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A's, Braves to go deep in playoffs?

Not many expected this. Sure, the Atlanta Braves and Oakland A's got plenty of wild-card love in ESPN's preseason predictions. But with the seemingly stacked Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers in their respective divisions, few saw the Braves and A's as sure Division Series participants. You know where we're going with this -- those prognostications proved incorrect, as Atlanta and Oakland clinched titles Sunday. Each is guaranteed a best-of-five showdown in the postseason. Will either use that to launch a long run?

Which team's division title is more surprising?

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    75%
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    25%

Discuss (Total votes: 10,078)

  • Which team is better equipped for a long playoff run?

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      40%
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      60%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,915)

  • How will the A's fare in the playoffs?

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      35%
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      45%
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      10%
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      10%

    Discuss (Total votes: 34,573)

  • How will the Braves fare in the playoffs?

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      25%
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      41%
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      17%
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      17%

    Discuss (Total votes: 33,679)

  • Which team will win the American League pennant?

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      19%
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      45%
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      25%
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      11%

    Discuss (Total votes: 64,073)

  • Which team will win the National League pennant?

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      24%
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      21%
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      31%
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      17%
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      7%

    Discuss (Total votes: 92,334)

  • Which team has been more disappointing in 2013?

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      66%
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      34%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,059)

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Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports

Braves set up for postseason fall?

The Atlanta Braves are caught in a scrap for the best record in baseball. Their pitchers, collectively, are the hardest to score against. And they're primed for ... playoff failure? That's what many baseball minds say, pointing to their lack of an ace, their inability to manufacture runs, and their vulnerability to top-level pitching. Do you agree? Which teams look ready to succeed in October?

Which NL team is in the best position to succeed in October?

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    65%
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    13%
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    18%
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    2%
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    2%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,871)

  • Which AL team is in the best position to succeed in October?

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      11%
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      4%
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      3%
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      51%
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      31%

    Discuss (Total votes: 10,978)

  • Which NL playoff contender is most likely to be ousted early in October?

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      14%
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      6%
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      14%
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      40%
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      26%

    Discuss (Total votes: 2,447)

  • Which AL playoff contender is most likely to be ousted early in October?

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      23%
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      31%
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      31%
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      8%
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      7%

    Discuss (Total votes: 1,846)

  • Which is the best NL team?

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      74%
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      10%
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      13%
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      2%
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      1%

    Discuss (Total votes: 2,304)

  • Which is the best AL team?

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      6%
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      2%
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      3%
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      51%
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      38%

    Discuss (Total votes: 1,758)

  • Which team will win the World Series?

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      69%
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      7%
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      8%
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      6%
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      10%

    Discuss (Total votes: 2,195)

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Baseball races reach the stretch run

With three weeks in the regular season, Major League Baseball's playoff picture is coming into focus, though some big questions remain. The Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are in a tight race for the National League Central, while Oakland or Texas are battling it out for the American League West title. But the most drama is in the race for the second AL wild card, where five teams are vying for one playoff berth. Do the Indians, Orioles, Yankees or Royals have enough left in the tank to challenge the Rays?

  • Which team wins the second AL wild card?

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      32%
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      20%
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      21%
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      17%
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      10%

    Discuss (Total votes: 29,524)

  • Which manager would you rather have in the race for the AL's second wild card?

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      31%
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      17%
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      29%
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      18%
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      5%

    Discuss (Total votes: 10,349)

  • Which team will win the AL West?

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      76%
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      24%

    Discuss (Total votes: 19,577)

  • Which team will win the NL Central?

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      51%
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      41%
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      8%

    Discuss (Total votes: 53,719)

  • Which team will represent the NL in the World Series?

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      24%
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      20%
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      35%
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      14%
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      7%

    Discuss (Total votes: 10,110)

  • Which team will represent the AL in the World Series?

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      16%
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      7%
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      41%
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      36%

    Discuss (Total votes: 9,935)

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As fans of the comedy series "Portlandia'' know, the secret to merchandising is to slap a bird on it. And apparently, the same holds true for baseball uniforms.

