The 2018 World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers vs Boston Red Sox

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Rookie Betts” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

For the first time in over 100 years, the Dodgers and Red Sox will square off in the World Series. The last time these two franchises met in the Fall Classic, the Dodgers were based in Brooklyn and called the Robins, while the Red Sox relied on their 21-year-old ace, Babe Ruth, and played their home games at Braves field, home to the National League’s Boston Braves (who’d later move to Milwaukee before settling in Atlanta).

Times, they have a-changed.

This is the 14th World Series appearance for the Red Sox, having most recently participated in 2013, when they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in six games. This is the team’s fourth appearance since 2004, when they also defeated the Cardinals. (They overcame the Colorado Rockies in 2007.) Winning it all in 2018 would give the franchise nine World Series championships, moving them ahead of the San Francisco Giants and tying them with the Oakland Athletics with the third-most all-time, trailing only the Cardinals (11) and the New York Yankees (27).

For the Dodgers, they’re in the World Series for the second consecutive season and 23rd time ever. The franchise has six World Series championships, the most recent one coming exactly 30 years ago, in 1988, when they defeated Oakland.

Speaking of those Athletics, that was the first of their three consecutive appearances in the World Series, and their manager for all three of those American League pennants (and their 1989 World Series victory) was Tony La Russa…who was the manager of the Cardinals when they lost to the Red Sox in 2004, breaking the Curse of the Bambino…and who is now Boston’s vice president/special assistant to President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski.

Dombrowski cut his teeth with the Chicago White Sox before becoming one of the last general managers of the Montreal Expos. He left that job, however, to build a team from the ground up, being named the Florida Marlins first ever general manager. He spent nine years with the Marlins, achieving only one winning season–but that team, in 1997, went on to win the World Series.

He left after the 2001 season for the Detroit Tigers, where he took over a moribund, catering franchise. And it showed: in his first two seasons with Detroit, the Tigers went 55-106 and 49-113. But he managed to turn it around, reaching his greatest success in Detroit in 2006 when they won the ALCS before falling to La Russa’s Cardinals in the World Series. Boston hired him in August of 2015 after Detroit moved on from him.

Here is another odd tidbit: the Dodgers defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS this year in seven games. Game Six took place at Miller Park, and Dodgers 1B/3B David Freese hit a home run in the first inning. He also hit a home run in the first inning in the last NLCS Game Six that took place at Miller Park, which was in 2011 when the Brewers fell to the Cardinals. The Cardinals would go on to win that World Series in seven games over the Texas Rangers, and Freese was named the World Series MVP, thanks in part to his heroics in Game 6 that included a game-tying triple when the Cardinals were down to their last strike and then a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th. That Game 6, possibly the greatest World Series game ever played, still haunts the dreams of Rangers fans.

Now, I doubt Freese will win the World Series MVP this year, but he could play a pivotal role. Since arriving in L.A. by way of the Pittsburgh Pirates before the deadline for postseason eligibility, Freese has platooned, mostly at first base with Max Muncy. Freese slashed .385/.489/.641 in 39 at-bats for the Dodgers in September before hitting .300 with 1 home run and 5 RBI’s so far in the postseason. Against the Red Sox, he can expect ample playing time, especially against lefty starting pitchers Chris Sale and David Price.

Sale will most likely start Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday despite having recently been hospitalized for a stomach illness. He only lasted four innings against the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALCS, which was on October 13. But in 6-and-1/3 innings pitched against the Yankees in the NLDS, Sale struck out 9 while walking only 2 and giving up 2 earned runs, good for a 2.84 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP.

Price, meanwhile, struggled against the Yankees, taking the loss in Game 2 when he surrendered 3 ER in just 1-and-2/3 innings pitched. But he rebounded against Houston, starting two games, pitching 10-and-2/3 innings combined, recording a 3.38 ERA and a 1.125 WHIP to go along with 13 strikeouts against 4 walks. The Red Sox hope he continues that trend, as he’s historically struggled in the playoffs. His career playoff line: 3-9, 5.04 ERA, 1.237 WHIP. This World Series marks his first since his rookie season with Tampa Bay when he closed out two games in a losing effort against the Philadelphia Phillies.

