Major League Baseball

2012 MLB Wild Card Play-In Games Preview & Predictions – Inside The Wheelhouse

Atlanta bravesFor years fans craved a one-game playoff system to “spice things up” in the MLB Postseason. Well all those fans are getting their wish as the American League and National League Wild Card will be decided in a one-game playoff today. All bets are off and the right to play in the ALDS/NLDS is on the line! Let’s take a look at both of tonight’s games and who I believe will be advancing to the ALDS or NLDS this October!

Texas Rangers vs. Baltimore Orioles

For the last two years the Texas Rangers have been crowned as the American League Champions and now they are fighting for the right to play in the ALDS. Quite surprising for the best team in the American League the last two seasons but the team they will be playing is much more of a surprise then the Rangers playing in the Wild Card game. Enter the Baltimore Orioles, the team who made a strong run at the American League East, a division often dominated by the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays. Well that isn’t the case anymore as the Orioles became one of Baseball’s best stories in 2012.

The question is which storyline will we see continue Saturday morning? Will the Baltimore Orioles keep their magical season alive as they head to the ALDS to take on the New York Yankees? If that’s the case then Texas will be in deep trouble as their collapse is almost parallel to what happened to the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves last season (Texas lead the AL West EVERY DAY from April 9th till the final game of the season when the Athletics won the division). Thankfully for the Rangers they will be getting an opportunity to squash those storylines (unlike Boston and Atlanta) and keep their season alive with a win on Friday night.

In my opinion this matchup can go either way on Friday night. Baltimore comes into the Postseason stumbling a bit after losing 2-out-of-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays and having a tough time scoring while the Texas Rangers enter losing 3 straight to Oakland & handing the AL West division over to them. But after much thought about this matchup there is one team I believe will be facing the New York Yankees on Sunday in the ALDS.

That team will be the home team, the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are just too good to not be playing beyond the Wild Card game and while the Orioles have been a great story this season their momentum took a huge blow after they failed to really play well against a very good Tampa Bay Rays team. This Texas squad are “Postseason professionals” while this Baltimore team is just getting a taste of Postseason action.

Prediction: Texas Rangers win 4-1

Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Last season the Atlanta Braves lost Game #162 costing themselves a chance at the Postseason via the Wild Card. The team that capitalized on the Braves losing and missing out on the playoffs was the St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis would go onto win the NL Wild Card on the final day of the season and the rest was history as the Cardinals went on a magical run towards becoming 2011 World Series Champions.

Now the Braves seek revenge for last season and will try once again to claim a Wild Card spot to advance into the NLDS. While St. Louis will try to play spoiler towards the Braves for a 2nd straight season and try to recapture some of that magical glory towards another World Series Championship. A lot will be on the line and at stake in this one with the right to continue their season.

But for me there is one factor that gives one team the clear advantage over the other and that’s emotional momentum. The St. Louis Cardinals were on an emotional momentum ride last season and were able to defeat the odds in becoming World Champions. The Atlanta Braves are on that emotional momentum ride this season and will be advancing to the NLDS to play the Nationals in my opinion.

Why do I believe this to be true? Because those players in the Braves locker room are on a war path to avenge last season and give Braves legend Chipper Jones the proper send off he deserves by playing in the Postseason. That factor alone will help drive the Braves past the Cardinals in the NL Wild Card game and into the NLDS to take on division rival Washington in what will be a great series to watch. You need to have the “heart of a champion” to keep playing deep in October and the Braves have what it takes to do such.

Prediction: Braves win 3-0

For more MLB talk throughout the Postseason join Bower, Chris Johnson and myself Monday – Friday throughout the Football season on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, ESPN 1300 in New Haven and online at 979espn.com!

You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck

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Jeff Peck

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheJeffPeck

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