Eclectic mix of teams gear up for MLB postseason
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - From pitching powerhouses in Los Angeles and New York to booming bats in Toronto, from upstarts in Chicago and Houston to aging warhorses in the Bronx, an eclectic cast of clubs gear up for MLB's playoff extravaganza.
Leading 10 teams into the October spotlight are top seeds St. Louis Cardinals (100-62) and Kansas City Royals (95-67), Midwest neighbors on the east and west edges of Missouri, who bring well balanced teams to their pursuit of the World Series.
Headliners poised to perform the include NL West champion Dodgers' one-two pitching punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and big-hitting Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion of an AL East champion Toronto team in the playoffs for the first time since winning a second consecutive World Series title in 1993.
The playoffs also offer long-suffering fans of the Chicago Cubs the hope of ending a 107-year wait for a World Series title.
Launching the postseason are Wild Card showdowns between the American League New York Yankees and Houston Astros, and the National League's Pittsburgh Pirates and Cubs in do-or-die games to reach a best-of-five Division Series.
Last year's Wild Card winners, the Giants and Royals, gave hope to the longshots by winning their Division Series and best-of-seven League Championship Series to reach the Fall Classic.
The curtain goes up in New York on Tuesday when the Yankees host the Astros, sending Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA) to the mound against Cy Young candidate Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48), pitching on three days' rest.
Houston (86-76), in the postseason for the first time in a decade, blend power and speed in a lineup with emerging young players such as shortstop Carlos Correa, second baseman Jose Altuve and outfielder George Springer. Continued...