His struggles mirror those of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw, a 3-time Cy Young Award winner and winner of the 2014 National League MVP Award, has been beset by injuries the past couple of seasons, including this year, when he was limited to 26 starts, the second least in his career, and the least he’s made since his rookie season in 2008. But he’s always struggled in the postseason, with his career playoff ERA at 4.09, which is over 1-and-1/2 runs higher than his career regular season ERA.

He pitched well against the Braves in this year’s NLDS, though, going 8 shutout innings in a winning effort, despite striking out only 3 batters. In the pennant against the Brewers, he made three appearances, including closing out the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory in Game 7. Kershaw struck out Jesus Aguilar and Mike Moustakas swinging to end the game and series.

For the series as a whole, southpaw starting pitchers will regularly take the mound. Down to a four-man playoff rotation, the Red Sox will go Sale, then Price, and then two righties in Nathan Eovaldi followed by Rick Porcello. The Dodgers will counter with three lefties and one righty, going Kershaw, LHP Hyun-jin Ryu, RHP (and rookie) Walker Buehler, and ending with LHP Rich Hill.

The NLCS MVP went to Cody Bellinger, who received the honor more for his big plays than for his overall play. (He slashed .200/.231/.360 with 1 home run and 4 RBI’s.) In making the World Series for the second time in his second season, Bellinger extends his family’s World Series appearance streak to six appearances in six years. His father, Clay, played for the Yankees between 1999-2001 and played with the Anaheim Angels in 2002–meaning, of course, the teams for which he played made the World Series every season in which he had at least one Major League at-bat.

Three of those teams won the World Series.

The younger Bellinger figures to have more of an impact that his father, however. And he’ll need to step it up. Despite winning the NLCS MVP, he’s struggled throughout the 2018 playoffs, having gone without a hit against the Braves in the divisional round before going 5-for-25 against the Brewers.

The top three Dodgers regular hitters in the NLCS, according to OPS, were Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, and Manny Machado. Each of those three will be in every game against the Red Sox, barring injury, and will need to continue their hot streaks in order for the Dodgers to have a chance.

Machado will also have to keep a cool head, too. He became immersed in several controversies against the Brewers, from clipping Aguilar on his way to first base to failing to hustle out a ground ball. Plus, he’s got a history of beef with Boston, stemming to his days as the face of the Baltimore Orioles. Last year, Machado slid hard into second base, taking out the longtime second-baseman of the Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia, who then missed the next several games. Red Sox pitchers Matt Barnes and Sale retaliated by throwing at Machado’s head and behind his knees, respectively.

Surely Machado remembers (and surely Barnes and Sale, both of whom remain Red Sox, do, too). For his career, he’s slashed against the Red Sox .277/.321/.475 for a .796 OPS, including 16 home runs and 52 RBI’s. He’s only hit more home runs against the Yankees.

For the Red Sox, they’ll be looking to their sluggers to continue to lead the way. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. won the ALCS MVP thanks to his 9 RBI’s (and despite his .200 batting average) against Houston, while DH J.D. Martinez put up an .909 OPS. RF and MVP-candidate Mookie Betts slacked, though, hitting only .217 and driving in one run.

Mostly, the Red Sox have cruised through the playoffs, going 7-2 against the Yankees and Astros, including winning the last four games against Houston.

The Dodgers have had the tougher road, only clinching a postseason berth in the final week before battling the Rockies in a one-game playoff for the NL West crown. After winning that game, they handled the Braves easily enough, 3-1, before getting taken the distance by the Brewers.

It seems like the Dodgers are facing more pressure to win, though of course Boston has its fair share. But the Dodgers have made the postseason six years in a row now with zero championships to show for it. The new ownership, whose face is L.A. favorite Magic Johnson, bought the team in 2012, and continually invests boatloads of cash into the roster. Don Mattingly was the manager when Johnson & Co. took over, and despite his winning three consecutive NL West titles, he was fired after the Dodgers faltered in the NLDS in 2015.

Could the same fate befall Dave Roberts? This is his third season, and despite three trips to the NLCS and winning it twice, his job may be in (slight) danger should the Dodgers fall to the Red Sox. After all, as mentioned, it took until Game 163 for the Dodgers to win the West this year, and the team’s record of 92-71 represents a 12-game falloff from last year’s 104-win team.

