Updated playoff bracket, key matchups and predictions for ALDS and NLDS

After four quick sweeps in the wild-card round, it’s on to the Division Series in the MLB postseason. Wednesday’s winners — the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies — have two days to catch their breath before the second round of the playoffs begins Saturday.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

With sweeps in the wild-card round, the Blue Jays, Rays, Brewers and Marlins saw their postseasons quickly ended.

With sweeps in the wild-card round, the Blue Jays, Rays, Brewers and Marlins saw their postseasons quickly ended. (Mallory Bielecki/Yahoo Sports)

No. 5 Texas Rangers at No. 1 Baltimore Orioles

How they got here:

The Rangers’ up-and-down-and-up-and-down-again season had them landing in the American League’s second wild-card spot after leading the AL West for 138 days this year. The Orioles, for their part, surprised everyone by surging to the league’s best record well ahead of (rebuild) schedule.

With the O’s having held off the Rays for the AL East title and the Rangers having swept the Rays in the wild card, the two now face off in the ALDS. Game 1 begins at 1:03 p.m. ET Saturday in Baltimore.

Key matchup:

Orioles starting pitching vs. the Rangers’ lineup. What looked like a question mark for Baltimore as recently as the trade deadline turned into a strength as Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez turned in dominant stretch runs. However, it’s still unknown exactly how well the duo will hold up as they plunge into the pressure of October — and well beyond their previous single-season innings thresholds.

Plus, they’ll be facing a Rangers lineup that has serious depth. While Bruce Bochy might be obliged to move them up at this rate, rookies Josh Jung and Evan Carter batted in the No. 8 and 9 spots against Tampa Bay and tallied as many extra-base hits as they did outs.

Why they will or won’t win the series:


There might not be a bigger bullpen edge in any series in these playoffs. Even without injured closer Felix Bautista, the Baltimore bullpen led by Yennier Cano, Danny Coulombe and Cionel Perez has been lights-out. Also watch out for Tyler Wells. After the former starter hit a rocky stretch in July, the Orioles converted him to relief, and he looked sharp in his return to the majors in September.

Baltimore’s offense begins with Gunnar Henderson’s power and Adley Rutschman’s on-base ability. The O’s will also be looking for thump from Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle. If Baltimore’s young starters can simply keep the team in games — and they might very well do much more than that — manager Brandon Hyde will have the upper hand, thanks in large part to that bullpen. The Orioles went 30-16 in one-run games, while the Rangers went 14-22.

The risks for Baltimore revolve around a near-total lack of postseason experience and a power deficit compared to Texas. It remains to be seen whether speed and stolen bases will change this equation this year, but postseason baseball typically revolves around the home run, which would be a point against the Orioles in this matchup.


The writing for the Rangers is on the wall(s). With Camden Yards’ extreme fence changes that made homers less common, especially for right-handed hitters, Texas might be able to make hay. For one, they have Corey Seager, both left-handed and the clear best hitter in this series. For another, they have Adolis Garcia, a double-edged sword of danger for Baltimore.

See, Garcia has the no-doubt power to get the ball over the fence even in Baltimore’s massive left field, as well as the stellar arm to cut down Orioles hitters looking to bring their MLB-leading penchant for doubles into October. With Garcia, Leody Taveras in center and the all-everything 21-year-old Carter — whom teammates have dubbed “the little savior” — in left, the Texas outfield will be hyper-athletic and well-positioned to combat the Orioles’ usual style of offense.

Still, the Rangers have to navigate a pitching staff depleted by injury. They got wildly encouraging performances from Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi against the Rays, but there will almost certainly be key moments against Baltimore when the Texas bullpen has to step up, and it’s hard to feel confident about who might come through in that instance.


Orioles in four. Baltimore has simply been too good to ding them for their youth and inexperience. — Crizer

No. 3 Minnesota Twins at No. 2 Houston Astros

How they got here:

The Twins cruised to an easy victory in the ho-hum AL Central before finally ending their postseason drought with their first playoff victory since 2004 and their first playoff series victory since 2002. The Astros, on the other hand, had to fight for their division until the final day of the series, when they ultimately prevailed over the Rangers and Mariners.

Now it’s the AL’s David vs. Goliath matchup, with the always-bounced-early Twins against the always-in-the-ALCS Astros. Game 1 goes at 4:45 p.m. ET Saturday in Houston.

Key matchup:

Carlos Correa — who played 79 very successful postseason games for the Houston Astros before signing with the historically hapless-in-October Twins — versus the Houston Astros themselves. Can he turn his new(ish) team into the kind of postseason machine the Astros have continued to sustain without him?

