After 162 games, it’s all about October.

The MLB postseason field is officially set, and the chaos of the playoffs begins Friday, with four wild-card series kicking off on the same day.

Before the action begins, we asked FOX Sports’ MLB writers — Ben Verlander, Deesha Thosar, Jake Mintz, Jordan Shusterman, Pedro Moura and Rowan Kavner — and Alex Rodriguez to make their picks from the wild cards all the way through the World Series (with odds via FOX Bet). Some of their answers might surprise you.

Let’s get to it.


No. 6 Tampa Bay Rays vs. No. 3 Cleveland Guardians: 12:07 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN

A-Rod’s pick: Rays
Ben’s pick: Rays
Deesha’s pick: Guardians
Jake’s pick: Guardians
Jordan’s pick: Rays
Pedro’s pick: Rays
Rowan’s pick: Guardians

Odds to win World Series ahead of wild-card round: 
Rays: +1700
Guardians: +2500

Pedro’s take: The Guardians had an impressive regular season, and I certainly underestimated them. Maybe I’m underestimating them again, but I think I like the Rays’ 1-2 punch of Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow better than Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie

Behind that duo, Tampa Bay has plenty of elite pitching to pick from, as usual. The Rays have been playing poorly lately, and the Guardians are playing wonderfully, but I’m not sure that matters much. I think these teams are about equally talented, and the Rays’ top-end pitching gives them the edge.

No. 5 Seattle Mariners vs. No. 4 Toronto Blue Jays: 4:07 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN

A-Rod’s pick: Blue Jays
Ben’s pick: Blue Jays
Deesha’s pick: Blue Jays
Jake’s pick: Blue Jays
Jordan’s pick: Blue Jays
Pedro’s pick: Blue Jays
Rowan’s pick: Blue Jays

Odds to win World Series ahead of wild-card round: 
Mariners: +2500
Blue Jays: +1300

Deesha’s take: As much as I love a good underdog story and the Mariners should be commended for ending the longest playoff drought in MLB, the Blue Jays are going to take this series on their home turf because they’re the better team — and because they’re even better within the confines of Toronto’s hostile environment. 

There will be postseason baseball at Rogers Centre for the first time since the 2016 ALCS. That home-field advantage is significant for a team that feeds off its rowdy and energetic fan base. The Mariners went 5-2 against the Jays this season, but both of those losses came in Toronto.

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No. 6 Philadelphia Phillies vs. No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals: 2:07 p.m. ET Friday, ABC

A-Rod’s pick: Cardinals
Ben’s pick: Cardinals
Deesha’s pick: Cardinals
Jake’s pick: Phillies
Jordan’s pick: Cardinals
Pedro’s pick: Phillies
Rowan’s pick: Cardinals

Odds to win World Series ahead of wild-card round: 
Phillies: +2500
Cardinals: +1400

Jake’s take: Over the span of 162 games, the Cardinals were undeniably better than the Phillies, but the wild-card round isn’t 162 games. It’s a three-game series.

Philly has two legitimate front-line horses in the rotation with Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler; two arms light-years more dominant than anything the Cards can roll out. Sure, Cardinals magic this and final year for Pujols and Yadi that, but I think the Phillies match up really well here.

It’s truly a hilarious series: the team with unspectacular pitchers and elite defense against the team with aces and bad defense. I think Bryce Harper will do a bunch of cool stuff to silence Busch Stadium, and Philly’s bullpen will hold on just enough to eke it out in a three-game set. 

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No. 5 San Diego Padres vs. No. 4 New York Mets: 8:07 p.m. ET Friday, ESPN

A-Rod’s pick: Mets
Ben’s pick: Mets
Deesha’s pick: Mets
Jake’s pick: Mets
Jordan’s pick: Padres
Pedro’s pick: Mets
Rowan’s pick: Padres

Odds to win World Series ahead of wild-card round: 
Padres: +2500
Mets: +850

Rowan’s take: The NL East was there for the Mets’ taking. They had Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt heading to Atlanta with a one-game lead. It was all set for them to secure their first division title since 2015, and … they were swept. Now, that’s not to say they can’t bounce back in the playoffs — the Padres’ lineup is not the Braves’ lineup — and still, no one wants to face that Mets rotation in a short series. But does anyone want to see Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove, either? Darvish and Snell combined for a 1.95 ERA in September and October. Plus, Darvish is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA against the Mets this season.