Roberts really only needs to look across the diamond in Game 1 to see how seriously big market teams take winning on a yearly basis. The Red Sox replaced John Farrell, who was the manager of their 2013 World Series Championship team and who went 432-378 in five seasons, after the team fell in the ALDS last year. And then the team responded under new manager Alex Cora, winning a league best 108 games before steamrolling the Yankees and defending-champion Astros to get to the World Series.

This World Series is a dream come true for the folks atop Major League Baseball, like Commissioner Rob Manfred, and for the casual baseball fan. It boasts two of the three biggest markets in the league and is a true West Coast vs East Coast battle. It boasts two historical teams looking to start new dynasties. It boasts big names for each team–Machado, Kershaw, Puig, and closer Kenley Jansen for the Dodgers; Sale, Price, Martinez, Betts, and closer Craig Kimbrel for the Red Sox.

And it pits two evenly-matched teams against one another.

In the end, I’m going with the team I’ve twice picked against so far this postseason, the team that’s not only proved me wrong at every turn, but done so in an emphatic fashion. The Boston Red Sox won 108 regular season games for numerous reasons: a deep rotation, a solid bullpen, a dynamic offense, and a manager who knows how to handle a ballgame.

Though the Dodgers won fewer games than the Yankees and the Astros in 2018, this is the most formidable opponent the Red Sox have yet encountered, for the Dodgers understand better than any other team how hard it is to get back to the World Series, especially after a loss. The Dodgers should look to the 2015 Kansas City Royals for inspiration: that squad, led by Edgar Frederick Yost III (a/k/a Ned), defeated the New York Mets in the World Series after falling to the Giants the previous October.

Still, riding the arms of Sale and Price, the bats of Bradley Jr., Betts, and Martinez, the cool savvy and calm intellect of Cora, the Red Sox will prevail. They last won the World Series in Farrell’s first year at the helm, and will do so again in Cora’s first year in charge.

In 1916, the Red Sox defeated the Robins in five games.

In 2018, the Red Sox will defeat the Dodgers in six games.

As far as what our other writers here at Fourth Quarter Sports think, check it out:

Joel Deering: Red Sox in 7.

RahimAli Merchant: Dodgers in 7. RahimAli nailed his NLCS prediction, having picked the Dodgers to take care of the Brewers in 7.

Kevin Dannaher: Red Sox in 5.

 

How do you think this World Series will unfold? Let us know in the comments!

National League Championship Series Preview

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here’s the pitch” by Ron is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Los Angeles Dodgers (92-71) are in the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive year, facing the NL Central division winner, Milwaukee Brewers, who finished with the best record in the National League (96-67) and has home field advantage throughout this series.

 

Milwaukee’s Quest

The Brewers hadn’t made the playoffs since 2011, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS 4-2. Since then, they’ve finished third or fourth in their division. However, last season they finished second and we saw a bit of what they had in store for this year. The credit is given to general manager David Stearns, who has helped the Brewers increase the win total each of the last three years. Stearns also played a huge role in the moves the Brewers made this past offseason.

Milwaukee signed All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year contract and acquired outfielder Christian Yelich in a trade with Miami. Yelich is finally in a place where he could be himself, and by that I mean the NL MVP. He has continuously put up the numbers to help the Brewers in the quest of their first ever World Series title.

The Brewers also signed starting pitchers Wade Miley, Jhoulys Chacín, and Gio Gonzalez. They also agreed to a two-year contract extension with starting pitcher Chase Anderson. Let’s not forget they still have the third baseman, Travis Shaw. They also acquired Mike Moustakas from Kansas City and moved Shaw to second base.

After a sweep against the Colorado Rockies, the Brewers turn their attention to the World Series runner-up and look for their first title.

 

Los Angeles’ Return

The Los Angeles Dodgers went swing for swing with the reigning champions Houston Astros, only to lose during game 7 of the World Series. It has been 30 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series title, and though they did not finish as the No. 1 team in the league, they turned it on late and got hot enough to win the division for the sixth straight year. Manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers’ organization knew how close they were to winning their seventh World Series title.

They let the world know they were coming when they acquired SS Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles for five prospects. That wasn’t the only acquisition the Dodgers made in their return to the top of the mountain.

They also acquired 2B Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins and 1B/3B David Freese from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Let’s not forget about the emergence of utility guys Max Muncy and Chris Taylor. 

