With the wild card games starting on Tuesday, playoff season is officially upon us. The month of October, and beginning of November will surely be full of exciting games, surprising wins and lots of champagne photos from the locker room. Here are my picks for the ALDS and NLDS games this week.
In the American League we have wild card winners Houston Astros traveling to Kansas City and the Blue Jays hosting the Texas Rangers. Call me crazy but I’m giving the first series to Houston. Sure, the Astros are known as one of the worst on the road teams this season, but they gave that label a run for its money Tuesday night in the Bronx.
The Astros steamrolled their way through the Yankees, despite their on the road record of 33-48. Dallas Keuchel threw 6 shutout innings (his third runless game against the Yankees this season) and 3 closers maintained the shutout to lead the Astros to victory. Now Keuchel won’t be seen again until probably the third game in the series, but he’s not the only component to the team’s success.
Former Astro and current Yankee Carlos Beltran told The NY Times the Astros are a, “young team, they play hard, they have speed and they have three good outfielders playing out there.”
Those three outfielders are George Springer, Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez.
As I’ve said before, I’m a believer in young teams. Sure they lack playoff experience but they’re agile and they’re strong. And coming off of Tuesday’s win, they’re ready to take on Kansas City.
The other ALDS matchup will be the Rangers at Toronto and I’m going with the Rangers. Ever since their incredible August run, I was on the Toronto bandwagon.
While I still have high regards for the Jays, I have a good feeling about the underdogs in this matchup. Sure the Jays finished as one of the best offensive teams in the league and have one of the best bullpens but hear me out.
The Rangers rotation has been doing increasingly well as the season progressed. Cole Hamels (3.65 ERA) is 0-2 against the Jays, but has a 3.09 post season ERA against all teams. Yovani Gallardo will pitch game 1 (against Jays David Price). As opposed to Hamels, Gallardo has won all 3 of his matchups against the Jays, and holds a 1.33 ERA against Toronto. He also put up 13 and 2/3 scoreless innings against Toronto this season.
In addition to that, Jays closer, Roberto Osuna, hasn’t been very reliable as of late, giving up 5 runs in his past 13 games. Combine the improving Rangers rotation with the AL player of the week, rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre and the hope that the Jays closer chokes and I see the underdogs coming out on top.
In the National League, we’re looking at Mets Dodgers, and St. Louis versus the winner of the Cubs, Pittsburgh wild card game.
I’ve talked a lot about the Mets this season and it’s been mostly good things. For this week I’ll stand by the Mets, and have them taking the series, but it’s going to be hard fought. This is a series of strong pitching on both sides.
For the Mets, there’s deGrom and Harvey and in LA there’s Greinke and Kershaw. All of these pitchers are ranked in the NL top 6 ERA’s. Due to a bumpy road for the Mets at the end of the season they lost home field advantage.
The Dodgers are 55-26 at home, and the Mets almost break even at 41-40 on the road. However, NY has been doing exceptionally well on the road since July, including winning a series in LA 2-3 with stellar performances by Syndergaard and Matz. Injuries on both sides will also complicate things, with Juan Uribe out due to a chest cartilage injury and Dodgers Puig not at full speed/health. It’ll be a close series, but ultimately I’m going with the Mets.
Finally we come to the St. Louis versus wild card winner series. At the time I’m writing this, the wild card game has yet to be played so I’ll look at both scenarios. Not to be a downer, but in either case (Cardinals versus Cubs or Cardinals versus Pirates) I’m going with the Cards.
Although I’d love to see Chicago go far, I’m not sure they’d make it past St. Louis. The Cubs are arguably one of the best (and youngest) teams in baseball at the moment, and Chicago fans are justifiable in putting their trust in Arrieta. I have faith they will conquer the Pirates, even on the road. But whoever makes it past the wild card game is in for a challenge.
The Cardinals are 100-62 in the regular season, giving them the best win percentage in the league this season. Out of the 10 teams in this years playoffs, 6 of them are different from last year. St. Louis is one of the returners, being one of the most consistently good teams in the league.
The Cards saw a lot of injuries this season, most recently catcher Yadier Molina. With a lot of those injuries returning; Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and others spots being filled by trustworthy replacements (Tony Cruz for Molina) the Cards are a tried and true team who are all too familiar with October baseball.
After all the thought put into these predictions, I’m ready for postseason baseball to do what it does and prove me wrong.