National League Division Series
San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals
It looks like deja vu all over again for the Giants. They’ve been the underdog so many times the last few seasons and it has resulted in two World Series titles. San Francisco will have to do it again being matched up with the Nationals who have to best record in the National League. If the Giants are to take at least one of the first two games in Washington, they’ll have their ace Madison Bumgarner ready for Game 3. Besides Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, the Giants have another solid hitter in Pablo Sandoval who doesn’t shy away from the Postseason spotlight. Brandon Crawford hit a grand slam in the Wild Card game to put the Giants ahead for good against the Pirates. There’s a lot to see in their lineup even though on paper it isn’t star studded like others. The Giants bullpen go an extra night of rest with Bumgarner’s complete game shutout in the Wild Card game. There’s no reason to expect them to stay fresh for a 5-game series.
Expectations have been high for the Nationals the last few seasons. This year is no different even though their manager Matt Williams hasn’t managed in these situations before. He’ll be put to the test in every situation with a seasoned manager in the other dugout in Bruce Bochy. On paper the Nationals have a better rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez. Their bullpen is better too, especially at the back end. Washington’s lineup is better from top to bottom, but is there enough composure on this team if they go down in a hole early in a game? That will be interesting to see. The Pirates didn’t have anything left after going down 4-0 early in the Wild Card game to the Giants. If that happens to the Nationals will they respond? A lot of eyes will be on Bryce Harper, but it should be focused on the likes of Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche. Those two have been the established hitter all year for Washington and they have to perform for them to advance.
Giants win in 4 games
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s amazing to think that the Cardinals could get past the favored Dodgers with the great starting pitching at their disposal. The Cardinals don’t have the same kind of continuity in their rotation after Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn. Michael Wacha has been banged up all year long. John Lackey and Justin Masterson have needed some time to assimilate in the clubhouse, but having those two at this point is a huge plus. There is no shortage of power arms in their bullpen. You’ll be hard pressed to get a hit or start a rally against Trevor Rosenthal in the ninth inning. Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday will do some damage, but the likes of Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter must do their part in getting on base often if the Cardinals are to defeat the Dodgers.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will start the first two games. After that the Dodgers hope they don’t need Kershaw to pitch in Game 4 or 5. The mindset from afar would be to try and finish off the Cardinals quickly. Move on to the NLCS and set your rotation up for a tougher series. Make no mistake though that the Cardinals have been in the Dodgers heads for sometime. Adrian Gonzalez has been a RBI machine all year long and Matt Kemp is getting hot at the right time. If Yasiel Puig keeps his mistakes to a minimum the Dodgers should have no worries. Dee Gordon will need to get on base anyway he can. His speed will create matchup nightmares for the Cards even with Yadier Molina behind the plate.
Cardinals win in 5 games
American League Division Series
Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels
With all the emotion of the Wild Card game now fading the Royals now have to focus on defeating the Angels who have been one of the best teams in baseball. Jason Vargas and Yordano Ventura will begin the series in Anaheim. If Kansas City can steal one against the Angels in the first two games, they’ve shown they will be tough to beat at Kauffman Stadium. There is no shortage of reliable arms in their bullpen. With a lead they will be tough to score runs on. Their young lineup isn’t a liability with Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez and a steady veteran in Billy Butler. What the Angels will have to worry about is their speed off the bench. Oakland found out the hard way about that.
This time off has given the Angels pitching staff some time to pick themselves back up in the health department. Jered Weaver will go in Game 1 while Matt Shoemaker who is a contender for AL Rookie of the Year is healthy for the Postseason run. He’ll start Game 2. C.J. Wilson will be the key in Game 3. The Angels have had trouble with knowing which C.J. will come to the park. There will be a big spotlight on Mike Trout in his first Postseason appearance. How he’ll do will affect the entire lineup. Albert Pujols and Howie Kendrick have been phenomenal in the middle of the lineup down the stretch. Josh Hamilton will be available for the Postseason after suffering some shoulder issues late in the season. If Kole Calhoun can continue to be the table setter he’s been all year, the Angels will have not much to worry about.
Angels in 4 games
Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles
With Miguel Cabrera forgoing his Postseason bonus, it would appear that the Tigers slugger wants a ring really badly. That should be all the motivation the team needs to get it done this year. Victor Martinez has been a MVP candidate with Cabrera having a subpar year compared to his two previous MVP seasons. So goes Martinez, so go the Tigers lineup. Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander. There should be no debate about who has a better rotation in the American League. Their two backups in Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez aren’t too shabby either if the Tigers make it to the ALCS. Detroit’s bullpen has been their achilles heel all year and they need to play well if the Tigers are to advance.
The Orioles were sneaky good this year. Adam Jones should get some MVP votes with his stellar season leading the Orioles. Nelson Cruz has been exactly what Baltimore needed with his one year tryout. With Chris Davis still suspended for testing positive for an illegal substance, Cruz has filled that void for them. There isn’t a lot of speed for the Orioles. They rely on their power hitting to drive in runs, but Nick Markakis has been a great table setter batting in front of the sluggers. If he continues to get on base they shouldn’t have any problems scoring runs. Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris will get the start in the first three games respectively. There is plenty of depth in the bullpen with Kevin Gausman being moved there. This is perhaps the best chance for Baltimore to make some noise with this current roster.
Tigers in 5 games