These were much-needed acquisitions for the Dodgers after losing 2016 NL Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager for the season with Tommy John surgery. They still have the 2017 NL Rookie of the Year, Cody Bellinger, who was used as a utility player last year, but played most of the time in the outfield.

Regardless of missing one of their best sluggers, the Dodgers found a way to replace him.

With the new acquisitions and young talent comes the old veterans like Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig, and Yasmani Grandal. The Dodgers look to continue to have the hot bats adding in with the pitchers like southpaws Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill that shut down the Atlanta Braves 3-1 in the NLDS.

 

The Prediction: Los Angeles in Seven

Dodgers were one of the favorites to win the National League when the season began, and they got off to a slow start and were plagued by injuries that slowed them down. But they managed to get by and make it into the postseason while getting healthier and stronger in the process.

Though the Brewers made the right moves to make themselves a contender, they will fall short of their chance and continue their drought of not having a World Series win.

To me, the Dodgers are just the better overall team. Even without the acquisition of Machado, they would have still made it to where they are now. Their depth at each position and in the bullpen is just more experienced than the Brewers as a team, and that is why we will see that Dodgers in the World Series again!

Buy or Sell: Suns, Gators, Brewers

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Devin Booker” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

In this week’s installment of Buy or Sell, we take a look at whether a bottom-feeding NBA franchise made the right move in canning its general manager right before the start of the season; whether Dan Mullen’s new collegiate program is truly BACK; and whether the smallest market left in the MLB playoffs can take home the ultimate prize.

 

Cullen: The Phoenix Suns Made the Right Move in Firing GM Ryan McDonough (Despite the Season Starting in Just Days).

RahimAli: I’m buying real hard on this move. It’s been a rough eight years for the Suns as they failed to make the playoffs after Steve Nash took them to Game 6 in the 2006 Western Conference Finals against the eventual Champions, Los Angeles Lakers. Nash later went on to finish his career as a Laker and couldn’t stay on the court. But the Suns never could find themselves a replacement for Nash. I mean, the closest thing they got was Goran Dragic and they couldn’t decide whether or not they wanted him. Trading for him and then traded him away. The other players were Isaiah Thomas, Brandon Knight, and Eric Bledsoe. All of whom were traded for picks and other players.

Those are all moves under McDonough as general manager. If there aren’t any new results or improvement to the team over the time in which he was making the decisions, then other decisions have to be made. Last year was the head coach and this year it was the general manager. Not quite sure what they plan to do in terms of making moves to get better, but trading away your best point guard since Nash for a pick and a center that you bought out made no sense to me. And with the West only getting stronger, it may be tough for them to get out of the bottom half of the conference. I think the additions of Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza finally gets them the help they need at forward. Hopefully DeAndre Ayton and Josh Jackson can have break out seasons and help the Suns not only get better, but find the right GM to bring in the right guys next season.

Mickayeen: I sell the Suns firing Ryan McDonough as being the right move. Very bad move, even if it wasn’t this close to the season. Them failing to make the playoffs for the better part of the last decade has not been McDonough’s fault. The reason the franchise has been so bad has been the result of very bad ownership in Robert Sarver. All the moves RahimAli mentioned as being under McDonough have been mostly the result of Sarver and his micromanaging the team. Sarver has been too involved in the team, and it won’t matter who is the GM there. As long as Sarver is there, he will be the one pulling the strings and they will continue to be mediocre at best.

 

RahimAli: The Florida Gators Will Win the SEC East After Knocking off LSU.

CullenSelling on Florida winning the SEC East. Georgia is still the team to beat, as they’ve looked dominant so far this year and have the better overall conference and division record. Florida losing to Kentucky hurts their chances at representing the East in the (almost) annual slaughtering at the hands of the Crimson Tide in the conference championship game. The Bulldogs have to travel to Baton Rouge this weekend for a match against the wounded Tigers, but then Georgia gets a bye week before playing Florida in Jacksonville.

Neither one of these teams has an easy schedule down the stretch, but the Bulldogs have a better starting QB, a better head coach, and a better overall team. Plus, they’ve got experience. Mullen is working wonders in The Swamp, and while the Gators may challenge the Bulldogs for East supremacy, it will be down the road when that happens.

Mickayeen: I’m selling the Gators winning the East. I’m not sure how much more needs to be added to my reasoning other than what has already been put forth by Cullen. Georgia is the top dawg and will continue to be. I’ll hedge a little bit here and say that having Georgia at home this season gives the Gators a chance, but I’m taking Georgia to win that game by double digits if they both play their best.

