Disclaimer: At the time of writing this — Houston leads Tampa Bay 2-0, New York leads Minnesota 2-0, Los Angeles and Washington are tied 1-1 and Atlanta and St. Louis are tied 1-1.
October is a busy month for sports fans. While the NBA and NFL seasons are just beginning and the NHL is in full swing, the sometimes-tedious, always fascinating MLB season is coming to an end. The eight best teams from the regular season – four from the American League and four from the National League, not including wildcards – fight it out to see who gets the luxury of facing off in the World Series.
To get a better picture of how the postseason is lining up so far, and who seem to be the favorites for a World Series birth, here is your official team-by-team Manitou Messenger MLB Postseason Preview/Predictions.
The Twins are coming off of one of the most prolific offensive years in baseball history. They broke the league record for most home runs by one team in early August, notching a league-best 307 homers by the end of the season. Led by Nelson Cruz with 41, the Twins had five players with over 30 home runs for the season, a feat that no other team came close to accomplishing. Alongside their tremendous power output, the Twins also maintained a solid team batting average of .274, the second best in the Majors. How can the Twins hope to reach the World Series for the first time since 1991? Well, beat the Yankees — a task that has proven essentially impossible for Minnesota in recent years. The perennial AL powerhouse has foiled much of the Twins postseason efforts in recent years, responsible for 12 of Minnesota’s last record-setting 15 postseason losses. Taking down the Yankees isn’t going to be an easy task, as the first two games in the Bronx have proven. It will be crucial for the Twins to mark their return to Minneapolis with two wins. I think this is certainly possible — in fact, I think Minnesota will take both games at home against the Yanks. However, in the pivotal game five return to New York, I can only see a Yankee series victory.
It’s impossible to begin talking about the Astros without first mentioning their immaculate pitching rotation. Ace Justin Verlander looks set for another AL Cy Young Award, notching 21 wins on the season with a 2.58 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. That is, if Houston’s number two, Gerrit Cole, doesn’t take it from him. Cole struck out a league-leading 326 batters this season and posted a better ERA than Verlander at 2.50. And lets not forget to mention former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, who rounds out the Astros’ three-man postseason rotation. This impeccable pitching record is coupled with an offense that led the league in team batting average at .274 and features the likes of Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley, two players at the very center of the AL MVP conversation. Oh, and Yordan Alvarez, who looks set to snatch the AL Rookie of the Year award after hitting 27 home runs and 78 RBIs in only 313 plate appearances. After Cole’s near perfect pitching performance on Saturday night, Houston heads into Florida up 2-0. The Rays might be able to take one at home, but I think the Astros will ultimately finish it off at Tropicana Field.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Of the two teams that competed in last year’s World Series, only the Dodgers have returned the playoffs this year. And, unlike their counterparts in Boston, the Dodgers were able to sustain their brilliance of the past season and return to the heights of the National League. Los Angeles posted the lowest team ERA in all of baseball, behind the Cy Young caliber season of Hyun-Jin Ryu and impeccable performances of superstar Clayton Kershaw and rookie Walker Buehler. Even Kenley Janson has been all but lights-out from the bullpen. This stellar rotation is coupled with the MVP-caliber hitting and fielding of Cody Bellinger, who hit 47 home runs and 115 RBIs and slashed a .305 batting average on the season. Both Joc Pederson and Max Muncy hit over 30 home runs each, and Justin Turner filled the on-base percentage gaps. The Dodgers are simply a dominant team, up there with the best performers from the American League. I gave my prediction for their series against the Nationals above. I think they’re beatable, don’t get me wrong. I also think they have too big of a chip on their shoulder to miss out on another World Series berth.