Why they will or won’t win the series:


In second place on the second-to-last day of the season, the Astros ended up winning the hotly contested AL West … because of course they did. As soon as Game 1 of this series gets underway, Jose Altuve will move into the top 10 all time in career postseason games with his 93rd. He’s 33 years old and the only active player on that list by virtue of how successful the Astros have been in recent years. And they’ve been so successful in recent years in part by virtue of Altuve being second in career postseason home runs. The last time the Astros didn’t advance to at least the championship series was 2016 — the last time they missed the postseason.

If the Astros looked like they were underperforming for stretches of this season, it might’ve been because Altuve and Yordan Alvarez, who has the power to change the complexion of a playoff series with a single swing, missed significant time due to injury. They both returned to the lineup July 26, and from then until the end of the regular season, the Astros had the second-most productive lineup behind the Braves. What’s more, just a few days after adding those two pillars of the offense back, the Astros reunited with Justin Verlander at the trade deadline, a move that was immediately overshadowed by Framber Valdez throwing a no-hitter.

Therein lies the question for this Astros club: Which version of those two starters will show up this October? Houston needs Valdez to look like the pitcher he was through the no-hitter (he had a 3.07 ERA to that point and a 4.29 ERA in 10 starts since) and Verlander to look like the pitcher he was over his past few starts — or all of last year.


Now that the Twins are no longer lugging a nearly two-decade tale of postseason futility around with them, we can appreciate the team for what it is: A great starting staff with exciting rookies and an outspoken, battle-tested leader. Pablo López and Sonny Gray limited the Blue Jays to just one run in 10⅔ innings in the wild-card round, and the bullpen was even better. They’ll be back later in the series, but even before that, Joe Ryan is no slouch — among starters with at least 150 innings this season, he’s fifth in strikeout percentage and ninth-lowest in walk percentage.

Another thing the Twins’ pitching does well, other than avoid walks and induce strikeouts? Limit the longball. The question for this team will be whether the lineup is healthy and productive enough to keep pace with Houston. If Royce Lewis keeps raking, they could do the impossible: eliminate the Astros in an early round.


Houston in five — and that’s a compliment to the Twins, considering how automatic the Astros have been in October. — Keyser

With the matchups are set, our baseball staff reassessed their picks for the NLDS and ALDS.

With the matchups are set, our baseball staff reassessed their picks for the NLDS and ALDS. (Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

No. 3 Philadelphia Phillies at No. 1 Atlanta Braves

How they got here:

As any baseball fan knows by now, the Atlanta Braves cruised to the best record in the sport this year on the strength of a young core that looks set to dominate for years to come. And as anyone who watched the wild-card round knows, the Phillies’ rambunctious postseason energy is back on full blast.

This matchup is a heavyweight fight early in the postseason between division rivals who are all-too-familiar with each other. Game 1 begins at 6:07 p.m. ET Saturday in Atlanta.

Key matchup:

The Phillies’ lineup is flying high after scoring 11 runs across two games against the Marlins, but they’re about to run into a starter with record-setting strikeout rates and a decent case for the Cy Young.

By virtue of their top-seed bye, the Braves have Spencer Strider starting Game 1, while the Phillies will have to dig deeper in their rotation. That said, when the Phillies faced Strider in the postseason last year, they knocked him out in the third inning by scoring five runs en route to the exact kind of Division Series upset they’re looking for again this year.

Why they will or won’t win the series:


The Braves’ offense isn’t just better than all the other 2023 baseball teams; it ranks high among the historical greats, too. Down the stretch, it seemed like every game included the possibility of another benchmark — be it individual or collective — being matched or passed. The Braves ended up tying the 1927 Yankees for the highest team wRC+, an all-encompassing offensive stat that adjusts for era, and tying the 2019 Bomba Squad Twins for most home runs in a single season.

From the prodigious power-speed threat of Ronald Acuña Jr. on down, the lineup offers no breaks. Of the top nine Braves in plate appearances this season, only one has a wRC+ below 100, which is league average, and that’s All-Star shortstop Orlando Arcia at 99. Good teams get beaten all the time in the postseason, but if the 104-win Braves lose a series, it’ll be at least a bit of a surprise.


The Phillies finished the regular season 14 games back of the Braves for the second straight year. Asked about that disparity after his club clinched a spot in the Division Series, Phillies manager Rob Thomson praised the Braves’ consistency, saying that next year in spring training, his team needs to focus on getting out of the gate stronger. “But,” he said of the Phillies, “I think we’re playing very good baseball right now.”

