The 2022 MLB playoffs begin in earnest Friday with four Game 1 matchups in the Wild Card Round. Which teams have the best chances of advancing to a Division Series, and who will be sent home early? Here are our predictions for each series.
American League predictions
Guardians vs. Rays
These teams are evenly matched, but the Guardians are just a little better in every aspect. Both teams go through scoring droughts, but Cleveland’s lineup is more dependable because it makes so much contact. The top of the Guardians’ pitching rotation is more stable since we’re not quite sure what Tyler Glasnow will offer in just his third outing since a long layoff due to Tommy John surgery. And the back end of Cleveland’s bullpen can shorten any game. The Rays always seem to be pesky in the playoffs, but this is not a great matchup for them.
Winner: Guardians in 2
Blue Jays vs. Mariners
Both of these teams have fan bases that are just champing at the bit for playoff action. But as every game in this series will be played inside Toronto’s Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays’ home-field advantage is going to be a factor. Both of these lineups pack a lot of power both at the plate and on the mound. The pitching matchups of Luis Castillo vs. Alek Manoah, and Robbie Ray vs. Kevin Gausman are going to be incredibly entertaining to watch. But Toronto does boast the more complete offense and a sturdy closer in Jordan Romano. The Mariners won’t make this easy, but they are a little ahead of schedule.
Winner: Blue Jays in 3
National League predictions
Cardinals vs. Phillies
It’s difficult to pick a visiting team in any of these four series, but the Phillies appear to have the best shot at pulling off a first-round upset. The Phillies can’t be quite sure what they are going to get out of slumping sluggers such as Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos, but that concern is negated somewhat by how the struggles of Cardinals star Paul Goldschmidt in recent weeks. With the help of J.T. Realmuto and NL home run leader Kyle Schwarber, the Phillies have the pieces to do damage against a St. Louis rotation that is a little shorthanded because of Adam Wainwright’s current case of dead arm. Conversely, the Phillies’ two aces, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, are locked and loaded for this series. As long as Philadelphia’s defense and bullpen don’t blow up — no easy task — the Phils can advance to the NLDS.
Winner: Phillies in 3
Mets vs. Padres
The Padres went 5-2 against the 101-win Mets this year, but that does not matter once October arrives. This looks like it’s primed to be a low-scoring series as there are multiple formidable starters on each club. The big question is what, if anything, will the Padres get offensively from anyone not named Manny Machado or Juan Soto? Starters Yu Darvish or Blake Snell could steal a game for San Diego, but that lineup seems very unlikely to score even more than three runs versus Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. Mets stars such as Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and NL batting champion Jeff McNeil should do enough for the Mets to move on.
Winner: Mets in 2