The Californian

MLB playoffs are here

Look for Astros, Brewers to face off in World Series

Andrew Sousa, Staff writer

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The baseball postseason is here and the final four teams from the National and five teams from the American leagues are fighting for a spot in the 2018 World Series later this month.
Without further ado, let’s dig into each postseason contender and see which ones will thrive, or strike out come time for the Fall Classic.

American League

Houston Astros:
We’ll start with the defending champions. Given that they just won the World Series last year, the Astros have the advantage of experience over newcomer teams like the Athletics, Brewers, and Braves. Houston comes into the postseason with the entirety of their core intact.

With the reigning AL MVP José Altuve, All-Star sluggers George Springer and Alex Bregman, scrappy infielder Carlos Correa, and the best starting pitching rotation led by ace Justin Verlander, there’s no reason to believe that the Astros can’t make another title run. They start their title defense Friday against Cleveland in the ALDS.

Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox are the safe bet to bring the trophy home. The Red Sox have the best record in all of the majors, and this iteration of the Sox doesn’t seem like it will fizz out come October unlike past years. Barring injuries, this team doesn’t really have any weaknesses.

The only cause for concern is their losing record against postseason teams in the AL (3-4 against Houston) The Red Sox have two legitimate MVP candidates in right fielder Mookie Betts and designated hitter J.D. Martinez, plus an elite starting rotation manned by Chris Sale and David Price. Expect this team to go far this postseason. The Red Sox await tonight’s Wild Card winner between New York and Oakland.

Cleveland Indians:
Being in the AL Central has been the biggest gift to this Indians team. Being the only team in their division with a winning record, the Indians coasted this season and have seemed disengaged at times, which could really hurt their October performance. Their always steady bullpen has been rocky this season, and their starting pitching has not been as sharp as previous years, with a 3.77 ERA, 9th in the majors.

But the team that made the World Series in 2016, which they lost in seven games to the Cubs, is still mostly there. José Ramirez is looking better than ever and new addition Josh Donaldson should make a big impact, even if he’s coming off injury. If the bullpen can be solid and their bats continue to be elite, than the Indians could definitely make a suprise run.

New York Yankees:
The evil empire of baseball is showing some cracks coming into October. Injuries to slugger Aaron Judge and shutdown closer Aroldis Chapman caused some panic in the Bronx, and their starting pitching has ceased to be able to get outs, leaving rough game circumstances to their inconsistent bullpen early in games.

But they still have support in the reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres, who has had a great season. The fresh addition of Andrew McCutchen should also make an impact in the postseason. If the Yankees can get their pitching in order and Judge and Chapman can provide immediate support in the absence of Aaron Hicks, then the Yankees can continue their reign of baseball and add another title.

Oakland Athletics:
The surprise team of the American League, the A’s come into the postseason as one the hottest teams in the league and with huge momentum. Their bullpen has been outstanding, being the fourth best in the majors. Big hitters like Khris Davis, who led the league in homers with 48, Jed Lowrie, and Marcus Semien have slugged this A’s team from a 34-36 record on June 15 to the postseason for the first time since their crushing 12 inning loss against Kansas City in the Wild Card Game in 2014.

Matt Chapman continues to be a defensive force as his batting average continues to climb. Getting hot at the right time is everything is baseball, and the A’s might be the dark horse team to represent the American League in the World Series.

National League

Atlanta Braves:
The “Baby Braves” have taken their initial steps toward title contention, clinching a postseason berth for the first time since 2013. The Braves have been a decent offensive team led by Freddie Freeman and rookie sensation Ronald Acuna Jr., scoring 4.69 runs per game, sixth best in the National League.

It remains to been seen whether their pitching can continue to be reliable, with a 3.75 ERA, and the Braves’ bats will need to adjust to the postseason atmosphere and continue to get timely hits. If they can, then the  “Baby Braves” can be the big kids in the NL and make a statement in October. Atlanta plays Los Angeles in the NLDS.

Los Angeles Dodgers:
The Dodgers come into October with some, uncertainties, to say the least. Injuries to Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Corey Seager, and Kenley Jansen over the course of the season decimated this team’s depth. But their postseason hopes were kept alive by resurrection seasons from Matt Kemp, batting .290 with 21 home runs, and Max Muncy, with 35 homers on the season.

With the addition of four time All-Star Manny Machado to go with the dominant pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers could make a run on the other NL teams and storm back into the World Series with vengeance after last year’s Game 7 loss to Houston. The Dodgers offense seemed ready for the postseason with its win over the Rockies for the NLWest title on Monday.

Colorado Rockies:
“Rocktober” is in full effect in Colorado. To the surprise of everyone outside Denver, the Rockies went into Chicago and actually won its Wild Card game over the Cubs Tuesday night. The Rockies are definitely on the radar of everyone after their 2-1 win.  Their questionable pitching staff was outstanding, allowing just one run in 13 innings of play. Players like Tony Wolters and Carlos Gonzalez stepped up big time, delivering huge hits when the Rockies needed them most. If the Rockies can continue what they did in Chicago, then the Rockies can stun even more people. They now head to Milwaukee for the NLDS.

Milwaukee Brewers:
The Brewers actually did it. Expected to have an outside shot at the postseason, the Brew Crew shocked the baseball world by edging out the Cubs for the NL Central crown on Monday after the two teams were tied through 162 games. The Brewers have a strong offense led by likely NL MVP Christian Yelich, and are backed by hitters Jesus Aguilar, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas. Having home field advantage in the homer friendly Miller Park will greatly benefit the Brewers, and they have their best shot since 2011 to capture their first championship ever.

As for the World Series, I predict that the Astros will face the Brewers. The Astros pitching will get through the tough American League, while the offense gives them necessary support. The Brewers will slug their way into the Fall Classic, taking huge advantage of home field against a relatively lackluster National League.

Ultimately, the Astros dominant pitching will be what take the Astros over the top, silencing the Brewers’ best bats and giving the Astros’ offense time to break out. The Astros will win in six games, defending their 2017 title in front of their fans. Play ball.

*Team Stats provided from ESPN, Team Rankings
*Player Stats provided from MLB, Baseball Reference

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MLB playoffs are here