After 26 weeks and 162 games, the 2015 Major League Baseball regular season is officially in the books. October baseball has finally arrived, and it's going to be glorious.
Divisional series kick off on Thursday in the American League and on Friday in the National League, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Before the ALDS and NLDS get underway, the final participants in the eight-team tourney need to be decided. Enter the wild card. These one-game playoffs were finally decided on Sunday.
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AL Wild Card Game: Houston Astros at New York Yankees
When: Tuesday, October 6, 8:00 Eastern/7:00 Central
Where: Yankee Stadium
When the Astros lost to Arizona on Sunday, they knew they were already in the playoffs due to the Rangers defeating the Angels, but a win would have allowed them to play this game in Houston. But instead, they'll be headed to the Bronx to play the New York Yankees.
The Astros, who led the American League West for much of the 2015 campaign, will be making their first playoff appearance as a member of the American League. According to mlb.com, they'll be sending AL Cy Young hopeful Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48 ERA) to the mound on short rest to take on Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA).
In Houston's only trip to Yankee Stadium this season, just over a month ago, the Astros took two of three from New York, including a 15-1 drubbing on August 25. This should make for an interesting battle in the Bronx.
NL Wild Card Game: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
When: Wednesday, October 7, 8:00 Eastern/7:00 Central
Where: PNC Park
This is going to be a great matchup. The Pirates just hung on to the home-field advantage in this game with a win over the Reds on Sunday, and they just might need that extra edge to beat a Chicago Cubs team that is coming in with an eight-game winning streak and the hottest pitcher on the planet.
Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) will take the hill on Wednesday night against the Pirates' Gerrit Cole, who is certainly no slouch himself with a very good 19-8 record and a 2.60 ERA.
It's a shame that one of these teams will have to go home after only one playoff game. Behind only St. Louis, the Pirates and Cubs finished the regular season with the second and third-best records in all of baseball, and even then they were only separated by one game.
But it will be this one more game that will determine how far one of these great seasons can go.
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