2020 MLB Wild Card picks: Blue Jays vs. Rays, Yankees vs. Indians
An MLB postseason unlike any other will get underway this Tuesday with a four-pack of American League Wild Card games. The winners of these series openers will gain a commanding advantage in these best-of-threes. Here are our best bets for Tuesday’s games.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 5:00 p.m. ET, TBS
Tue, September 29 2020, 9:00 PM
TB Rays[B. Snell]
TOR Blue Jays[M. Shoemaker]
Neither Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-5, 2.69 ERA) nor Taijuan Walker (2-1, 1.37 ERA since being acquired at the trade deadline) will start for the Blue Jays in Game 1. Instead, 34-year-old veteran Matt Shoemaker (3.86 career ERA), who’s pitched just three innings since Aug. 21, will begin what figures to be a bullpen game for Toronto. They’re effectively trying to beat the Rays at their own game, and that’s unlikely to happen.
Shoemaker’s 4.71 ERA for the season does not inspire confidence, and the Blue Jays’ bullpen has been hard to trust lately. Their relievers had a league-worst 8.35 ERA over the final two weeks of the season. Look for Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe, who owns a 1.172 OPS against the Jays in 2020, to be a difference-maker.
Toronto’s pitching strategy will mean little if their lineup can’t figure out Blake Snell (4-2, 3.24 ERA) or the indomitable Tampa bullpen. Snell’s last five starts against the Blue Jays have been solid (2.45 ERA), and the Rays relievers had an MLB-best 2.14 ERA over the final two weeks of September.
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Tue, September 29 2020, 11:00 PM
CLE Indians[S. Bieber]
NY Yankees[G. Cole]
Pitching matchups don’t get much better than the Indians’ Shane Bieber, the probable 2020 AL Cy Young winner, vs. the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, the 2019 AL Cy Young runner-up. But Bieber has been in a class of his own this season, and his arm parlayed with the better of the two relief corps makes Cleveland the better bet.
Bieber (8-1, 1.63 ERA) produced quality starts in 10 of his 12 outings this year while forging a commanding MLB-lead in strikeouts (122). New York stumbled down the stretch, losing six of their last eight games, and their lineup was limited to three or fewer runs in five of those defeats. Aaron Judge and company could be in for a long night, even once Bieber is removed. The Indians’ bullpen was second with a 2.15 ERA over the final week of the season, and fifth with a 3.53 ERA for all of 2020.
Cole (7-3, 2.84 ERA) has had an up-and-down year but enters this tilt with a 1.00 ERA over his last four starts, reminiscent of his lights-out run from the middle of last season through the playoffs. But unless he tosses a complete-game shutout, the Bombers' bullpen will have to get involved at some point. They were a modest 16th by ERA this season (4.51) and struggled down the stretch, producing a ninth-worst 5.41 ERA over the last seven days of play.
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