Thursday, March 23 2023

Major League Baseball’s best-of-three wild card series begin Friday, a quadruple-header to kick off the first year with an expanded 12-team postseason field.

In the American League, the Cleveland Guardians face the Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays host the Seattle Mariners. In the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies visit the St. Louis Cardinals – in Albert Pujols’ final postseason – and the 101-win New York Mets host the San Diego Padres.

Game 1 of the Cleveland-Tampa is the first of the day, with first pitch scheduled for 12:07 p.m. ET at Progressive Field.

PREDICTIONS: Who’s going to win the four wild card series?

X–FACTORS: These players will help decide their teams’ fate

Keep it here all day Friday for updates, scores and highlights from around the league:

Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan won 12 games this season with a 2.54 ERA.Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan won 12 games this season with a 2.54 ERA.

Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan won 12 games this season with a 2.54 ERA.

Will Albert Pujols go out on top?

Albert Pujols, 42, is playing in the final postseason of his 22-year career, beginning Friday afternoon against the Philadelphia Phillies in a best-of-three wild-card series at sold-out Busch Stadium.

When the teams line up for introductions, Pujols will get the longest ovation. When he comes to the plate for the first time during the game, he’ll get another one , as fans grab their cell phones and take pictures for posterity. They’ll do the same thing every time he comes to bat

“Man, I missed that feeling of playing this time of year,’’ Pujols says. “These guys have given me the joy, the thrill, of being back in the postseason. This is what we play for.

“This is why I came back.”

– Bob Nightengale

Mets have reason to be confident

Having lost out on the NL East title, the Mets’ path to the World Series may have gotten tougher with a best-of-three series against the Padres beginning on Friday, but they have proven throughout the season that they are able to rise through adversity.

Whether it was an early-season injury to Jacob deGrom, midseason injury to Max Scherzer or getting hit by a pitch an MLB record 112 times, the Mets have managed to bounce back more often than not when a speed bump arises.

In the postseason, anything can happen. Ask last season’s Braves squad.

“Everybody starts 0-0. It’s a new time of the year,” Francisco Lindor said. “We’ve got to focus on what we have in front of our feet. It’s a blessing to be in the playoffs. To be in the playoffs is a blessing. At the end of the day, I don’t care whether it’s a Wild Card or World Series, it’s an honor, it’s a privilege to be here. Not everybody gets to be here.”

– Andrew Tredinnick,

All-Star batsman Alejandro Kirk is an X-factor for Toronto

“He’s the best. He’s the man,” Blue Jays outfielder George Springer says of Alejandro Kirk, the club’s catcher and designated hitter. “His smile is something everybody loves and he likes to have fun.”

October often shines brightest on those who make contact, who swing not for the fences but with purpose. Kirk, who has struck out just 57 times in 468 at-bats, might be the perfect playoff concoction for a Jays team with plenty of muscle and star power.

“What he’s done at the plate – as I watch pitchers try to find his weakness as the season goes on – there’s really not one,” says Toronto starter Kevin Gausman. “He can hit the high ball really well for a short guy, he can hit the low ball well, he’s an exceptional off-speed hitter.”

– Gabe Lacques

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB playoffs live updates: Wild card series scores, news from Friday

Source: Yahoo Sports


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