MLB Postseason Preview
As October begins and the leaves are beginning to change, America’s pastime is moving into its most exciting time of year: The Major League Baseball postseason.
Five teams each from the American and National league made the postseason. The playoffs will begin tonight and go until at least October 29 and no further than November 2, depending on how many games the World Series goes and barring any weather delays. Let’s begin to preview each series.
American League Wild Card Game: Baltimore Orioles (5) vs Toronto Blue Jays (4), 8:08 p.m.
This first matchup of the post season is the AL Wild Card Game, featuring divisional rivals Baltimore and Toronto. The Blue Jays won the fist Wild Card spot and will host the Orioles who claimed the second Wild Card spot. Both teams finished the regular season tied for second in the AL East with an 89-73 record, with Toronto just edging out Baltimore 10-9 in the seasons series. This is the second straight season the Blue Jays have made the playoffs and the first time since 2014 that the Orioles have qualified. Starters are Chris Tillman (16-6, 3.77 ERA) for Baltimore and Marcus Stroman (9-10, 4.37 ERA) for Toronto.
What to Watch For: Both teams come in with prolific offenses. Baltimore led the majors in team home runs with 253, with first baseman Mark Trumbo leading the majors with 47 home runs. Toronto was fourth as a team with 221. Toronto’s designated hitter Edwin Encarnación was third in the majors with 42 home runs and tied for first in RBIs with 127. Hard-hitting José Bautista and last year’s AL MVP Josh Donaldson contribute to the powerful offense. It will be interesting to see which offense outperforms the other.
National League Wild Card Game: San Francisco Giants (5) vs New York Mets (4), 8:00 p.m.
The second Wild Card team San Francisco will travel to Queens to take on first place New York. Both teams finished with an 87-75 record and placed second in their divisions. The Giants missed out on the playoffs last year while the Mets went all the way to the World Series, but lost to the Kansas City Royals. Starters are Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA) for San Francisco and Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60 ERA) for New York in Game 1.
What to Watch For: The Giants are led by savvy veterans like pitcher Jake Peavy and outfielder Hunter Pence, but are also led by star players Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey. The Giants have won three of the last six World Series titles and manager Bruce Bochy knows how to win. The Mets have great pitching all around, which has primarily led them to recent success the past couple seasons. Their star pitchers Matt Harvey (not me) and Jacob deGrom are injured, but ace pitcher Syndergaard and star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes remain strong. How Bumgarner will approach the Mets offense, and handle his erratic composure, could dictate the game.
American League Divisional Series: AL Wild Card Game winner vs Texas Rangers (1)
The winner of the Wild Card game will go on to play the top team in the American League, the Texas Rangers. Texas finished the season with a record of 95-67, won the AL West, and are back in the playoffs like last season, where they were eliminated by the Blue Jays. Their pitcher Cole Hamels (15-5, 3.32 ERA) should make the start in Game 1.
What to Watch For: Batting and offense for Texas carried them this season, as their pitching in terms of strikeouts, earned run average, innings pitched, and other categories were in the bottom half of baseball. Their offense is led by longtime third baseman Adrián Beltré, outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, and infielder Elvis Andrus. The Rangers will be looking to ride their strong offense and pitching experience.
American League Divisional Series: Boston Red Sox (3) vs Cleveland Indians (2)
Boston, who finished the season at 93-69, will travel to Cleveland, who surprised everyone with a 94-67 record. Boston won the AL East, while Cleveland beat out the defending world champion Royals and Detroit Tigers to win the AL Central. The Red Sox made a quick turnaround from last season, where they finished last in their division. The Indians return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and won their division for the first time since 2007. Starters are Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.15 ERA) for Boston and Trevor Bauer (12-8, 4.26 ERA) for Cleveland in Game 1.
What to Watch For: Boston is a very well-balanced team. Their offense is composed of veteran infielder Dustin Pedroia and almost retired designated hitter David Ortiz, with young talent from infielder Xander Bogaerts and MVP candidate outfielder Mookie Betts. Porcello erupted for 22 wins this season and paces a strong pitching staff that includes David Price. Cleveland manager Terry Francona, in his fourth year with the Tribe, put it all together with his club who is led by infielder Carlos Santana, outfielder Coco Crisp and former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Home field advantage is huge for Cleveland, but Boston strikes with one of the best rounded teams in baseball.
National League Division Series: NL Wild Card Game winner vs Chicago Cubs (1)
Whether it’s the Mets or the Giants, they will be facing arguably the best team in baseball this series. The Cubs exploded to a 103-58 record this season, easily winning the NL Central and clinching the best record in baseball. Their second year skipper, Joe Maddon, has taken his club to the playoffs in his first two years now, last year winning a Wild Card spot and advancing to the NLCS only to lose to the Mets. Jon Lester (19-5, 2.44 ERA) is starting Game 1 for Chicago.
What to Watch For: Along with the Red Sox, the Cubs are a solidly built team all around. They are led by an ace pitching staff of last year’s Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Lester, and closer Aroldis Chapman. They are also supplied by offensive talent in infielders Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russel, and Kris Bryant. Their offense is potent and their pitching, starters and relievers, can put the game away early.
National League Division Series: Los Angeles Dodgers (3) vs Washington Nationals (2)
Both Washington and Los Angeles are coming off of great seasons where they both won their divisions. The Nationals finished with a record of 95-67 and made the postseason again after failing to qualify last year. The Dodgers, in Vin Scully’s last year behind the mic, finished 91-71 and will look to avenge last year’s postseason mishap when they were defeated by the Mets in the NLDS. The starters will be Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA) for Los Angeles and Max Scherzer (20-7, 2.96 ERA) for Washington for Game 1.
What to Watch For: Clayton Kershaw is the Dodgers best pitcher and has been their ace for many years. This season, he labored from a bad back and missed some time but came back at the end and looked to take original form. He will go against a Nationals offense, that includes last year’s MVP and young star Bryce Harper as well as Daniel Murphy, who was acquired from the Mets in the offseason and batted .347 this year. Washington’s pitching staff is led by Scherzer, who led MLB in strikeouts this season. The Dodgers young, great infielder Corey Seager, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and entertaining outfielder Yasiel Puig make up a Dodger offense that ran away with the NL West in manager Dave Roberts’ first season. Getting to Max Scherzer has been a tough task so far in Washington, but it is what Los Angeles will need to do.
Matthew Harvey is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and history. To contact him, email email@example.com.