After an abbreviated and at times uncertain 60-game regular season, the. These playoffs will be different from the usual fare. They've been expanded to 16 teams from the usual 10, and the first round features a best-of-three Wild Card Series in which the higher seed hosts all the games.
That's not something we've seen before in MLB, so to get you ready for the onslaught of playoff baseball -- Wednesday's slate includes eight games! -- your CBS Sports MLB writers are here to roll out our predictions for all eight first-round series. Once these are in the books, we'll be back for another round of soothsaying, but for now the focus is on MLB's answer to the Sweet 16.
Blue Jays at Rays
Katherine Acquavella: While I think that the Blue Jays are going to pose a threat in this series thanks to their strong lineup, the Rays rotation should be able to get in some lengthy starts in this series and quiet Toronto's offense. Plus, Tampa is coming into this round with a lot of momentum.
R.J. Anderson: The Rays took the season series (albeit while being outscored by Toronto) and look like the more complete team on paper.
Mike Axisa: Toronto's pitching behind Hyun-Jin Ryu is sketchy, but I love their offense and their bullpen can be sneaky good. That said, the Rays are just too deep and too good. The Blue Jays will give them a headache though.
Dayn Perry: I think the Rays' front three of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow will be too much for Toronto in this series. While the sample size is obviously small, it's also worth noting that the Toronto offense struggled on the road this season.
Matt Snyder: While I'd love to pick the upstart Jays and their incredibly fun offense, the Rays are just better and it's hard to go against them after seeing them win 34 of their last 46.
Danny Vietti: I actually don't think this one will be close. What the Blue Jays accomplished this year was impressive, but Tampa Bay has power arms and playoff experience. Rays were 6-4 against Toronto this year.
Yankees at Cleveland
Katherine Acquavella: The Yankees offense has been far superior. The rotation matchups in this series could make for some tight games, but the New York club has the edge here.
R.J. Anderson: I think it's possible that Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac pin the Yankees to the mat. That said, the Yankees are the better team overall, and Cleveland's lineup has been so bad that it's hard to count on them.
Mike Axisa: I could see the Yankees making a deep run to the World Series or getting swept by Cleveland and scoring one run in the two games. Gerrit Cole-Masahiro Tanaka is no joke in a best-of-three series, but I think Cleveland's pitching will be too much for New York's offense.
Dayn Perry: The Yankees' rotation matches up fairly well in a series as short as this one, and I think that healthy lineup gives them the edge.
Matt Snyder: The Cleveland pitching staff is amazing and the Yankees' just disappear for days at a time, but call this a hunch: The Bronx Bombers wake up and mash.
Danny Vietti: This series could get interesting. The only reason I'm picking New York is because they were my preseason pick to represent the AL in the World Series and I have to stick to my guns.
Astros at Twins
Katherine Acquavella: I don't see this one being close. The Astros kind of stumbled their way into the postseason, while the Twins edged out Cleveland and the White Sox in a competitive, top-heavy AL Central. Even though the club isn't 100 percent healthy heading into the postseason, Minnesota still looks ready to end their 16-game playoff losing streak.
R.J. Anderson: Minnesota is the better team.
Mike Axisa: The Astros are not good. It needs to be said. Many of their players stopped hitting for power this year [insert sign-stealing schadenfreude here] and while Minnesota's offense isn't as potent as last year, their pitching is much better. Their righty slider guys match up very well with Houston's lineup.
Dayn Perry: No need to get complicated. The Twins are simply the better team in almost every regard.
Matt Snyder: The Astros are awful. Karma? Possibly.
Danny Vietti: While Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve have looked better of late, Houston has had too many injuries and off-the-field distractions to overcome. They look exhausted. And it's not the Yankees, so Minnesota actually has a chance this year.
White Sox at Athletics
Katherine Acquavella: This'll be a really fun matchup. Chicago's powerful and deep lineup is likely to face one of Oakland's leftys (Luzardo, Manaea) to start the series, and this season, the White Sox went 14-0 against left-handers. The A's bullpen is a strength, but if their offense stays stagnant, they won't be able to overcome Chicago.
R.J. Anderson: The White Sox are probably the most fun team on the American League side of the bracket, and the A's seeding doesn't reflect that they're without Matt Chapman and coming off a favorable schedule. Still, I think Oakland has an advantage here, and I'm thrilled that Jesus Luzardo will get some national exposure.
Mike Axisa: Not sure what to think of the White Sox. They're really talented but also maddeningly inconsistent. The A's might be a wolf in sheep's clothing -- they played only six games against teams with a winning record in the regular season -- especially without Matt Chapman, but I give them the edge here.
Dayn Perry: Once you take into account strength of schedule and run differential, the White Sox clearly look like the superior team. Throw in the absence of Matt Chapman, and I'll take Chicago.
Matt Snyder: I don't love the A's having to embark on this journey without Matt Chapman and they haven't played the toughest schedule. The White have been beaten down lately, but they wake up just in the nick of time.
Danny Vietti: If this was a five or seven-game series, I'd take Oakland because they have the better bullpen and more depth. However, Chicago will have Lucas Giolito for Game 1 and could possibly make him available out of the bullpen for Game 3. And then they have Dallas Keuchel for Game 2. Oakland doesn't have a guy that can completely shut down an offense for 9 innings.