After last year, the Phillies have a compelling case for claiming that they play their best baseball in October. And after the wild-card round, their top two pitchers look as good as any aces in the game — which is more than the Braves can say right now. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola won’t be lined up to start the NLDS after pitching Tuesday and Wednesday, but with a handful of off-days baked into the series schedule, they’ll have a chance to impact the series later.


Phillies in four. If the Phillies can split the first two games in Atlanta, they should head back to the Bank feeling pretty good. No team has benefited more from home-field advantage in recent postseasons than the Phillies; if they have the opportunity to clinch in front of their fans, they will. — Keyser

No. 5 Arizona Diamondbacks at No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers

How they got here:

The upstart Diamondbacks flirted with division leads off and on throughout the season but ultimately had to scramble their way through the wild-card picture and into the playoffs in the regular season’s final days. Meanwhile, even with injuries and a slew of questions about their pitching, the Dodgers won the NL West yet again while logging 100 wins.

It’s another divisional rivalry for the second NLDS matchup, with no love lost between the two squads. Game 1 is set for 9:20 p.m. ET Saturday in Los Angeles.

Key matchup:

Corbin Carroll and the speedy Diamondbacks against the Dodgers’ pitchers and catchers. The Diamondbacks don’t appear to have the lineup heft of the Dodgers — though Carroll, the likely NL Rookie of the Year, didn’t need much help in the wild-card series against the Brewers, as he batted .571 with a long homer. What the D-backs do have is a dynamic group of runners. If they can get on base, Carroll, Geraldo Perdomo and Alek Thomas are burners, and Tommy Pham and Christian Walker are savvy base-stealers in less obviously speedy packages.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, allowed the fifth-most steals in MLB this year, which is especially notable given that they did it while putting hundreds fewer runners on than the other teams in that neighborhood of the leaderboard. This is a pitching staff relying on a lot of young pitchers and bullpen arms. Bobby Miller, the hard-throwing 24-year-old who might be the only pitcher outside of Clayton Kershaw whom the Dodgers will use as a traditional starter, allowed 14 steals on 15 attempts. Usual starting catcher Will Smith, who will take most of the postseason playing time, rated slightly below average in throwing by Statcast metrics, while backup catcher Austin Barnes was one of the least effective throwers in baseball.

Why they will or won’t win the series:


Well, it’s hard to avoid defaulting to a lazy answer: They’ll win because they’re the Dodgers? This organization’s self-sustaining competence and power under Andrew Friedman can feel obvious and divorced from the actual state of the 2023 team. Riddled with pitching injuries and inconsistency, the Dodgers were four games back of NL West-leading Arizona on June 12. On Aug. 12, they were 12.5 games up on Arizona and 8.5 games clear of second. Pitching injuries, inconsistency, whatever — forces that undercut almost every other franchise from time to time don’t seem to meaningfully slow down the Dodgers, who dusted the rest of the division behind Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and a shockingly effective pitching staff seemingly reconstituted from prospects and spare parts.

Alas, anyone who remembers any other dominant Dodgers team also remembers that postseason success is anything but a fait accompli. Their pitching staff is going to require some finagling — they seem likely to use some combination of Ryan Pepiot, Emmet Sheehan and Ryan Yarbrough as bulk guys — and that might bring back bad memories of manager Dave Roberts’ previous postseason (mis)adventures.


By stunning the Brewers and Corbin Burnes, the D-backs flipped a negative — needing to use their two best pitchers on the final weekend of the regular season — into a positive: Merrill Kelly can start NLDS Game 1, and ace Zac Gallen, the victor in wild-card Game 2, could return for Game 2. The top of the Arizona order, starting with Carroll, Ketel Marte and Christian Walker, crushed the Brewers, so there’s no reason to think they can’t stay hot against Los Angeles.

Broadly, manager Torey Lovullo is working with less depth of talent than the Dodgers have, especially in the bullpen, where most of the arms behind closer Paul Sewald are relatively untested. But the No. 1 concern for Arizona, all of a sudden, is the status of catcher Gabriel Moreno. A surging young hitter and an elite thrower who helped the Diamondbacks control the run game better than any other team, Moreno took a backswing to the head in Game 2 in Milwaukee and exited with a head injury. If he can’t play, things get thin quickly for Arizona at an important position.


Dodgers in five. It won’t be easy, but the 100-win Dodgers should have enough of a talent advantage to get past the NL West runners-up this time. — Crizer

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