 

Mickayeen: The Brewers Will Win the World Series

RahimAli: I’m selling the Brewers win the World Series. As you know by now, I am a huge LA sports fan, so I may be putting a bit of bias opinion into it, but look at the history between the two teams. Dodgers have won their sixth straight division title in which time the Brewers have been at home watching their division rivals like the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals battle their way to the postseason and capture World Series wins.

The Dodgers came one game short of the World Series last year and they look to take it this year. They have the best rotation in the Majors, and manager Dave Roberts has done a great job managing them through all the injuries faced during the season, which has only made them stronger than ever. The Brewers added a lot of offense to their team and the pitching has be tremendous thus far this season. I do believe that Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich will win the NL MVP for the season, but this will come down to who does better down the stretch of the game. I think the Dodgers will win in seven games.

CullenSelling the Brewers winning the World Series, but I’ll buy them representing the Senior Circuit in the Fall Classic. Despite having the better record (and with it, home field advantage) than the Dodgers, picking the Brewers feels like an upset.

Why is that? Well, Milwaukee being such a small market is part of it. Plus, by merely taking a look at the names on the teams’ rosters, the Dodgers have the better squad. Both teams are clicking right now, and both strolled their divisional series relatively easily, with the Brewers sweeping the Rockies and the Dodgers defeating the Braves in 5 (as predicted).

Both teams have well-balanced lineups with major pop (Brewers have five guys with 20+ home runs, including three with at least 32 while the Dodgers boast a whopping eight players with 20+ home runs with two of them at 32+). The starting pitching and the bullpens also compare well to one another.

So why am I picking the Brewers? I can’t pinpoint it, exactly, but this team has vibes similar to both the 2014 and 2015 Kansas City Royals, teams I followed closely. Hell, multiple members from those Royals teams are on the 2018 Brewers. In both the 2014 and 2015 pennants, the Royals seemed the underdog against the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively, and yet the Royals steamrolled both of them.

I don’t expect Milwaukee to steamroll L.A. In fact, I’m predicting this series goes the full seven, and for the Brewers to celebrate their first National League Championship on their home field.

 

 

What’s everyone else think? Was McDonough really the problem in Phoenix–or is it Sarver? Are the Gators the team to beat in the East? What’s Milwaukee going to do against the Dodgers? Let us know in the comments!

American League Championship Series Preview

Astros vs Red Sox
Before the Grand Slam” by J Dimas is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For the second consecutive year, the Houston Astros, 103-59, are in the American League Championship Series facing a team from the AL East. However, this time it’s the Boston Red Sox, who, after finishing with a Major League best record of 108-54, have home field advantage.

Boston’s Rebound

The Red Sox, after getting ousted in the divisional round of the playoffs for the second straight year in 2017, started the offseason by canning manager John Farrell, who had led the team to a World Series victory in 2013, his first season. They found their replacement on Houston’s bench, hiring Alex Cora after the Astros wrapped up their title.

Boston also made a big splash in signing slugger J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million deal. Martinez, who split time in 2017 between the floundering Detroit Tigers and surging Arizona Diamondbacks, responded well to his new surroundings by bashing 45 home runs, driving in 130 runs, scoring a career-high 111 runs while slashing an eye-popping .330/.402/.629. Once cut by Houston before resurrecting his career in Detroit, Martinez now looks for the ultimate payback.

With a solid rotation led by southpaws Chris Sale and David Price, a bullpen that includes Matt Barnes and closer Craig Kimbrel, adding Martinez to a lineup that also includes MVP-favorite RF Mookie Betts and slugging SS Xander Boegarts, among others, helped the Red Sox stroll to winning the American League East by eight games over the New York Yankees, whom the Red Sox then eliminated in four games in the ALDS.

Now, the Red Sox are well-positioned to take down the defending champs and take on the winner of the Los Angeles DodgersMilwaukee Brewers National League Championship Series.

 

Defending Houston

Early in the offseason, the Astros made it clear they were about more than one-and-done. This is a franchise that suffered through an embarrassing, question-raising rebuild that consisted of multiple 100-loss seasons before finally breaking through in 2017. General manager Jeff Lunhow and owner Jim Crane were not about to slow down after taking home the World Series trophy one time.

