The Major League Baseball regular season took longer than expected, as the National League needed a pair of tiebreaker games Monday to determine division winners for the NL Central and NL West.
But finally, it’s time for playoff baseball.
The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Chicago Cubs on Monday to earn the NL Central crown, while the Los Angeles Dodgers took down the Colorado Rockies to secure their sixth straight NL West title. The Cubs and Rockies now will meet Tuesday night in the NL Wild Card Game to determine which team faces the Brewers — the NL’s top seed — in the Division Series.
The American League picture has been much easier to assess, with the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros all winning their respective divisions rather handily. The New York Yankees host the Oakland Athletics in the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday night to see which club faces the Red Sox in the ALDS.
So, who will emerge from the AL and NL when the dust settles? Let’s break down our round-by-round 2018 postseason picks, complete with a World Series prediction.
NL Wild Card Game
Cubs over Rockies.
Rockies starter Kyle Freeland is good, but he’s never pitched in the postseason, whereas Cubs starter Jon Lester is one of the best playoff performers in MLB history. Freeland also is pitching on three days’ rest, and the Rockies are playing in their third time zone in three days after facing the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital on Sunday and the Dodgers in Los Angeles on Monday. A Colorado win would defy the odds.
AL Wild Card Game
A’s over Yankees.
The A’s led the majors in runs, home runs, total bases and OPS on the road during the regular season. They shouldn’t be fazed by playing in Yankee Stadium. New York will have a distinct advantage on the mound to start the game, with Luis Severino getting the nod, but Oakland’s lineup is good enough and its bullpen is deep enough for a one-game upset. Not to mention the A’s are a far better defensive team than the Yankees, who sometimes get sloppy in the field.
Red Sox over A’s.
The A’s could be a pain, but their lack of starting pitching depth ultimately will doom them against the Red Sox’s potent offense. Boston has two legitimate MVP candidates in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, and that’ll be too much for Oakland’s bullpen, which will be taxed even before the A’s reach the ALDS.
Indians over Astros.
The starting pitching matchups in this series will be awesome, which could make for a heavy dose of late-inning drama once the bullpens join the fray. The Indians, like the Red Sox, feature two MVP candidates in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and their contributions will set the pace for Cleveland’s offense, which will be especially dangerous if Josh Donaldson elevates his game.
Brewers over Cubs.
The Brewers are red hot right now, even continuing their late-season dominance in Monday’s NL Central tiebreaker against the Cubs. They also have a deeper lineup and a better bullpen, and the Cubs will be forced to use their most reliable starter, Lester, in Tuesday’s Wild Card Game.
Dodgers over Braves.
It’s been a nice season for the Braves, who have risen to prominence sooner than expected. The future should be even brighter, too, especially with Ronald Acuna Jr. already looking like a future MVP candidate. But the Dodgers are the clear favorites here thanks to their pitching depth, which still includes one of the best hurlers on the planet (Clayton Kershaw) and a young phenom (Walker Buehler). The Braves also coasted to the finish line, whereas the Dodgers have been battle test virtually all season — and last season, come to think of it.
Indians over Red Sox.
The Red Sox (108-54) finished 17 games ahead of the Indians (91-71) during the regular season. If Boston swapped places with Cleveland, it would have won the AL Central by 30 games over the second-place Minnesota Twins (78-84). But the Red Sox have flaws that will be exposed at some point this October, namely on the pitching side. Chris Sale has battled injuries, David Price has an awful playoff track record and Boston’s bullpen has been very inconsistent.
Brewers over Dodgers.
The Dodgers have a clear edge in the rotation, but the Brewers’ bullpen is lights out. It’ll be difficult, if not impossible, for Los Angeles to crack Milwaukee’s relief combination of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress. And the Brewers’ sneaky deep lineup, anchored by NL MVP front-runner Christian Yelich, should do enough damage against the Dodgers’ beatable ‘pen.
Indians over Brewers.
There isn’t the same buzz surrounding the Indians this season, and for good reason: They simply haven’t been as good as they were leading up to the last two postseasons. But it’d be foolish to sleep on Cleveland. The Indians’ rotation — Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Trevor Bauer or Shane Bieber — can match up with anyone, the bullpen is talented despite collectively underachieving this season and the lineup boasts game-changing stars at several positions. This also isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Tribe, who advanced to the World Series two years ago before falling to the Yankees in five games in the ALDS last year.
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images
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