant chase in the NLCS. Phillies outfielder Kyle Schwarber made history, tying Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson for the most home runs ever hit by a left-handed batter in playoff history with 18. His efforts were in vain, as the Diamondbacks won 4-2 in the pivotal Game seven in order to move on to the next round.
As this year's baseball postseason unfolds, it leaves us with numerous questions. Why are 100-win teams getting swept? What's the secret to getting hot at the right time? Does a high payroll ensure success? Will Arizona prove that regular-season records mean nothing? Can Texas win their first World Series? We'll have to wait and see!