After a long, grueling 162-game season, four MLB teams have earned the exclusive, highly sought-after rights to, well, another game of baseball.

The MLB’s Wild Card Games see two American League and two National League teams square off in one-game playoffs. It’s a pressure-packed way to begin the postseason and will certainly be a nerve-wracking experience for all involved.

In the AL, the New York Yankees play host to the Houston Astros. The winner of that game earns a five-game series against the Kansas City Royals.

Representing the NL, the Chicago Cubs—enjoying postseason play for the first time since 2008—will travel to PNC Park for a contest with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Here are the AL and NL Wild Card Game matchups, schedules, odds and predictions. The entire MLB postseason picture can be found at Odds courtesy of Odds Shark and updated as of Tuesday, Oct. 6, at 7 a.m. ET.



Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees

In a do-or-die scenario against a franchise that has been to the postseason a record 52 times, it helps to have what appears to be the superteam’s kryptonite.

Houston is set to send staff ace Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48 ERA) to the mound Tuesday, per’s Brian McTaggart. Dan Martin of the New York Post has the lowdown on Keuchel vs. the Yankees and manager Joe Girardi‘s response to the situation:

In two starts this season, Keuchel has held the Yankees scoreless in 16 innings. He pitched a shutout in Houston on June 25, striking out a dozen, and then tossed seven innings without giving up a run at The Stadium on Aug. 25.

Girardi‘s answer to this domination?

“I hope the third time’s the charm,” Girardi said. “He’s been good and he’s been tough on us. We like the guy going for us and it’s one game.”

That’s right: Both home and away, Keuchel has had the right stuff against New York. This is compounded by the fact the Yankees have limped their way to the postseason. They are 29-31 since Aug. 1 and losers of six of their last seven regular-season games. In their last 12 games, the Yanks have scored just 36 runs.

But hey, having the home crowd behind you helps, and Kuechel will be pitching on just three days’ rest after going six against Arizona on Oct. 2. The Yankees, assuming they aren’t too overwhelmed at the plate, might try to wear him out with long at-bats and get to the Astros bullpen, which is vulnerable other than the reliable Tony Sipp (1.99 ERA).

The Yankees have a number of veterans with plenty of postseason experience, including Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Brett Gardner. The lineup leans lefty against the southpaw Keuchel, but the Yanks might hope poise and experience will help them through. 

That said, New York is missing an injured Mark Teixeira and will be without the potential long-relief services of CC Sabathia, who will miss the playoffs after deciding to check himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center, per a statement on the team’s official website.

According to McTaggart, opposing Keuchel on the mound is Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA), who gave up six runs in five innings to Houston on June 27. He will have to be much better this time around. Keeping Houston from hitting the long ball could prove to be a difficult proposition in this game. Tanaka gave up 25 homers in 24 starts this year, Yankee Stadium is a dinger-friendly park, and the Astros love to mash.

Houston cranked out 230 home runs this season, just two fewer than league-leading Toronto. There are few places for a pitch over the middle of the plate to hide against this lineup, as six players hit more than 20 home runs, led by bare-handed Evan Gattis with 27. 

If the home runs don’t come through, Houston can swipe bases. Shortstop Carlos Correa, a very legitimate phenom, swiped 14 in 99 games, and there’s always the treat of Jose Altuve, who stole 38 bases this year and did a fine job of racking up opportunities with a .313 batting average.

If Tanaka can just get out of the first six innings relatively safely, the Yankees could be in good shape. The bullpen has been a strength this year, per Joe Lemire of USA Today:

New York boasts baseball’s best back-of-the-bullpen duo in Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, who combined for 145 2/3 innings with 231 strikeouts and a 1.73 ERA. Justin Wilson typically pitches the seventh inning, and look for Adam Warren to be the long reliever if Tanaka gets in trouble in the middle innings. The Yankees’ bullpen set a major league record with 596 strikeouts, including a pair of 100-K seasons from Miller and Betances. The club went 66-3 when leading after six innings. 

However, I think the Astros will get to Tanaka, while Keuchel will put in another strong start on the mound. Look for the likes of Correa and Gattis to rise to the occasion and help power Houston to the American League Division Series, a feat many would probably have found inconceivable just a season ago.

Prediction: Houston wins 5-2


Chicago Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates won 98 games this season. The Cubs, 97. Unfortunately for these two talented squads, the current playoff system relegates them to the Wild Card Game since they both play in the NL Central, which featured a team with a better record than any in baseball this year, the St. Louis Cardinals (100-62).

As one might imagine, the difference in talent between these two teams is paper thin, making this a particularly devilish contest.

The Cubs have two absolute mashers in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo—57 homers, 200 RBI between them this season—but outside of those two, nobody else in the projected lineup has much pop. As a team, the Cubs ranked 19th in slugging percentage. There is a good amount of speed in the order, with center fielder Dexter Fowler (20 stolen bases) up top and Rizzo, Bryant and Chris Coghlan all running well this year.

Pittsburgh has do-it-all superstar Andrew McCutchen, a five-tool player who posted an .889 OPS (on-base plus slugging), 29 homers, 93 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He’s cushioned in the lineup by the likes of Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Aramis Ramirez. 

While Ramirez has been adequate at third, it’s a shame the Pirates won’t have one of their better bats in third baseman Jung Ho Kang available. The rookie was hitting .287 with 15 home runs and 58 RBI before a hard slide from the Cubs’ Coghlan in a mid-September game left him with a knee fracture and prematurely ended his season.

The Pirates hitters will need to be at their best Wednesday, as they face arguably the league’s hottest pitcher down the stretch in Jake Arrieta. The 29-year-old won 22 games with a 1.77 ERA this season, much of that damage done late in the year. Since Aug. 1, Arrieta is 11-0 with an absurd 0.41 ERA and a .182 opponent on-base percentage, via

He’s one of the many reasons the Cubs have gone 42-18 in that span, including eight straight wins to close out the season.

His opposition on the mound is one Gerrit Cole, who went 19-8 this year with a 2.60 ERA. His numbers aren’t quite as eye-popping as Arrieta‘s, but dig deeper, and you find he might be the perfect guy for a one-off. 

“The Cubs lined up their ace for must-win Game 163, and so did the Pirates,” wrote Stephen J. Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They won Cole’s last five starts of the regular season, all against playoff teams. Cole is 7-1 in nine career starts against the Cubs.”

Cole is also coming into the game well-rested, having last pitched Sept. 30.

This game will be particularly heartbreaking no matter the outcome. The Cubs’ World Series futility dates back more than a century, and they’ve generally not been a very good team. Prior to this three-year stretch of relative success, the Pirates were long a league doormat. From 1993-2012, the Pirates did not put together a single winning season. The last time they touched 98 wins was in 1991.

Chicago is the hotter team with the better ace, and they won the season series 11-8, but the team is young and could be considered a year ahead of schedule. Pittsburgh has been building to this. Wednesday marks its third straight NL Wild Card Game.

The Pirates get to stave off heartbreak for at least one more game.

Prediction: Pittsburgh wins 3-2

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