After four rounds of voting, tigers, fish, elephants, snakes, astronauts, seafarers, gun-toting officers of the law, buccaneers, heavenly bodies, Native Americans, pinstriped Northeners and even two pairs of colored socks are all gone. Our Battle of the Uniforms will finish with the Battle of the Birds.

#UniBattle

The No. 1-seeded Cardinals, who have as iconic a St. Louis design as the Gateway Arch or a bottle of Bud, beat their longtime rival, the Chicago Cubs, in the final round of the National League voting, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Meanwhile, the Cinderella team of the American League bracket upset yet another higher-seeded team in the AL championship. By a margin of 3,103 votes, fans declared they prefer the orange and black Baltimore Orioles over the traditional uniform worn by everyone from Babe Ruth to Derek Jeter. Or perhaps fans just hate the Yankees' pinstripes.

Whatever the reason, it's the Cardinals versus the Orioles for the title of baseball's best uniform. Bird watchers should get their binoculars out for this ornithological fight, though Toronto fans are probably wondering why their colorful Jay was found wanting.

This is serious business, so to make sure that everyone gets a chance to take a long, careful look at these two uniforms and judge the colors, logos, caps and overall style of both home and road uniforms, our polls will be open throughout the weekend. You can cast your vote up until noon ET Monday, when we will declare the winner.

So good luck Cardinals and Orioles. May the better uniform win. And remember voters, this isn't about who actually wears the uniforms but the uniforms themselves.

--Jim Caple

Note: Championship-round poll closes at noon ET Monday.

Mobile users: To vote, click here.

Battle of the Uniforms: Championship


(1) Cardinals vs. (13) Orioles

Audubon would have loved this championship.

SportsNation

Which set of uniforms is best?

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    41%
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    59%

Discuss (Total votes: 147,418)

Battle of the Uniforms seedings

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We've now reached the final four. Or, if you prefer, we've reached the league championship series.

#UniBattle

Either way, the Battle of the Uniforms is now in the home stretch (or as a malapropism-prone boss of mine once liked to say, "the home run stretch"). In the American League, the Orioles are facing the Yankees, and the National League crown has come down to the Cubs and the Cards.

The seedings, done by Jim Caple and myself, have largely proven accurate. Three of the final four teams were seeded either No. 1 or No. 2 in their respective leagues, which means our uni assessments are largely in line with yours. The lone outlier is Baltimore, which was seeded 13th but upset the top-seeded Tigers.

I'll admit it: I was kind of hoping for a rogue uniform design to make it to the semifinals, just to make things interesting. The Diamondbacks, say, or the Marlins. And I was seriously rooting for the A's to upset the Yanks (they came thisclose). In the end, though, the classic designs have won. And that makes sense: The classics are classic for a reason.

The cool thing about the Battle of the Unis is that several on-field rivalries have been echoed at the ballot box. Wednesday we had the Yankees just eking out a victory of the Red Sox (whose fans were no doubt chanting "Yankees suck!" as they clicked on the Sox icon), and now we have a classic National League matchup, as Chicago and St. Louis face off for Senior Circuit supremacy.

So who's going to advance to the uniform World Series? You folks get to decide that. But I'll say this: I'm voting for the teams with the feathers.

--Paul Lukas

LCS-round polls close at 9 a.m. ET Friday, and the championship round begins shortly thereafter.

Mobile users: To vote, click here.

Jim Caple bracket: American League


(2) Yankees vs. (13) Orioles

The Birds have upset three teams so far, but can they knock off the Pinstripers for the AL title?

SportsNation

Which set of uniforms is best?

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    41%
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    59%

Discuss (Total votes: 36,353)

Paul Lukas bracket: National League


(1) Cardinals vs. (2) Cubs

These two teams have always had an on-field rivalry. Good to see that's extending to their uniforms.

SportsNation

Which set of uniforms is best?

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    54%
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    46%

Discuss (Total votes: 36,237)

Battle of the Uniforms seedings

Comment »