The MLB Playoffs are underway with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Texas Rangers and the Minnesota Twins all sweeping their respective Wild Card series opponents 2-0. The Diamondbacks and Rangers won as lower-seeded opponents.
So far in the Divisional Round, the Philadelphia Phillies have a 1-0 series lead on the Atlanta Braves. The Rangers have a 2-0 series lead on the Baltimore Orioles. The Minnesota Twins are tied 1-1 with the Houston Astros. The Arizona Diamondbacks are up 1-0 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. For this round so far, all four teams that won in the Wildcard Round are seeded lower than the teams they are playing against. This begs us to think: Why are these lower-seeded teams getting up early on the opposition? Well, let's take a look.
One reason teams are getting up early on higher-seed opponents is mentality. On August 1, the Braves had an 11-game lead in the NL East, while the Phillies were only up 0.5 in the Wild Card race. The Dodgers were up 2.5 games in the NL West, while the D-Backs were one game back in a tough NL Wildcard race. The Rangers were tied with the Astros for the AL West lead, and the Orioles were up 1.5 in the AL East, and the Twins were leading the AL Central.
Fast forward to October 1, and the Dodgers finished the regular season with a 16-game lead on the NL West with the D-Backs second, the Braves a 14-game lead on the NL East with the Phillies second, the Rangers finished tied with the defending champ Astros atop the AL West with 90-wins, the Twins atop the Al Central with 87-wins and the Orioles atop the AL East with 101-wins.
So, as far as the NL goes, the Phillies and Diamondbacks were in dogfights in the NL Wild Card for the last two months, while the Braves and Dodgers had life on easy mode. In the AL, the Rangers had the same record as the defending champion Astros and the Twins were division winners, so they are also no slouches. All these teams have the mindset of "We Can Beat Anybody," and they have carried that into their matchups today.
Another reason the underdogs have been on top is because of the layoff. The Dodgers, Braves, Astros and Orioles all last played on October 1. While that was only eight days ago, in a game where rhythm and momentum are everything, eight days is a lifetime. The underdog teams are also coming in with a battle-tested mentality.
Tonight, the Phillies and the Diamondbacks look at the juggernaut Braves and Dodgers in a 2-0 deficit.