The Padres’ offense hasn’t turned into the juggernaut it hoped to be after a tantalizing deadline, but they did outscore the Mets by 13 runs in the season series between the teams, and now the Mets are unlikely to have Starling Marte. Manny Machado has a legitimate NL MVP case, Brandon Drury is playing well, Josh Hader is starting to look like himself, and who wants to bet against Juan Soto? Facing the Mets’ right-handed-heavy pitching staff, this seems like a prime spot for Soto to remind people what he can do.


SEA/TOR vs. No. 1 Houston Astros: Begins Tuesday

A-Rod’s pick: Astros
Ben’s pick: Astros
Deesha’s pick: Astros
Jake’s pick: Astros
Jordan’s pick: Blue Jays
Pedro’s pick: Astros
Rowan’s pick: Blue Jays

Astros’ odds to win World Series ahead of wild-card round: +350

Jordan’s take: This pick has much less to do with any sort of concern about the Astros — who I believe are the best team in the league, even over the mighty Dodgers — and more about sticking with my preseason pick of the Jays as AL pennant winners. I wasn’t alone in falling for the Jays hype back in spring training, as they were an awfully popular World Series pick, but an uneven first half certainly lost Toronto some faithful bandwagon members. 

Not me, though: The Jays played their best baseball in September, staving off Seattle and Tampa Bay for the top AL wild card, and now they enter the postseason with one of the most fearsome lineups around — and one of the few that can go toe-to-toe with Houston. As Vlad Jr. told us in March, last year was just the trailer; this year is the movie. Yankees fans might’ve laughed when New York ultimately won the division, but I think this Blue Jays run might just be getting started.

TB/CLE vs. No. 2 New York Yankees: Begins Tuesday

A-Rod’s pick: Yankees
Ben’s pick: Yankees
Deesha’s pick: Yankees
Jake’s pick: Guardians
Jordan’s pick: Rays
Pedro’s pick: Rays
Rowan’s pick: Yankees

Yankees’ odds to win World Series ahead of wild-card round: +500

Jake’s take: The Yankees steamrollered the Guardians 5-1 in the season series, but you can more or less throw those games out the window, considering how much has changed since they played July 3.

In an era of strikeouts and long bombs, the Guardians have zagged by creating a team built on contact. No club in the past five years has swung and missed less than this one. They are energetic, they put the ball in play and they have a magnificent bullpen that includes Emmanuel Clase, the best pitcher in the world whom you don’t watch enough.

This team is the closest thing we’ve seen to the 2015 Royals since the 2015 Royals. Is that enough to beat the Yankees? I think so. New York’s bullpen gets shakier by the day, the bottom of the lineup has a few automatic outs, and Aaron Judge has just two homers in the past few weeks (if you hadn’t heard).

Cleveland’s starting pitching behind Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie is a bit weak compared to what the Yanks have, but I think the Guardians can storm into Yankee Stadium and steal one of the first two games.

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SD/NYM vs. No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers: Begins Tuesday

A-Rod’s pick: Dodgers
Ben’s pick: Dodgers
Deesha’s pick: Mets
Jake’s pick: Mets
Jordan’s pick: Dodgers
Pedro’s pick: Dodgers
Rowan’s pick: Dodgers

Dodgers’ odds to win World Series ahead of wild-card round: +275

Rowan’s take: The Dodgers are the first NL team since the 1909 Pirates to win at least 110 games. Every time they’ve faced a hurdle, they’ve overcome it. Walker Buehler was lost for the season in June? Their starters led the majors with a 2.76 ERA. High-leverage weapon Blake Treinen has barely pitched this year? Enter Evan Phillips, Yency Almonte, Alex Vesia, Chris Martin & Co. to help the Dodgers post the lowest relievers’ ERA (2.89) and WHIP (1.06) in the National League.

