Writers from around the Tribune Co. will predict the winners of Friday's wild-card games -- between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves in the National League and Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers in the American League -- as well as the division series that start over the weekend.
Check back throughout the day for their responses and join the conversation by voting in the polls and leaving a comment of your own.
Dave van Dyck, Chicago Tribune
When the playoffs arrive, it helps to be “hot,” as the upstart wild-card Cardinals were last October, or smugly experienced, as the Yankees are in believing their birthright is the World Series. Oh, did we mention it helps to have pitching?
With that as a guide, let’s pick the postseason-proven Rangers over Orioles and newly re-energized, playoff-toughened Cardinals over Atlanta in the wild cards.
And now it gets tougher. In the ALDS, let’s go with the on-a-roll, pitching-rich Tigers over those amazing A’s, and the can’t-stop-our offense Yankees over the worn-out Rangers. In the NLDS, let’s go against the book and pick the Reds over the experienced, pitching-rich Giants, and the increasingly confident Nationals over the over-matched Cardinals.
Juan C. Rodriguez, South Florida Sun Sentinel
The Rangers lost three straight in Oakland and as a result area facing a one-and-done scenario. They lost four or more in a row twice during the regular season. Don’t look for it to happen a third time. Yu Darvish has been dynamite down the stretch and 10 of his 16 wins came at home. The bats come to life and Darvish beats the Orioles.
But birds will advance in the National League wild-card game. Regardless of what’s happened leading up to the postseason, it's tough to pick against the Cardinals this time of year. Yes, St. Louis has to beat a seemingly invincible Kris Medlen on the road, but Kyle Lohse is up to the task against a pedestrian Atlanta offense.
The matchups in the league championship series: Yankees-Athletics and Reds-Nationals.
[Updated at 12:54 p.m.:
Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
In the American League wild-card game, go with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are not exactly riding a wave of momentum, with losses in seven of their last nine games, but they clearly have the superior pitcher in this game. He's Yu Darvish, the Japanese import who closed the season with an undefeated September, posting a 2.21 ERA in five starts, holding opponents to a .160 batting average, and walking seven while striking out 39. The Baltimore Orioles have never seen Darvish. By the time they figure him out, it might be too late.
In the National League wild-card game, it's a battle of two of the hottest pitchers in baseball. Kyle Lohse of the St. Louis Cardinals is 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA this season, and he has lost once since the All-Star break. The Atlanta Braves counter with Kris Medlen, who has not lost at all since the Braves moved him into their rotation -- 9-0 with an 0.97 ERA. We'll take the Braves, with the thought that Chipper Jones can help put off his retirement for at least another week. In 20 career plate appearances against Lohse, Jones has reached base 12 times, with six hits and six walks.
In the AL division series, we'll take the Detroit Tigers over the Oakland Athletics in one series and the Rangers over the New York Yankees in the other. In the NL division series, we like the San Francisco Giants over the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals over the Braves.
David Selig, Baltimore Sun
The Braves are my sneaky pick to get to the World Series, so I think they’ll beat the Cardinals and then upset the Nationals in the NLDS.
The Giants have better pitching and more playoff experience than the Reds, which I think will give them the edge in the Dusty Baker Bowl.
In the American League, the Orioles are in a tough spot heading into a wild-card game in Texas and not having any of their top three starters available. The Rangers win that game, but they don’t get past the Yankees in the ALDS.
The Tigers have the fewest wins of any division champion, but they seem built for a postseason run. They’ll end Oakland’s storybook season and set up their third postseason series against New York in seven years.]