Brewers at Dodgers
Katherine Acquavella: The Brewers are not going to be sending out a team equipped to beat the best team in baseball.
R.J. Anderson: The Dodgers were, by far, the best team in baseball during the regular season. Anything can happen over two or three games, but I think they'll find a way to advance against the Brewers' weakest team in years.
Mike Axisa: The Brewers did not spend a single day over .500 this season and their offense set all kinds of franchise records for futility. The Dodgers will lose a game because they never seem to make it easy on themselves, but yeah, this is a total mismatch.
Dayn Perry: The Dodgers played at a 116-win pace during the regular season, while the Brewers had a losing record and a negative run differential. The Brewers will also be without their best starting pitcher this season (Corbin Burnes). Dodgers are the easy pick.
Matt Snyder: Easily the biggest mismatch there is, we won't be mistaking who the better team is even for a few innings.
Danny Vietti: This won't even be a series. Los Angeles hasn't lost more than two games in a row all year. Whereas the Brewers only snuck into the playoff field because the Giants and Phillies both choked in the final weekend of the regular season. Dodgers by a million.
Cardinals at Padres
Katherine Acquavella: The Padres have question marks for Clevinger and Lamet's availability heading into this series, but I don't see the injury concerns being enough of a reason for this club to get knocked out by the Cardinals. San Diego owns one of the best offenses in baseball and their bullpen is deep, but more importantly, they're simply better than St. Louis in nearly every category. Definitely giving the Cards props for even making the playoffs this year. After their coronavirus outbreak in August, the club was forced to play 11 doubleheaders, including six in September.
R.J. Anderson: The Padres aren't just a fun story; they're legit contenders for the pennant. Their chances took a shot because of the injuries to Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, but there's still a lot to like about this roster.
Mike Axisa: Possibly losing Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet for the Wild Card Series is an enormous blow. Zach Davies and Chris Paddack are no slouches though, and San Diego's lineup and bullpen are fearsome. The Cardinals look really worn down after all their doubleheaders.
Dayn Perry: Fatigue and pitching injuries are real concerns for the Cardinals, and they also have one of the worst offenses among playoff teams. The Padres are the better team by a significant margin.
Matt Snyder: Though the Padres are in a worrisome situation with pitchers Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger, they are still too special to falter to a mediocre Cardinals team.
Danny Vietti: St. Louis is a team that likes to lull you to sleep and kill teams slowly with their defense (4th-most DRS) and pitching. San Diego has some health concerns with their rotation (Lamet, Clevinger), but their offense and bullpen are both more talented than the Red Birds' for a three-game set.
Marlins at Cubs
Katherine Acquavella: The Marlins are not just an underdog in this year's postseason, but they're an underdog with an impressive front-half rotation. But, I think they're going to need more than that if they're hoping to advance past the first round. Miami finished the season with the worst run differential in their division, and up against Darvish and Hendricks, the Marlins hitters will need to show up better and more consistently than they have all season.
R.J. Anderson: I can envision Sixto Sanchez shoving in Game 1 to give the Marlins an edge. I do think the Cubs are easily the better team overall, however.
Mike Axisa: I picked the Cubs to make a deep postseason run before the season. I also didn't expect basically every hitter other than Jason Heyward and Ian Happ to be the worst version of themselves. The Marlins are a fun underdog story and hey, I have to pick at least one upset in the National League.
Dayn Perry: The front of the Cubs' rotation against the sub-optimal Marlins offense in a short series is a bad mix for Miami.
Matt Snyder: The Cubs offense has been punchless for months, but with Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks it won't matter much. Just give 'em a few runs.
Danny Vietti: I think Miami's rotation is good enough to steal a game and make things interesting. But, the Cubs are better in just about every facet -- especially if they can get Kris Bryant hot.
Reds at Braves
Katherine Acquavella: The Reds haven't lived up to the high expectations set this offseason, and Atlanta's offense has been one of the best in the league. They'll face a challenge up against Bauer, Gray and Castillo, but the chances of Cincy's rotation getting the run support it deserves are low.
R.J. Anderson: The Reds are going to be hard to beat in a three-game series because of their starting pitching. The Braves are without both Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels, and might be without Chris Martin, too. Add in how Ronald Acuna Jr. appears to be dealing with wrist issues, and this one seems like a potential upset.
Mike Axisa: Love this matchup. Great offense vs. great rotation and lots of very fun players. Atlanta's rotation issues are a major problem and I don't think the bats will be able to overcome them. Not against the Reds' rotation.
Dayn Perry: The front three of the Cincy rotation -- Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray -- against the excellent Braves lineup is perhaps the most compelling clash of strengths in the Wild Card Series. The Braves' questionable rotation gives Cincy the upset nod.
Matt Snyder: My only worry is how many people agree with me, but the Reds are very hot and have three pitchers who can throw like aces lined up.
Danny Vietti: I'm starting to sound like a broken record now but it's all about strikeout arms who can provide length in the postseason. Atlanta can out-slug anybody, but Cincinnati's rotation reminds me a lot of last year's Nationals rotation. It worked out pretty well for Washington.