By Ivan Morrobel
Published: October 4th, 2017
After a total of 4,860 Major League Baseball (MLB) regular season games, meaningful October baseball has finally arrived. Ten teams will face off for a chance to capture the 112th World Series Championship.
During the 2016 World Series, fans witnessed the American League (AL) Champion Cleveland Indians blow a 3-1 series lead to the Chicago Cubs, which led to the Cubs’ first World Series title since 1908. Both have clinched playoff berths once again, but they’ll have to repeat as their respective league’s champion before a rematch could possibly occur.
National League (NL) teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies will be aiming to dethrone the Cubs. Out of the five teams that’ll represent the NL in this year’s postseason, three powerhouses are coming from the NL West division: the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies.
The Dodgers are relying on both rookie sensation Cody Bellinger and the game’s best starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, to carry their 2017 success into the postseason. However, Kershaw is known for flunking in important games. The left-handed pitcher has a 4-7 record to go along with an earned run average (ERA) of 4.55 in the playoffs. Los Angeles will play the eventual NL Wild Card winner between Colorado and Arizona on Friday in the NL Division Series (NLDS).
Colorado is expected to outscore their opponents with their mighty offense that includes NL MVP candidates Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado, but Arizona features Paul Goldschmidt, J.D. Martinez, and Zack Greinke, a group that’s a force to be reckoned with.
Expect the Diamondbacks to defeat the Rockies and meet the Dodgers in the National League Division Series after a dominant pitching performance by Greinke. Expect Arizona to go the distance with the Dodgers in a best-of-five series, but L.A. to advance to the NL Championship Series (NLCS).
Before Chicago envisions itself in another World Series, it will have to encounter arguably its toughest obstacle: the Washington Nationals. In Games 1, 2 and 3, the Nats will go with some of the finest starting pitchers in baseball—Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez—hoping to sweep the champs.
The Cubs won’t go down easily because they’ll be looking to repeat, which is why they acquired Jose Quintana (11-11, 4.15 ERA) to propel their chances. Anthony Rizzo and 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant will provide the offensive power to help both Quintana and Jon Lester, one of the best postseason pitchers (9-7, 2.63 ERA in postseason).
The Cubs-Nationals series will be a slugfest with players like Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. However, Chicago will likely end up defeating Washington in Game 5 of the NLDS due to its experience and better bullpen. Then it will meet L.A. for the NLCS.
An NLCS matchup between the Dodgers and Cubs will be a repeat of the 2016 NLCS. Instead of Chicago winning the series 4-2 again, the 2017 NLCS has the possibility of going as far as Game 7. Los Angeles has home-field advantage because it finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, but the Cubs will play spoiler to earn back-to-back World Series appearances.
In the AL, the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians will return to the postseason along with the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, and Minnesota Twins.
Boston will face a hungry Astros team that contains a mixture of young stars and veterans. Houston acquired veterans Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Josh Reddick this past offseason to go along with their inexperienced nucleus. The Red Sox are expected to get off to an early 1-0 series lead after Chris Sale shows the world why he’s an AL Cy Young Award candidate this season. Despite Sale giving his team the advantage, the Astros, with Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer, will likely find their way into the ALCS after winning the next three games to win the series 3-1.
The reigning AL Champion Indians will have to wait for the outcome of this year’s AL Wild Card Game between New York and Minnesota to start the ALDS. The Yankees have had huge success against the Twins, and this year’s Wild Card will be no different. New York will hand the ball to their 23-year old ace Luis Severino to obliterate the Twins and advance to the ALDS.
An ALDS matchup between the Indians and Yankees is something many New Yorkers want to avoid. AL Cy Young favorite Corey Kluber, who finished the season 18-4 with an amazing 2.25 ERA, will continue to dominate teams like he has all season long. New York will try to steal a game after an outstanding performance at the plate by AL home run leader Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez, but its bullpen may not be needed as much because the team’s starting pitchers will probably fail to keep Cleveland off the board throughout the series. The Indians are projected to win the series 3-1.
Baseball fanatics are expecting an ALCS between Cleveland and Houston to be one for the ages. While the Indians are a favorite to make to the World Series yet again, the Astros aren’t going to make it an easy journey. These two teams are expected to split the first four games of the series to showcase the best playoff series this season. Games 5 and 6 will likely go to Cleveland’s very own when Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Kluber continue their playoff success.
World Series rematches are extremely rare in baseball, but Chicago and Cleveland may go toe-to-toe for part two. Both teams will know what to expect from each other after facing off in 2016. The Indians will win Game 1 of the World Series because of Kluber out-pitching Lester. The Cubs will win Games 2 and 3, giving themselves a 2-1 series lead. Chicago’s closer Wade Davis shows Cleveland’s Andrew Miller that he’s just as good. During Game 4, Chicago begins to show fatigue after going the distance against Washington and L.A. Cleveland will go on to end the series 4-2 to win their first World Series Championship in 69 years, with Lindor winning the 2017 World Series MVP.