The Hunter’s Week Ahead – 1 Oct
Tips, Tricks, Picks and Odds.
This week – it’s all about America’s pastime.
Now that the regular season has wrapped up, the MLB is set to embark on its famously gruelling postseason run, at the end of which we’ll have another world series champion. Only 10 teams will have the honour of competing in this year’s playoffs, and there isn’t a single one that’s incapable of winning it all. This is shaping up to be one of history’s best postseasons.
As always in this column, I’ll explore what Australians can look forward to in this week of sports and provide the tips that I feel most confident in based on my research, analysis and expert intuition.
To say this season has been stellar would be the understatement of the century. From the very first game, right through to the hectic finish in the NL Central, this season has kept fans on the edge of their seats. Now, with everything on the line, 10 teams are left to fight it out.
Over in the American League, it was a close battle between the divisions, as the Yankees and Astros fought it out for home advantage in the playoffs. Meanwhile, in the National League, it was a question of who (if anyone) could down the Dodgers. We’ve seen the Twins hit the most home runs in MLB history, and the Yankees hit the second-most. Ultimately, the Astros (helmed by an amazing hitting lineup and the pitching stardom of Verlander, Greinke, and Cole) were the best team in baseball and won themselves the right to play the majority of their postseason games in Minute Maid Park.
But before any of that, four teams have one game to keep their season alive, as the wild card games give them one last chance at glory.
Wednesday – WC Game One
First up is the National League, where the Milwaukee Brewers host the Washington Nationals in a do or die matchup.
Washington Nationals at Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers come into this game on an incredible run of form. When their only real star (Yelich) injured himself earlier in the season, many thought the Brewers’ title hopes to be over. But not to be written off, the Brewers embarked on an incredible 18-2 run (before closing out their season in disappointing fashion with an 0-3 series against Colorado). If Milwaukee play anything like they did in the back end of this season, they’ll be near impossible to beat.
Of course, Washington deserve to play in this game just as much as Milwaukee do. Losing their superstar Bryce Harper over the Winter had many thinking this would be another waste of a season for the Nats – and after the start, they had this was only reinforced. But finishing with a 10-1 run this season has many (myself included) keen to see how deep into the postseason they can go.
Looking to leave it all on the line, both teams are throwing their best pitchers at the game, with Woodruff (11-2) facing Scherzer (11-7) in a battle of pitching prowess. Given the pure quality of both men taking the mound, I see this being a game won on the offence. As a result, I have to go with the Nationals here – they’ve always been one of the most offensively strong teams this season (finishing in 6th for total runs scored).
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Nationals to Win
Thursday – WC Game Two
After Wednesday’s thriller, we won’t have time to rest before another absolute premier match that’s sure to have us biting our nails once more. This time, Tampa host Oakland to decide who advances to the ALDS.
Oakland Athletics v Tampa Bay Rays
Now, Tampa is an interesting team. After several years fluctuating between being the best of the best and the worst of the worst, it seems they’ve finally settled for a bit of mediocrity – but in a season where they should be back on top. With stars like Snell, Pham and Moreton, I’m honestly disappointed in them just barely scraping a wildcard spot. But here we are nonetheless. They had an 8-game win streak at the end of this season, but a disappointing series against the BlueJays meant they finished two games worse than expected. It’s this kind of inconsistency that Tampa will have to eliminate for any chance at a deep playoff run.
Fortunately for Tampa, Oakland are a similar story. Mediocrity is the word of the year here, as Oakland went on win and loss streaks that saw them scrape another wildcard spot – without hope for much more. Saved by a great homer hitting lineup (5th in MLB), Oakland’s pitching hasn’t been anything special, and honestly, their bullpen hasn’t been spectacular – they’ll need to really up the ante to pull this one-off.
All up, I think this will be a close game, but not necessarily a good one. I don’t see either of these teams going too far – but I see Tampa at least surviving this one.
The Hunter’s Hot Tip: Tampa to win