There are three certainties in October: The leaves will change color, the temperature will fall and the MLB Playoffs will be on. Before the playoffs officially get underway, however, the Wild Card rounds must be played out.
In the National League (NL), the Milwaukee Brewers will play in the nation’s capital against the Washington Nationals. In the American League (AL), the Tampa Bay Rays will head to California to play the Oakland Athletics.
For the NL Wild Card game, I am picking the Milwaukee Brewers to advance to the NLDS. When the reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich was shut down following a season-ending knee injury on Sep. 10, baseball pundits expected the Brewers to miss the playoffs. Yet the Brewers remained resilient and finished the season strong, winning nine of their last 13 games. This resiliency will prove to be useful in the playoffs.
On top of their resiliency, the Brewers boast multiple hitters with a batting average above 0.250. The bullpen has been consistent all season and holds superstar closing pitcher Josh Hader, who is second in the NL in saves at 37. Strong hitting, reliable pitching and heart gives the Brewers the edge over the Nationals.
In the AL Wild Card race, I am picking the Oakland A’s to move forward. The A’s are coming off of an impressive 18-6 September record. They hold power-hitting first baseman Matt Olson and consistent-hitting shortstop Marcus Semien to lead the offense, as Olson leads the team in home runs with 36 and Semien leads the team in hits with 187.
The five starting pitchers have a combined average ERA of 3.40, as well as together accounting for 55 wins. Although the bullpen has been shaky this year with 31 blown saves, the strength of the starting pitching will seem to be enough for the A’s to squeak past the Rays.
Assuming the Wild Card games go as my predictions, the matchups for the division series will be set as such: For the NL, the Brewers will play the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the St. Louis Cardinals will play the Atlanta Braves. For the AL, the A’s will play the Houston Astros, and the Minnesota Twins will play the New York Yankees.
The Los Angeles Dodgers should easily take care of business playing the Brewers. The Dodgers lead the NL in total runs and in walks plus hits per inning pitched and have some of the most exciting players in the league in ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu and MVP favorite Cody Bellinger.
Coming into the postseason having won seven straight, the Dodgers are blazing hot. Having made the last two World Series, this Dodgers team has the experience and intangibles to make another deep playoff run. And as the saying goes, third time’s the charm.
I have the Cardinals over the Braves in a very close series. The Braves are coming into the playoffs having lost eight of their final 12 games, raising the question as to how focused the team is. You could make the argument that the Braves have been coasting after securing the division, but strong playoff teams historically have translated end of season success into the playoffs. The solid combination of the Cardinals’ hitting, led by Kolten Wong and Paul Goldschmidt, and pitching, led by Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, should be enough for the Cardinals to advance.
Finishing the season with a league best 107-55 record, the Astros are solid from top to bottom. Furthermore, this Astros team has many key returning players from the World Series winning team two years ago, such as superstars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. I expect this Astros team to easily go through the A’s.
The Twins and Yankees should fight it out in a close series, but I believe the Yankees will come out on top. With hitters such as DJ LaMahieu and Aaron Judge, the Yankees have arguably the best offense in the American League. This offensive firepower will propel the Yankees to the American League Championship Series.
In the National League Championship Series matchup between the Cardinals and Dodgers, the Dodgers will win the series in no more than six games. The Yankees-Astros ALCS series will go to seven games, with the Yankees taking game seven in Houston. This leaves the World Series between the Dodgers and the Yankees, marking the 12th meeting between these two franchises in the Fall Classic.
My gut is telling me that this really is the year for the Dodgers to win the World Series. The heartbreak and experience of the last two years will fuel the Dodgers’ bats and pitching to take down the Yankees in what should be a competitive series.
These are all my predictions for this playoffs. Regardless of the accuracy of these predictions, this postseason should be another exciting time for baseball and its fans.