They made that known to the baseball world when they acquired SP Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates for four players.

Cole responded by going 15-5 with a 2.88 ERA. He was one of three Astros starters to toss more than 200 innings in 2018. The others were lefty Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74) and Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52).

This is not to say the Astros had a season without drama. Near the trade deadline, Lunhow made the controversial call to acquire closer Roberto Osuna from the Toronto Blue Jays. At that time, Osuna was alleged to have committed domestic violence.

Regardless of the message the trade sent to Houston fans as well as all of baseball fans, the trade didn’t hurt the Astros.

Playing with a solid rotation, a boosted bullpen, and a lineup consisting of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Evan Gattis, Houston fended off the Oakland Athletics, who, despite winning 97 games, finished six games back of the Astros in the AL West. Houston followed up their division crown with quick work of the 91-win Cleveland Indians, sweeping them in the divisional round of the playoffs.

 

The Prediction: Houston in Seven

Before the season began, I predicted that the Astros would become the first squad since the 1998-2000 Yankees to successfully defend their World Series Championship. I’m not changing that now, as the Astros looked particularly strong in dispatching the Indians.

Yes, the Red Sox looked equally as strong in trouncing the Bronx Bombers. Both teams put out an incredible eight batters in the lineup every night, too.

So I’m going to take the team with the better overall pitching. The bullpens look about even, but I’m giving the Astros the edge when it comes to starting pitching. The trio of Verlander-Keuchel-Cole is the tipping point.

Houston will return to the World Series in 2018.

ALDS Preview: New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox

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Aaron Judge” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Teams

Boston Red Sox (1), 108-54, hosting the New York Yankees (4), 100-62.

 

Some Numbers

  • Division rivals, the Red Sox and Yankees faced each other a whopping nineteen times during the regular season. If those games are any indication, this five-game series should be a brutal back-and-forth. The Red Sox won the season series 10-9, outscoring the Bronx Bombers 116-102.
  • Boston is in the playoffs for the third straight year, having won the AL East in each of those seasons, yet the team hasn’t made it out of the ALDS, winning a combined 1 game the past two Octobers. That led to the departure of manager John Farrell, who had been leading the club since 2013–the last time the Red Sox won the World Series. The team is looking for that exact same success under first-year manager Alex Cora.
  • New York, under first-year manager Aaron Boone, returns to the playoffs for the second straight season and for the third time in the past four years. The team made it to the pennant last year, where they lost to the Houston Astros in the full seven games before axing then-manager Joe Girardi after ten years at the helm.
  • Red Sox batters torched the league for a whopping 5.41 runs-per-game, tops in the Majors. They did this despite the team finishing sixth in the AL in home runs with 208. But they finished third in stolen bases (125), first in batting average (.268), and first in OPS (.792), while striking out the fifth least amount of times. The pitchers, meanwhile, finished third in the AL in ERA (3.75), third in saves (46), third in strikeouts and seventh in WHIP (1.246).
  • Unsurprisingly, given that the lineup contains the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius, the Yankees led all of baseball in home runs with 267. They were also second in the MLB in runs scored, behind only Boston, with 851. The team slashed .249/.329/.451, good enough for the second-best OPS in the majors at .781. Yankee pitchers ranked 5th in the AL in ERA (3.78), 3rd in saves (49), 2nd in strikeouts (1,634), and 5th in WHIP (1.239).

 

Red Sox Player to Watch: RF Mookie Betts

The favorite to win the American League MVP, Betts scored 129 runs this year while batting .346 and smacking 32 home runs. He added 30 stolen bases to go along with 47 doubles and 5 triples.

He’s pretty good.

So far, in two playoff series, though, Betts has been merely mediocre, hitting a combined .269/.345/.385 with three doubles, zero home runs, zero RBIs, and only three runs scored. In fact, he’s got almost as many strikeouts (5) as he does hits (7).

For the Red Sox to advance to the pennant, Betts will need to step it up.

 

Yankee Player to Watch: DH Giancarlo Stanton

Stanton remained the healthiest of the Bronx Bombers this year, playing in 158 games and slashing .266/.343/.509 to go along with 38 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 102 runs scored. While those numbers decreased from a year ago, his last in a Miami Marlins uniform, Stanton still lived up to the hype of being the Yankees’ star acquisition of the past offseason.