Julio Urías followed last year’s major-league-best 20-win campaign by winning this year’s NL ERA title. L.A.’s other likely starters — Clayton Kershaw, Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin — were all All-Stars this year. The Dodgers clinched the division with 21 games left in the season, guided by an offense with the best OPS and wRC+ and the lowest chase rate in baseball. 

Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner are MLB’s top two hits leaders. Mookie Betts set a career-high in homers. The vaunted trio is protected by Will Smith to make one of the top quartets in the game. The Dodgers will hold home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. This year, their offense looks equipped to carry them through October. There’s no reason to overthink this.

PHI/STL vs. No. 2 Atlanta Braves: Begins Tuesday

A-Rod’s pick: Braves
Ben’s pick: Braves
Deesha’s pick: Braves
Jake’s pick: Braves
Jordan’s pick: Cardinals
Pedro’s pick: Braves
Rowan’s pick: Braves

Braves’ odds to win World Series ahead of wild-card round: +500

Jordan’s take: The Braves’ chasing down the Mets for the NL East title was tremendously impressive, but I’m riding with another one of baseball’s hottest second-half teams in the Cardinals. Atlanta might have a significant pitching advantage, but I’m counting on the Cardinals’ star duo of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado — with an underrated supporting cast featuring Brendan Donovan, Tommy Edman and Lars Nootbaar — to score enough runs to keep the magical Albert Pujols/Yadier Molina/Adam Wainwright farewell tour going for at least one more round. 

I also think there might be some hidden value in gaining momentum heading into this series with a wild-card win, compared to the Braves sitting around for six days before getting their postseason run started. 

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A-Rod’s pick: Astros over Yankees
Ben’s pick: Astros over Yankees
Deesha’s pick: Yankees over Astros
Jake’s pick: Astros over Guardians
Jordan’s pick: Blue Jays over Rays
Pedro’s pick: Astros over Rays
Rowan’s pick: Blue Jays over Yankees

Jake’s take: What is there to say? Have you watched the Astros recently? The vitriol of the trash-can scandal has more or less dissipated, and what’s left is an incredible baseball team.

Alex Bregman is back to his old self, José Altuve is having his best season in years and Yordan Álvarez is now a top-five hitter in the world. I just don’t see another team in the American League that can stack up with this juggernaut. I think whoever the Astros play in the ALCS will be cooked in five games tops. Make it four trips to the World Series in six years for the Stros.

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A-Rod’s pick: Dodgers over Braves
Ben’s pick: Braves over Dodgers
Deesha’s pick: Mets over Braves
Jake’s pick: Braves over Mets
Jordan’s pick: Dodgers over Cardinals
Pedro’s pick: Dodgers over Braves
Rowan’s pick: Dodgers over Braves

Deesha’s take: The Mets want revenge, and they want it badly. Even though New York spent 175 days in first place, the Braves swept the Mets in Atlanta in their final regular-season matchup, which all but decided the winner of the NL East. 

New York believes that when its roster is playing at its best, the Mets are a better team than the Braves. The Mets will be hungry and ready to prove it if these division rivals wind up in an NLCS showdown. The 1-2 punch of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, combined with the brilliance of closer Edwin Diaz, should help keep Atlanta’s bats at bay. 

But the Braves have more power in their lineup than the Mets do in theirs. The Mets’ offense must go toe-to-toe with Atlanta’s to get the revenge they so desire, and they’re certainly capable of doing so.


A-Rod’s pick: Dodgers over Astros
Ben’s pick: Astros over Braves
Deesha’s pick: Mets over Yankees
Jake’s pick: Braves over Astros
Jordan’s pick: Blue Jays over Dodgers
Pedro’s pick: Dodgers over Astros
Rowan’s pick: Dodgers over Blue Jays

Pedro’s take: Both the Dodgers and the Astros have assembled remarkable arrays of above-average pitchers, but outside of Justin Verlander and maybe Julio Urías, none of them would totally scare me as an October opponent. 

And so, rating Houston’s and Los Angeles’ staffs roughly equally, I think the Dodgers have an offensive edge. They certainly scored more in the regular season, and I’d expect them to outscore the Astros in a World Series rematch for the ages.

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