Since last week’s column was published, the field of 10 teams that made the MLB Playoffs has been trimmed to just five as three of the League Divisional series had ended by the time we went to press on Tuesday.
The first two teams were eliminated in the Wild Card round when Colorado defeated the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees defeated Oakland, resulting in the Rockies and Yankees moving from the kiddie to the adult table to participate in the League Divisional Series.
The third team to be eliminated was one of the two Wild Card winners as Colorado was swept in three games by the Milwaukee Brewers, who advanced to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 2011. The Brewers will face, and have the home field against, the Dodgers as Los Angeles eliminated Atlanta in four games, dropping only Sunday’s Game 3 when the teams moved to Atlanta following the Dodgers’ sweep of the first two games in LA.
The American League Divisional Series between Cleveland and Houston ended on Monday as the Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Indians with a road win in Cleveland after winning the first two games at home. The defending World Series Champions await the winner of the other ALDS between Boston and the New York Yankees.
After splitting the first two games at home, Boston won Game 3 Monday night at Yankee Stadium, putting the Red Sox in position to advance to face Houston in the ALCS with a Tuesday night win over the Yankees.
The winner of that series will face Houston in the ALCS which is scheduled to start on Saturday. The first two games will be played in Boston if the Sox advance. They would be played in Houston if the Yankees advance to what would be a rematch of last season’s ALCS which Houston won in seven games.
Houston will have several edges, most importantly in being able to set its starting pitching rotation against either foe. Their starting four of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel is consider by many to be the best one through four in all of baseball.
For Boston, even ace Chris Sale brings question marks into the postseason, although he was reasonably effective in his Game 1 start against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS. David Price’s struggles in the playoffs are well documented.
All three teams have potent lineups. Boston has the weakest bullpen of the three and the Yankees have the deepest but Houston’s has been very steady down the stretch. I tend to look for a split of the first two games and will likely sit out Game 1 and play the loser of that game in Game 2.
During the regular season Houston won four of seven games with Boston, splitting an early season series at home just after Memorial Day and taking two of three in Boston just after Labor Day. Five of the seven went over the Total with two staying under as the teams averaged a combined 9.3 runs per game.
Houston and the Yankees also met seven times but all were before the start of June. The teams played two overs, four unders and one push as the Yanks and Astros averaged a just a combined 6.7 runs per game.
The prediction is for Houston to advance to a second straight World Series by either defeating the Yankees in six games or the Red Sox in seven.
The NLCS series is set with Milwaukee hosting the LA Dodgers for the first two games with Game 1 scheduled for Friday. The Dodgers have the edge in starting pitching with Milwaukee having the bullpen edge. Arguably the Dodgers have the top three starting pitchers in this series with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and H J Ryu better than any Milwaukee starter.
Both teams have potent offenses. But the Dodgers have more depth and certainly more postseason experience. Kershaw is scheduled to start Game 1 with Milwaukee still undecided. The play in Game 1 for me will be to back the Dodgers laying the run and a half as Kershaw may be too highly priced to back straight. Although Kershaw has had issues in past postseasons, he will be well-rested and in his one appearance against Atlanta he pitched eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits while walking none. .
Milwaukee would normally be playable in Game 2 if they are down 0-1 in the series and are an underdog, likely facing Buelher or Ryu. If getting at least +120 in Game 2 the Brewers are justified for a play.
Ultimately the Dodgers are the pick to advance to what would be the first World Series rematch in 40 years. Milwaukee has had a great season but their fine bullpen may be called upon too much against the Dodgers and thus the Dodgers are the prediction to advance in no more than six games with five games being my most likely scenario.