MLB Playoffs 2022



Colin Rutledge, Editor, Staff Writer

With the grueling MLB regular season coming to a close, the most exciting part of baseball is here: October. Playoff baseball is like nothing else – the energy the fans and players bring to the diamond is incomparable. This year, the MLB decided to test out a new playoff structure. Now, there are six teams in each league in the playoffs, with two in each league receiving a bye in the first round. The remaining four teams play a best-of-three series for the Wild Card matchup (the 3 seed plays the 6 seed, and the 4 seed plays the 5 seed). Then, from there, the teams that win the Wild Card matchups play the two teams that had byes in the Divisional Round, in a best-of-five series. After that, the two teams with victories in their leagues play in a best-of-seven series for the League Championship. The two league champions then face each other in a best-of-seven World Series for the championship of the MLB. This is a large change in that there is an extra team in the playoffs and the teams with early byes may suffer from a bit of rust having not played in the first round. This year, the teams with byes seemed to be at a larger disadvantage than any could have imagined. Some of the biggest surprises of the playoffs occurred in the National League. The Phillies upset the Cardinals in a 2-0 series, where Phillies aces Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola dominated the Cardinals batting order. The Padres also upset the Mets in a 2-1 series, where the Padres pitching was outstanding, even though the Mets pitching was regarded as the best in the league. In the American League, the Guardians handled the Rays 2-0 in a series where, once again, pitching was dominant. In the second game, the Guardians and Rays went 14 innings straight without a run, until the Guardians hit a walk-off home run to win the series in the 15th inning. The Mariners also easily beat the Blue Jays. This series was the only one where pitching didn’t decide it all, as the Mariners even managed to come back from a 8-1 deficit to win 10-9 and sweep the series.

With some exciting finishes in the Wild Card, the Divisional Round quickly began. First, the Astros proved why they are the #1 seed; although they had some close games against the Mariners, they swept the series 3-0. However, the Astros won the games by a total margin of only four runs, which showed that the Mariners could have won these games. Yet, the Astros closed out the games with scary ease. Then, the Phillies made a very surprising series victory over the Braves. The Phillies, being a team that barely snuck into the Playoffs, pulled off a huge upset against the Braves, winning the series 3-1. Although the division rivals matched up evenly in the regular season, the Phillies won this series handily. The first two games were close, with the Phillies winning 7-6, and the Braves taking one 3-0. Then, the Phillies offense got cooking, and they won the next two games by a score of 9-1 and 8-3. On the other side of the National League, the Padres also upset the Dodgers. In the first game the Dodgers proved why they are the #1 seed, the Padres continued on to win the next three games with ease. The scores of these games were all in the same ballpark, with starting pitching very strong for both teams while the bullpens let up runs. The Yankees were almost uprooted by the Guardians, who played with real heart as a team not predicted to go far in the playoffs. Although the Guardians ran to a 2-1 lead in the series, the Yankees saved themselves from humiliation by winning the next two games, and the series 3-2. One note from this series is that the Guardians became quite confident after leading 2-1 in this series, but the Yankees fought back – proving themselves as a team that wouldn’t go down without a fight. One celebration in particular – Josh Naylor’s ‘rocking the baby’ motion after a home run proved karma for the Guardians — motivated the Yankees and their fans as they came back to win the series. Once again, the National League proved to be one of upsets, while the American League went as predicted.

In the League Championships, storylines got very interesting. The Yankees and Astros have become two of the league’s biggest rivals, ever since the Astros’ cheating scandal following their championship in 2017. They were caught stealing signs from other teams in 2017 and 2018, and it came to light in 2019. Yankees fans, in particular, were fuming because the Astros defeated them in 2017. Many Yankees fans believe that they could have won the World Series that year if not for the sneaky activities of the Astros. This series would finally settle the continuous bad blood between the two fanbases. These two teams, with the Braves and Dodgers both knocked out, were considered by many to be the two best teams left. The series turned out to be massively one-sided. The Astros swept the Yankees, but it was in games where the Yankees could have been more competitive. There are a few key takeaways for both teams from this series. For the Yankees, it seems as if the team may be overhauled in the offseason looking to revamp their offense. The biggest thing for the Yankees this offseason is to re-sign Aaron Judge, which will take a large portion of their payroll. The Astros, on the other hand, continued their perfect playoff run so far, yet to lose a game. Their pitching stayed stellar, holding the Yankees to a subpar offensive performance. The offense looks good, but not great. The Astros will need to get Jose Altuve going for the World Series.

In the National League Championship, there were also major storylines brewing. First of all, these two teams have both been underdogs the entire postseason. Now, as they came to face each other, which underdog would prevail and make it to the World Series? The Padres had proved themselves as a team with elite starting pitching, and a complimentary offense not only led by stars Juan Soto and Manny Machado. The Phillies had proved themselves as a streaky team, with two of the best postseason pitchers in Wheeler and Nola, a surprisingly steady bullpen, and an offense reliant on home runs. Another interesting part is that Aaron Nola, starting pitcher for the Phillies, would face his older brother, Austin Nola, catcher for the Padres. In the first game in San Diego, Yu Darvish and Zach Wheeler dueled it out in what was an insane pitching matchup. As expected, the Phillies carried themselves behind two solo home runs from Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber. The Phillies won 2-0. Then, the Padres won the next game 8-5 in a game where Aaron Nola and the Phillies bullpen seemed to have no control. While the Phillies offense stayed hot, the Padres offense was even better. As the series moved back to Philadelphia for games 3-5, momentum was in the Padres favor. The Phillies capitalized on their home-field advantage, winning all games at home and winning the series 4-1. The Phillies bullpen and some of their more unknown pitchers really stepped up in these games, and their offense kept rolling. In the fourth game, they managed ten runs, behind four home runs from the team. With the team looking to close out the series in Philadelphia in five, they came through in dramatic fashion. Darvish and Wheeler once again dueled it out, but there was more offense this time. Rhys Hoskins, who had been on fire all series, started the game with a two-run home run. Then, Juan Soto quieted the crowd with a solo home run. Once the Phillies pulled Wheeler from the game in the seventh inning, the Padres managed two runs to lead the game 3-2. Then, in the eighth inning, Padres pitching faced the heart of the Phillies lineup. Bryce Harper, the best batter of the playoffs so far, stepped to the plate and smashed a two-run shot to take the lead. The crowd at Citizens Bank Park went crazy; it felt like a movie scene. I think that this will go down as a historic moment in Phillies history. The Padres threatened to win back the game in the ninth inning, but Ranger Suarez came in to save the game. With that, the Phillies, in their first playoffs in 11 years, advanced to the World Series, with Bryce Harper as the series MVP.

The World Series will commence on Friday, October 28th in Houston. Both teams are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum. The Phillies have come here as the lowest seed in the playoffs, while the Astros have been the favorite all postseason. I think that this World Series will be very competitive and will go to either six or seven games. My prediction is that the Astros will take the first game behind a stellar performance from Justin Verlander, but the Phillies will steal the second in Houston behind Zach Wheeler. Then, the series goes back to Philadelphia. I think that the Phillies will win the third with Ranger Suarez, lose four, which is expected to be a bullpen game. They will win game five, then go back to Houston. I think that Wheeler would pitch in game six, and he will win the series then. I think that most people around here are rooting for the Phillies because of the Astros cheating, so hopefully fans come out happy!