Plenty of World Series possibilities this year. And a lot to enjoy way before we get there, now that the playoff brackets are set.
A look ahead:
FRESH FACES: Mike Trout, Stephen Strasburg and Adam Dunn all get their first playoff chance. Favored for the AL MVP after two near-misses, the 23-year-old Trout can boost his stature even more when the Angels host the AL wild card in the best-of-five division opener Thursday. Strasburg is rarin' to go after Washington held him out of the 2012 postseason because of a pitch limit, a decision that still rankles some in D.C. - the Nats host the NL wild card Friday. Dunn has played 2,001 games, the most by any active big leaguer never in the playoffs. The slugging DH tries to help Oakland advance in the AL wild-card game Tuesday night at Kansas City, while the Royals make their first playoff appearance since 1985.
LATE LIFTS: Jon Lester, David Price and Huston Street each got traded in midseason, deals designed with big games in mind. Price delivered the AL Central crown to Detroit on Sunday, and will pitch again when the Tigers take on Baltimore. Lester tries to extend his postseason brilliance when he starts for the A's against James Shields in the wild-card game - the former Boston lefty is 3-0 vs. the Royals this season. Street has smoothly fit into the closer's role for the Angels.
MOST VALUABLE PLANS: Buster Posey and Andrew McCutchen split the last two NL MVP awards, but the San Francisco catcher has a couple of things the Pittsburgh center fielder really wants - namely, a pair of World Series rings. By Wednesday night, only one of the stars will have a chance to earn the jewelry this year. Posey and the Giants visit McCutchen and the Pirates in the NL wild-card Wednesday night, with San Francisco's Madison Bumgarner set to start against Edinson Volquez.
BANGED UP: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina each spent time on the disabled list this year. Healthy now, they meet in a neat Game 1 Friday in Los Angeles - it'll be 20-game winner Adam Wainwright vs. Kershaw, fresh off becoming the first pitcher to lead the majors in ERA for four straight years.
Still to be determined: How much will Josh Hamilton play for the Angels? The former MVP has been limited to just one game since Sept. 4 because of side and shoulder injuries.
THE DRUG CLOUD: Someday, maybe PEDs won't be so intertwined with HRs, RBIs and ERA. But performance-enhancing drugs are still a part of the conversation. Orioles slugger Chris Davis, the major league home run champ last year, was suspended 25 games in mid-September after a positive test for an amphetamine. He's out at least through the division series. Baltimore's Nelson Cruz led the majors with 40 homers this year and Jhonny Peralta hit a team-leading 21 for St. Louis - both players were suspended for 50 games last year in Biogenesis investigation.