After six months, 2,430 games and endless twists and turns, the postseason field is finally set. Mouth-watering matchups abound: the 100-win Astros against the red-hot Red Sox, the World Series-champion Cubs against the World Series-favorite Nats, the Dodgers putting their historic regular season on the line against one of the only two teams they posted a losing record against this year.
But the postseason isn't just a chance to watch the best teams in baseball go at it with everything on the line. It's also a chance to watch the best players in baseball go at it with everything on the line -- some of whom only get to face each other in October. So, to help you maximize your viewing enjoyment this month, here are all the best pitcher-hitter showdowns we can't wait to watch.
Max Scherzer vs. Kris Bryant
The Cubs and Nationals are perennial contenders in the National League, but the two have never faced off in the postseason -- until this Friday, when they meet in Game 1 of the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.
Given that these are two of the deepest and most talented rosters in the game, there will be plenty of matchups worth watching. Jon Lester against a dangerous Nats lineup, Washington's bullpen against a Cubs team with a knack for postseason dramatics, Bryce Harper ... well, Bryce Harper doing just about anything, really.
But there's one in particular to look forward to: Scherzer against Bryant, reigning NL Cy Young winner against reigning NL MVP. Bryant has struggled against the righty in the past, going just 1-for-10 with 7 K's -- but with stuff like this, that's understandable:
Jose Altuve vs. Chris Sale
Come for arguably the AL's best hitter against arguably the AL's best pitcher, stay for the fantastic study in contrasts.
On the one hand there's Sale, standing 6-foot-6 with a wingspan so wide it eventually earned him the nickname The Condor. On the other there's Altuve, the smallest player in the Major Leagues at 5-foot-6. Don't feel sorry for Houston's second baseman, though: He's 8-for-21 against Sale, with a .981 OPS and one monster homer.
Gary Sanchez vs. Corey Kluber
If the Twins knock off New York in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday, it'll be Brian Dozier and Co. facing off against Kluber in the American League Division Series presented by Doosan. All due respect to Minnesota, though, the prospect of Sanchez taking on one of the best pitchers in baseball is just too good to pass up.
Kluber has been one of the only pitchers capable of slowing Sanchez down over his first year-and-a-half in the Majors, holding the catcher to two hits in nine at-bats with 4 K's. Of course, because this is Gary Sanchez, one of those two was a dinger:
Yu Darvish vs. Paul Goldschmidt
Over the past six seasons, Goldschmidt has established himself as a bonafide superstar. Which is why the following is so surprising: Over his career, Goldschmidt is 0-for-6 against Darvish ... with six K's.
Granted, that's a small sample size -- Darvish has made exactly two starts against the D-backs -- and any hitter would have a tough time dealing with a pitch like this:
Still, it's strange for one of MLB's very best hitters to have a hard time even making contact against anyone. If Arizona makes it out of the NL Wild Card Game on Wednesday, will history repeat itself, or will the first baseman finally break through?
Nolan Arenado vs. Zack Greinke
Arenado has quietly been one of the game's best two-way players for years, capable of hitting 40 homers and doing stuff like this at third base on a regular basis. And now, finally, he has a chance to introduce himself to baseball fans across the country. Just one problem: He has to do it against Greinke.
With five years spent with the Dodgers and D-backs, Greinke has plenty of experience with the NL West -- including Arenado, who's just 13-for-47 against him in his career with no homers and six K's. One of baseball's best making his postseason debut against his pitching nemesis in a do-or-die game? Sign us up.
Clayton Kershaw vs. Aaron Judge
Granted, this one's a long-shot: Both players will have to help their teams navigate a stacked field in order to meet up in the Fall Classic. But still, it's Kershaw facing Judge on the game's biggest stage -- we can dream.