Wednesday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks pulled out the big sticks to fuel an 11-8 win over Colorado. The D'Backs' lineup looked scary top to bottom, sending Rockies outfielders scrambling all over Chase Field.
When you have relief pitchers roping extra base hits, you know things must really be clicking.
This victory comes just a day after the New York Yankees used their own offensive fireworks to overcome a disastrous start by their ace Luis Severino, hitting three home runs to power themselves to an 8-4 victory over the Twins.
These are two of the strongest Wild Card teams in recent memory, both winning over 90 games in the regular season in tough divisions.
Now, they're each faced with daunting task- the top seed in their respective leagues. Arizona will face a Dodgers team that was once on a record-setting pace for wins. Not to be outdone, the Yankees will have to travel to Cleveland to play an Indians side who broke a record of their own with their incredible winning streak. Many baseball fans think this is the end of the road for New York and Arizona-- but there's good reason to say they're wrong.
How many teams can win a playoff game after their starter exits in the first inning? That's the beauty of the Yankee bullpen.
After Severino was out of the game, Yankees pitchers gave up just one run on five hits, and hurled 13 strikeouts over 8 2/3 innings. Not to mention they didn't even use their best reliever, Dellin Betances. Mix that with a Yankees offense that has been hot down the stretch and maybe Cleveland has something to worry about.
The Yankees need a big start out of Sonny Gray in Game 1 of the Division Series if they want a chance to move on. No matter how hot their offense gets, Indians ace and likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber has been dominant all year long, and poses a problem for the Yanks in Game 2. However, if the Yankees can take Game 1, the rest of the series is manageable. If they can beat the Indians, going against Boston or Houston looks a lot more manageable. Pitching is the most valuable thing a team can have in the playoffs, and the Yankees bullpen makes them a deadly threat if they can get a lead early.
The Diamondbacks are in an interesting spot, facing a Dodgers team who had an incredible first five months to the season, but went through a horrendous month of September. No one ever wants to face Clayton Kershaw, but Arizona looks like the team in the National League who is best equipped to do so. There's plenty of offensive power in the D'Backs lineup, but obviously the man who stands out the most is Paul Goldschmidt. The first baseman went deep 36 times during the regular season to go along with 120 RBIs. Add in Jake Lamb with his 30 home runs and 105 RBIs, along with other quality bats like AJ Pollack and Ketel Marte and the D'Backs are a real threat. Ace Zack Greinke didn't look great against Colorado, but is capable of pitching with anyone else Arizona may have to face.
The last time a Wild Card team made it to the World Series was 2014, when both the Royals and the Giants made it after having to win the one-game playoff. With the firepower that the Yankees and the Diamondbacks bring to the table, perhaps this year we will see at least one Wild Card team back in the fall classic-- or even two.
Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention Aaron Judge.