Phew! I’m a bit behind on this, and as you may have noticed if you’re really paying attention, only moments ago I actually posted last night’s NHL preview. It’s gonna get buried by this Division Series preview, so maybe I should schedule it for tomorrow morning. Keep in mind, I actually wrote it before the Red Sox faced off in Houston, but I didnt’ get to wi-fi until 5:50pm. Hey, we can’t win them all, like four of the following teams:
Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros
The Red Sox somewhat quietly put together an admirable takeover of the AL East this year, as all the news surrounded their Bronx rivals and the home run hitting phenoms that have emerged within that team. Pitching is what drives the Red Sox, and with Chris Sale starting off this afternoon’s first Division Series game, we’ll likely get a sense of how their postseason goes by his performance. He’ll face off against some threatening hitters, least of which is the leading baseball basher Jose Altuve. He’ll attempt to snuff out the rotation that boasts last year’s Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Doug Fister and Eduardo Rodriguez. Heck, I didn’t even mention David Price and he doesn’t necessarily have to be a starter. Rumor has it he may pitch out of the rotation, at least for the ALDS. It’s a classic test of pitching against hitting, as Altuve will be joined by Carlos Correa, George Springer, Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran. Their pitching is nothing to scoff at either, as Dallas Keuchel continues to bewilder, and Justin Verlander came down from Detroit to try his hand at a World Series run. If the Red Sox hitters can stay healthy, they’ll match Houston in power, but it’ll really come down to the leadership of Altuve and the strength of Sale and company. I’m thinking the Red Sox win in 5, if nothing else because they’ll need their batters to wake up at the right moment.
New York Yankees at Cleveland Indians
With the Minnesota Twins season cut short, the rightful wild-card winner will face off tonight against the Cleveland Indians, who’ve retained virtually the entire team that lost last year’s incredibly close World Series. Edwin Encarnacion came over from Toronto after having been beaten soundly be the Indians, only to sputter in the regular season. The surprise acquisition was Jay Bruce, returning to Ohio by way of the floundering New York Mets, and the former Cincinnati Red found himself at home in Progressive Field, batting .248 and smacking in 26 RBIs in 43 games once he’d arrived in Cleveland. He’ll use his newly discovered prowess to hopefully launch the Indians back into the AL Championship Series, but he and his teammates will be challenged by some of the Yankees bats. Aaron Judge is the man of the moment, while Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird are equally fascinating rookies to watch. Matt Holliday came over from St. Louis and played like he needed one more ring, while Didi Gregorius continued to make us forget Derek Jeter commanded the shortstop position for so long. My guess is that this is the matchup to watch out of all four, as so many players have the talent to succeed in the clutch. You never know, though, as we saw from last night’s wild-card game, where Archie Bradley slipped a triple into the outfield. I’d love to see Andrew Miller knock a low ball just over Clint Frazier’s head to knock the Yankees out. You never know what will happen, but with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco trumping Sonny Gray and CC Sabathia in my mind, I’m going to have to go with Cleveland in 4.
Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals
Now that we all know who the Chicago Cubs really are, it will be much tougher for them to charm their way into the World Series. The sentiment is that only coming into form towards the end of the season means that the exhaustion got the better of them back in April and May, and that the fire will begin as soon as Kyle Hendricks takes the mound tomorrow in Washington. The gang is all back, sans current St. Louis Cardinal Dexter Fowler and Royals pitcher Jason Hammel. They’ve retained the big hitters like Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant, and the pitchers are still there, like Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. You could even say they’ve improved that staff, as Jose Quintana came over from the south side, and Wade David replaces the suddenly disposable Aroldis Chapman (Yankees). The Nationals would have something to say about me fawning over the Cubbies though, as they certainly have the team that could make the World Series. Bryce Harper returns from injury just in time to face off tomorrow, while their pitching is some of the finest its been, even in this run of postseason appearances: Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark are firing on all cylinders. My guess is this matchup is more of a pitchers duel, with the whole thing going to 5 games, but with Washington lasting longer only because the Cubs have gone to the end of their rope after a long run last year. Washington in 5.
Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers
This is the easiest – and the boldest – of my predictions. Had the Rockies not fallen victim to Archie Bradley and the resiliently powerful Diamondbacks last night, I would have thought the Dodgers could buck the albatross that keeps them from winning and sweep the Rox right back to Denver. Instead, I think the plucky team out of Arizona will rise up and surprise us all, knocking out the perennially unlucky Dodgers. Sure, the best team in baseball has Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig and the inhuman Cody Bellinger. Heck, Curtis Granderson could be the cog that puts them over the top finally. Instead, I think the seams in this unspooling lie in the pitching field yet again. Clayton Kershaw has the yips every time he takes the mound when pumpkin spice is in the air, and Kenta Maeda had his worst year ever. Yu Darvish may end up overrated (just like Kershaw, great in the regular and a dud in the post). Alex Wood may be the most consistent, but he’s just one man. The Arizona batters can handle them, while pitchers like Bradley, Robbie Ray and the Andrew Miller of 2017: Fernando Rodney. If ever there’s a great story this year, it’s that Rodney finally shone like a diamond in the backfield of Arizona. I’m going with Arizona in 3, that’s right: a damn sweep.
Tomorrow, no more sports. For a week. We’ll have your usually scheduled program of Music to Your Ears, but next week we should dive into the upcoming basketball season, and maybe by the end of the week we’ll know the challengers for the Championship matchups, so we’ll have a take on those final four. Stay tuned!