But, until the Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics, he had never before played in the post-season during his nine-year career. What will he do in October? Against the Red Sox during the regular season, he did what he does best: he mashed. Hitting 5 home runs and driving in 17 runners, he slashed a wicked .371/.423/.700 for an OPS of 1.123, his best against any opponent in 2018.

If that trend continues, the Yankees can look forward to being back in the ALCS.

 

Prediction: New York in 5

I’m going with the upset. While the Red Sox are clearly a different team than their past two iterations, in a smaller series like this one, the bullpen will be incredibly important, and I like New York’s more than Boston’s. Both teams have awesome closers with Craig Kimbrel in Boston and Aroldis Chapman in New York, but Chapman has the better supporting cast.

Much like the regular season series, this divisional series will be decided by one game. The Yankees will move on to the pennant to face either the Cleveland Indians or the Astros.

MLB Divisional Series Predictions: Astros vs Indians

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Houston Astros” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is one of the more exciting series in this year’s postseason. The last two American League pennant winners go around the diamond for a chance to represent the American League in the World Series again. For each team the stories were different. The Indians blew a 3-1 series lead against the Chicago Cubs to a loss in game 7 and fell short of the Trophy (2016). The Astros forced a game 7 against the Dodgers and took home the World Series trophy last season. They would love to do it again, but this is going to be a tough task.

Despite the Indians clinching their division first, they still have to travel to Houston to start the series on Friday afternoon. The two teams faced each other seven times this season, with the Astros edging out the Indians four games to three. All seven of those games were played in May, and neither team is the same as they were then. That’s why it’s essential for the two sides to be well prepared for this series.

The Indians have won their division for the third straight year and are looking to finally win the World Series for the first time since 1948. They’ve won it twice (1920 & 1948), but have fallen short four times, including against the Cubs in 2016. The Astros won their division for the second straight season. They look to repeat as champions. It was their first title in franchise history after they failed to win a single game in the 2005 World Series against the Chicago White Sox.

 

2. Houston Astros vs 3. Cleveland Indians

Winner: Indians in 5

Reaction: The Astros offense is still as explosive as it was during their playoff run last season that led them to the World Series. The real game changer is third basemen, Alex Bregman, who is in his third year in the Majors and already leading his team in Home Runs and RBIs. Bregman led the way with 31 HRs and 103 RBIs; the next closest guy is Evan Gattis with 25 HRs and 78 RBIs. But they aren’t the only players with power on the team, and we have seen that all season long. They also have a strong pitching rotation, which is just another reason for the Astros’ to be the victor.

However, this is going to be an interesting series because it could be a pitchers battle or a slugfest. So we’ll have to keep a close eye on this one. I believe the Indians will have the edge because there’s still plenty of unknowns on the team.

We saw the Astros win the World Series last year with what they have, but the Indians added another slugger and former AL MVP, Josh Donaldson. Donaldson will be the X-factor in this series as the Indians look to make it to their second World Series in three years. Let me also mention that the Indians have a strong bullpen with three relief pitchers who could be the closers at any time. Indians’ Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion all have 30+ homers on the season, so we do expect them to be pitched around to, which only opens up more opportunity for Donaldson. So let’s see how this round plays out.

NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves vs Los Angeles Dodgers

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Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw delivers pitch during NLCS Game 6” by Arturo Pardavila III is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Teams

Los Angeles Dodgers (2), 92-70, hosting the Atlanta Braves (3), 90-72.

 

Some Numbers

  • The Dodgers and Braves squared off against each other seven times this regular season. Los Angeles dominated those match-ups, winning five of them and outscoring Atlanta 35-18. In early June, the Dodgers took two of three when visiting the Braves, and then three of four when the Braves visited the west coast in late July.
  • The Braves are in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, while the Dodgers are in the post-season for the sixth straight season, having won the NL West in all of those years.
  • Dodgers pitchers led the National League in both strikeouts, ERA (3.38), and WHIP (1.152), while the team’s hitters ranked first in runs scored (804), home runs (235), and OPS (.774).
  • The Braves, meanwhile, were second in the NL in batting average (.257), 6th in OPS (.742), which helped them rank 5th in runs scored (759) despite the team hitting eleven home runs behind the league average (175). The pitchers finished with a 3.75 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP.

