Now, the fun really begins.
After Tampa Bay punched its ticket to the playoffs by besting Texas last night, the AL field is now set:
5. Tampa Bay.
Cleveland @ Tampa Bay (Wednesday): The Indians have been a nice story this season. Terry Francona left ESPN after one year, and now could be in line to be AL Manager of the Year, taking Cleveland into the postseason. While some might think Cleveland could advance to a Division Series matchup with Boston, I don't see it. The Indians have already peaked. Tampa Bay is hitting its stride. That's the good news. The bad news is that Boston will have had extra rest and will be ready, and it'll be another few days before the Rays cane return home. Pick: Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay @ Boston: The only other manager who'd be a perfect candidate for Manager of the Year is Boston's John Farrell, who took the Red Sox from worst to first in record time. Pitchers Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester benefited from their mentor's return, and in any other year, Buchholz would be in line for the Cy Young, but that's reserved for Max Scherzer in Detroit. 'Nuff said. This will go the full five, and the Sox will advance.
Detroit @ Oakland: A rematch from last year's Division Series, which Detroit won en route to the World Series. There's a certain amount of coincidence with Oakland, though. 40 years ago, they won their 2nd straight AL East title en route to a repeat in the World Series, besting the Mets in 7. As was the case last year, though, this is as far as the A's will go. Detroit in 4.
Let's move to the National League:
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (tonight): These two clashed over the weekend, with Pittsburgh clinching home field for this game on Saturday. The Pirates are in the post-season for the first time since 1992, when they were eliminated by Atlanta in the NLCS. Pittsburgh is clearly hungry enough to go further. Cincinnati wanted to win their 3rd division title under Dusty Baker, but were denied. Seems to me they're on a downward curve, just like the Texas Rangers in the AL. Pittsburgh moves on to the NLDS.
Pittsburgh @ St. Louis: The Cardinals went through the play-in round last year, but this time, they claimed the Central Division title. Of course you know they won it all 2 years ago, and would like to do it again, but the field is much tougher this time. This will go the full five, with Pittsburgh advancing in an upset.
Los Angeles @ Atlanta: The Braves are back atop the NL East after being a bridesmaid behind the Mets (2006), Phillies (2007-11), & Nationals (2012). The post-Chipper Jones era has started with a bang, but now the Braves also are gaining an unsightly reputation, as confrontations in recent weeks vs. Miami & Milwaukee would suggest. Don Mattingly should be in line to be NL Manager of the Year, with Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh) the only real competition. However, for Donnie Baseball, it's one step at a time, and this step is a lulu. This will also go 5, with Atlanta advancing to a rematch with Pittsburgh of the '92 NLCS.
Of course, I could be wrong.