MLB postseason is in full swing


Los Angeles Times

Clayton Kershaw hopes to pitch the Dodgers to their first championship in 31 years. Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Times

By today there will be four. 

The MLB playoffs have already seen a lot of drama, from the Washington Nationals’ late comeback over Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card game to the two division series that reached five games.

Yes, the Yankees removed any drama from their ALDS matchup with Minnesota by sweeping the Twins, and the A’s stumbled again in the AL Wild Card game to Tampa Bay.

But the postseason has been exciting thus far. Although the other three division series were decided late Tuesday and Wednesday after The Californian went to press, there will be only four teams vying for the World Series trophy starting today.

Here’s a brief overview of the final seven teams that were in or had a chance to advance to the championship series beginning this weekend.

American League

Houston Astros: This Astros team is even better than last year.

George Springer has emerged as one of the best players in baseball. The same goes for Alex Bregman.

The Astros’ pitching is dominant behind by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the two leading Cy Young candidates. Oh yeah, they also got Zach Grinke, who struggled in his first start this postseason but should still be good. A date with the Yankees in the ALCS would be MLB’s marquee matchup.

New York Yankees: A dominant series over Minnesota has put the Yankees in a great position to make their first World Series in a decade.

Their pitching was lockdown against the Twins, allowing just seven runs all series. Didi Gregorious torched the Twins, smashing grand slams and stifling the Twins with great defensive plays.

With their offense clicking as well as their pitching and bullpen being dominant, the Yankees are going to be a scare for any team going forward.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays looked scary after a dominant win over Oakland in the Wild Card game, but  then they faced Houston.

Charlie Morton has saved the Rays so far this postseason, carrying the team on his back when the offense has gone cold.

Unfortunately, Morton can’t pitch every game. If they Rays want to advance, the remainder of the pitching staff needs to be in top form, and the offense needs to be consistently great.

National League

Los Angeles Dodgers: To the surprise of many, the Dodgers are in a back-and-forth battle with the Nationals.

The Dodgers pitching has been pretty good, but the issue has been their bullpen. The offense also is up and down, one game hitting homer after homer, and the next game their bats going cold.

If the Dodgers advance, they could be in for a turbulent ride.

Atlanta Braves: Less surprising, the Braves are in a tight contest with the Cardinals.

The pitching has been their main reason of success, stifling the Cardinals strong offense. The issue, like many teams, has been the bullpen, most notably giving up four runs in the ninth in a Game 1 loss.

To advance and to contend, the offense needs to step up and the bullpen needs to improve.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have looked really impressive, and really disappointing.

Not expected to challenge the Braves very strongly, the Cardinals have taken the Braves the distance, setting up a Game 5 in Atlanta on Wednesday.

The reason for their success  must be credited to their starting rotation, pitching well above expectations.

Just like every other postseason team, their issue so far has been the bullpen. Game 3 stands out, where the Cardinals came one out away from victory, but the usually reliable Carlos Martinez couldn’t hold on to the lead and surrendered three runs in the ninth.

Washington Nationals: The Nationals have looked really impressive. Matching up against the 106 win Dodgers, the 93 win Nationals have made LA really sweat, taking them to Game 5.

Their bullpen, expected to be their downfall, has actually been pretty good, one of the best of the postseason teams, in fact, except for Game 3.

The offense, led by Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon, has been hot and cold, but when they’ve been on, the Nats have been unstoppable.

Prediction time! I know I struck out on this last year, but this time I know I’ll be right.

And it’ll be (drum roll)… Astros over Dodgers. Yes, I’ll be riding this Astros team until I die.

The Astros have a stacked lineup, and their pitching is one of the best in baseball. The Dodgers will make the World Series for the third straight time, but will fall just short in the same amount of tries as the Bay Area laughs aloud. Play ball.