 

Dodgers Player to Watch: SP Clayton Kershaw

Limited to under 162 innings pitched this season, Kershaw still managed to finish 9-5 with a 2.73 ERA while striking out 8.6 per nine innings, the lowest of his career since his rookie season in 2008.

But the real reason to watch this dominant southpaw this October is because he’s always struggled in the playoffs, from losing Game 6 of the NLCS to the Cardinals in 2013 to his ERA ballooning last post-season in the NLDS against the Diamondbacks (5.68) and in the World Series against the Houston Astros (4.02).

He’s not starting Game 1 for the Dodgers, but could very well end up starting a pivotal Game 2 and possibly a do-or-die Game 5.

 

Braves Player to Watch: 1B Freddie Freeman

Freeman, a left-handed hitting first-baseman, will be key to the Braves’ success, especially in the first two games in Los Angeles. The Dodgers will be starting a pair of left-handed pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kershaw.

Even with breakout rookies Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna in the lineup for most of the season, Freeman paced the Braves, leading the club in WAR, hits, doubles, RBIs, and total bases. Thankfully for Atlanta, he hit .309 against left-handed pitchers this season and even had a higher OPS against them than right-handed pitchers.

For the Braves to have a fighting chance, Freeman will have to maintain or surpass those numbers.

 

Prediction: Dodgers, 3-1

The Dodgers are an experienced club that knows how to win in October. Heck, they’ve already won one game this month, a divisional tiebreaker against the Colorado Rockies. But this is also an aging squad, one that fell short in the Fall Classic last season. The window may be closing, yet it seems like the Dodgers are too strong to fall to a burgeoning Atlanta team. Look for the Dodgers to take this series, three games to one or in an outright sweep.

MLB Divisional Series Predictions: Brewers vs Rockies

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Ryan Braun” by Ian D’Andrea is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s finally that time of the year where we see the best teams in the Major Leagues slug it out for the Commissioner’s Trophy, which is rewarded to the team who beats their opponent in the World Series. Before we get there, we have to take it one game at a time, especially for the Wild Card teams like the Colorado Rockies, who beat the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in 13 innings late Tuesday night.

Cullen and I will be taking it one round at a time and give you our round by round predictions of who we think will win the round and advance. So let’s get it started.

With the Rockies winning on Tuesday, they will travel to Milwaukee to face the Milwaukee Brewers in the Divisional Series, which starts today. The two teams faced each other seven times this season, with the Brewers getting the best of the Rockies. Those seven games were played in two series: Four-game series in mid-May where the Brewers won 3-1, and three-game series in mid-August where the Brewers won 2-1.

This will be the third series the two teams have against each other, and it is by far the most important one for both clubhouses. The Brewers have won their division for the first time since 2011 and are looking to make it to the World Series for just the second time (1982) in the history of the organization. The Rockies lost a one-game tiebreaker with the Los Angeles Dodgers that would have given them the division, but instead, they make it back to the playoffs with their second consecutive wild card season. They are looking to make it to the World Series for the first since 2007, where they lost to the Boston Red Sox’s 4-0.

 

1. Milwaukee Brewers vs. 5. Colorado Rockies

Winner: Brewers in 4

Reaction: The Brewers proved their bats are more than what everyone expected. Let’s not forget they made moves in the offseason that had people questioning what they were thinking about. Like when the Brewers already had Ryan Braun in the outfield, but they went out and got Lorenzo Cain and Christain Yelich as well. They even added Curtis Granderson to the batting order recently. Don’t forget about the pitcher though. Josh Hader is a great set up guy for the closer, Jeremy Jeffress. Hader has been one of the most consistent relief pitchers in the league this year. He even turned out to be a great closer while Jeffress was out with injury.

The Rockies have the bats to competition with the Brewers despite their struggle to beat them in the regular season series. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and DJ LeMahieu aren’t only helping out the pitchers get out of jams with great defensive players all season, but they also give the opposing pitchers problems. Arendo (38) and Story (37) have combined for 75 home runs, while LeMahieu does all the same things like getting on base, in scoring position, or just getting the opposing pitcher’s pitch count up. LeMahieu finds the gaps to get on base and help Arendo and have Story drive him in. But that is not enough for the Rockies to win the series.

Who do you think will win these series? Comment below with who you got and we can talk about why you think that is.