Chief Sports Editor
The arrival of autumn signals one of the best periods in the sports calendar each year. 2018 is no different. The NFL is in full bloom, Heisman hopefuls are beginning to separate themselves in the world of college football, the Capitals look to avoid the championship (and alcohol-related) hangover after a thrilling run for the Stanley Cup last spring, and 14 teams in the Eastern Conference just let out a collective sigh of relief with LeBron heading for Hollywood (sorry, Cleveland). But forget all of that – the MLB playoffs are here!
It’s shaping up to be a great month of high-stakes baseball. Will the Astros repeat? Can the Red Sox cap off an historic regular season with a World Series crown? Can a good-not-great NL club beat out one of the AL superteams? May the baseball gods please bless us with a Kershaw Game 7 start at Yankee Stadium? These questions and more will be answered in the next four weeks…
Here are our predictions. I would not advise you to use these picks for betting purposes as the team I watched the most this year, the New York Mets, is currently gearing up for our 2019 World Series run with some offseason golf. Without further ado:
Dodgers over Braves in 4 games
One of the best stories of the season has been the upstart Atlanta Braves. In a division that was supposed to go to the Nationals or Mets, Atlanta saw its young starlets (Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies) propel the Braves to their first postseason appearance since 2013. Coincidentally, the Braves fell to the Dodgers in four games in the NLDS that year, and I see the same happening this year. After coming so close to winning it all last year, the Dodgers won’t settle for an early exit.
Brewers over Rockies in 4
The Brewers punctuated a late-season push to take the NL Central by topping the Cubs in a thrilling Game 163 tiebreaker on Monday. Powered by MVP frontrunner Christian Yelich, Milwaukee boasts the hotter offense of the two teams heading into October. The Rockies had to use their ace, Kyle Freeland, in the Wild Card game on Tuesday, so he will likely only be available for Game 3 of the NLDS. Neither club has the deepest starting pitching staff, but both bullpens rank near the top of the NL in several major categories. The Rockies will regret not having home-field advantage, as they are far better at Coors Field than on the road. The Milwaukee bullpen and Yelich-led offense will carry the Brewers to the NLCS.
Dodgers over Brewers in 6
Unlike the Cubs, the Dodgers can equal the Brewers’ offensive production and get into that formidable bullpen early in games. The Brewers will need their starters to eat up a significant amount of quality innings so the bullpen doesn’t burn out, and I don’t see that happening up against a deep and dynamic Dodger lineup. Clayton Kershaw should start in Games One, Four, and Seven (if necessary), a luxury that no other team – especially the Brewers – can match.
Astros over Indians in 3
Despite not winning a World Series in the past two seasons, the Indians have demonstrated their ability to play well on the greatest stage in recent years. Furthermore, they have the starting pitching to make a deep run; Cleveland became the first team to ever have four pitchers (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, and Trevor Bauer) to rack up 200 strikeouts each in a season. However, they were a sub-.500 team when playing teams outside the historically bad AL Central. The Astros can match Cleveland’s starting pitching behind Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, and the offense is as good as any in baseball.
Yankees over Red Sox in 4 / Red Sox over Athletics in 4
The winner of this series depends on who takes the AL Wild Card game. The Yankees and Red Sox haven’t met since the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox controlled the division for most of the year en route to a 108-win season, but they are dealing with some issues heading into October. Staff ace Chris Sale has lacked his usual velocity since returning from the DL, and the bullpen has been in shambles since the start of September. The deep Yankees lineup will exploit these pitching deficiencies. However, if the Sox catch the A’s instead, their own potent offense, led by AL MVP candidates Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, will knock the Oakland starters out of games early and the usually dominant Athletics bullpen won’t be able to hold up over the course of a whole series. Either way, an AL East team will reach the ALCS.
Astros over Red Sox / Yankees in 6
Regardless of who the Astros run into at this stage, they are the team to beat. Verlander, Cole, Dallas Keuchel, and Charlie Morton form the deepest rotation in the playoffs. The bullpen is solid, with guys like Lance McCullers Jr. and Collin McHugh available as long-relievers who can eat up innings. Offensively, the quartet of Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and George Springer is as good as any in baseball. They won’t give up many runs and have enough firepower offensively to get ahead early in games against the rotations of Boston and New York that both have several question marks.
Dodgers over Astros in 6
A rematch of last year’s Fall Classic, this season will see the Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988. The offense has few weaknesses and a number of guys – Manny Machado, Max Muncy, Justin Turner – who can carry a team like Springer did last fall for the Astros. Kenley Jansen will record four saves in the World Series, Kershaw will win Games 1 and 4 and pitch an inning in relief in Game 6, while Machado bats over .350 to win World Series MVP (and a nice contract this offseason, too). The drought is over, LA!
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