The 2013 season started on March 31 in Houston as the Astros made their AL debut, beating the Texas Rangers. Since that Sunday opener, 30 teams battled through the spring and summer, into the Dog Days of August and culminating with the Tampa Bay Rays defeating the Rangers in a one-game tiebreaker for the AL's No. 2 wild card. Now just 10 teams remain as they head into the postseason. Only one of the clubs will win their final game. Who will it be? Nothing is certain, but you can count on Big Papi doing his best to point his Boston Red Sox in the right direction. Here's how the 10 playoff teams rank as they all have the same goal: To take home the World Series trophy. By Shawn Ramsey.
Momentum is not on the Reds’ side after stumbling into the playoffs losing five games in a row, including being swept by wild-card opponent Pittsburgh. Jay Bruce (right) hit just one home run in Cincinnati’s final 18 games, and Ryan Ludwick’s return didn’t give the lineup much of a boost. Could Dusty Baker’s job be in jeopardy if the Reds lose a sixth consecutive game to send them home early again in the playoffs?
Tampa Bay Rays
David Price’s season started slow — with his ERA hitting 5.24 in May, but he showed why he is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner after carrying the Rays past the Rangers in a complete-game masterpiece in the tiebreaker game. Tampa Bay may be the No. 2 wild-card team, but its resilient attitude will make the team a tough out in the playoffs.
The Indians staggered into September looking finished in the AL playoff race, but after a 21-6 month, including 10 consecutive wins to wrap up the regular season, they are the team to beat with the top wild-card spot. Terry Francona (center) and the Indians may have benefited from an easy schedule in the last month of the season, but we will soon see if the Indians are for real this October.
The Tigers ended their season on a sour note after getting no-hit by the Marlins, but fans shouldn’t be worried about Detroit’s offensive power in the playoffs with Miguel Cabrera (pictured) and his .348 batting average. Plus, the Tigers have a few of the league’s best pitchers in Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, who have the ability to take away Oakland’s home-field advantage with early wins in the ALDS.
Baseball is back in Pittsburgh with the Pirates ready to host their first playoff game in two decades. Coming off a regular-season sweep of their wild-card opponent in the Reds, the Bucs have momentum on their side to advance to the NLDS. Andrew McCutchen (22) slumped down the stretch, but Pittsburgh’s MVP candidate has been waiting for his chance on the big stage and will surely rise to the occasion.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers looked to be out of the race entirely in June, sitting in last place in the NL West at 9½ games behind Arizona. But after a 42-8 run allowed the Dodgers to take over first place, they played well enough to hold for the title. Matt Kemp (right) won’t be available in the playoffs, but the club has survived most of the season without him. Plus, his absence opened the door for Yasiel Puig (left).
The A’s started September in second place but won the division title after winning the month’s series against the Rangers 5-1 to retake the lead late. Josh Donaldson (2) had a big month at the plate, helping lead the Oakland lineup down the stretch. The team hopes he will continue his surge into the playoffs with a big test coming against Detroit’s incredible rotation.
The Braves will rely on Jason Heyward (right) to continue his consistency at the top of the lineup, hoping he will provide even more run-producing opportunities for Justin Upton (left) during the playoffs. If Atlanta’s lineup can find hits consistently, the pitching staff will back up the effort and 50-save closer Craig Kimbrel will seal the deal.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals clinched home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs after winning six consecutive games to end the regular season. Matt Carpenter (pictured) fell one hit short of 200 for the season, but led the league in runs (126), and multi-hit games (63) helping St. Louis reach the 97-win mark and its first division title since 2009. Heading into the NLDS, the Redbirds are the most balanced team in the playoffs with a productive lineup and stellar pitching staff.
Boston Red Sox
One year after Boston’s epic 2012 meltdown and subsequent reboot of its roster, the Red Sox secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and are the favorites to win their third World Series title in a decade. The David Ortiz-led offense is the best in the majors in several categories, and enough can’t be said about the already good rotation that received a boost in September with the return of Clay Buchholz.