After 17 pressure-filled, high-stress, utterly exhausting postseason games in three days, we are potentially one day away from making it through every series in the Wild Card round. It has been unprecedented and overwhelming, something we have never seen before. And because we’ve never seen it before, it’s impossible to put these series in much of a larger context. It’s tough to figure out how they’ll go down in history -- how they’ll be remembered.
Allow us to be of service. We know that there are no official MVP Awards given out for the Wild Card Series; they don’t give them for the League Division Series, after all. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do it.
Imagine a world where we could give out trophies for the Wild Card Series MVP. Here’s who those trophies would go to, even among the series still underway:
Yankees vs. Indians
MVP: Gio Urshela
Key stats: .333, 1 HR, 5 RBIs
The Yankees scored so many runs in their two games against Cleveland that there are many, many nominees here -- Urshela was actually sixth on the team with a .967 OPS in the two games -- but Urshela’s grand slam felt, in many ways, like the hit of the series. And let’s not forget his jaw-dropping double play.
A’s vs. White Sox
MVP: Chris Bassitt
Key stats: 7 IP, 6 H, 5 K, 1 BB, 1 ER
Admit it: Chicago so thoroughly dominated Oakland in Game 1 that it this series looked like a coronation for the up-and-coming White Sox. But then Bassitt, fresh off being named AL Pitcher of the Month for September, came in in Game 2 and just slowly, carefully put that superpowered lineup to sleep. The A’s were back in control of the series, and they didn’t panic when they fell behind in Game 3. Now, their postseason series skid dating back to 2006 is over, and they get a shot at the division-rival Astros in the ALDS.
Rays vs. Blue Jays
MVP: Randy Arozarena
Key stats: .500/.556/1.000
Arozarena was terrific in September for the Rays, boasting some surprising power that the speedster wasn’t necessarily known for. He kept it going in the Wild Card Series, and suddenly, the Rays have another big bat in their lineup. Against the Yankees, they will need as many as they can find.
Astros vs. Twins
MVP: Carlos Correa
Key stats: .500/.625/1.000
Framber Valdez, who was thought to be maybe the Game 2 starter before coming in during Game 1 and shutting down the Twins at precisely the right time, would be a perfectly reasonable pick here. But how about Correa? He spent most of Spring Training getting yelled at (for illegal sign stealing), like the rest of the Astros, and responded by having … the worst year of his career (.709 OPS). But once the postseason began, not only did Correa look like the World Series winner he is, he looked like the one-time-stone-cold-lock superstar we once all thought he was going to be. If these new Astros are going to look like the old Astros, this version of Correa will very much do.
Braves vs. Reds
MVP: Max Fried
Key stats: 7 IP, 6 H, 5 K, 0 BB
The Braves threw 22 scoreless innings, so obviously the MVP has to be a pitcher. So we’ll go with the one who threw the most innings total: Fried, who matched Trevor Bauer with seven shutout innings in Game 1, which allowed Freddie Freeman to rope that 13th-inning walk-off. The other options are, of course, every other Braves pitcher. (Special mention to Will Smith, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin, who pitched 6 1/3 innings without allowing a single baserunner.)
Padres vs. Cardinals
MVP: Fernando Tatis Jr.
Key stats: .444, 2 HR, 5 RBIs
I could make some sort of detailed, complicated, semi-cerebral argument here. But whom am I trying to kid? Just watch his two homers again from Game 2, over and over. I know there are no fans in the stands, but man, those homers absolutely makes that place feel incredibly full.
For what it’s worth: The Cardinals MVP here would have to be Paul Goldschmidt. But if they can win tonight, it’ll be Jack Flaherty, who, if he can recapture his 2019 magic, could end the fun Padres story more quickly than anybody other than Cardinals fans want.
Cubs vs. Marlins
MVP: Corey Dickerson
Key stats: 1 HR, 3 RBIs
OK, so this is less “MVP” than it is “Player of the Game,” but the three-run home run that Corey Dickerson hit off Kyle Hendricks turned what looked like a game that the Cubs had control of into something that they very much did not. Garrett Cooper has claim for Miami's nod after his clutch go-ahead homer in the Marlins' Game 2 win over the Cubs that clinched an NLDS berth.
Dodgers vs. Brewers
MVP: Clayton Kershaw
Key Stats: 13 K, 0 R, 8 IP
Kershaw turned in arguably his most dominant postseason start to date, throwing eight shutout innings to eliminate the Brewers. The Dodgers' ace struck out 13, which trailed only Sandy Koufax (15) and Carl Erskine (14) for the most in Dodgers history in a postseason game.