National League Division Series
San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs
It’s an even year and all eyes are on the Giants and whether they can win another World Series. Madison Bumgarner’s heroics during the Wild Card game were amazing to see. If he can do that for one or two games max against the Cubs, then the Giants will be sitting pretty. What happens with their lineup all comes down to Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Those are the RBI machines. Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford have been known to deliver clutch hits during October. They were in line to win the division, but they seem to thrive when they’re the Wild Card team.
The Cubs depth will be tested in October. Over the course of a 162 game season, they were able to mix and match hot and cold players. For a five game series there will be immense pressure. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are the main cogs that keep the Cubs running. Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist are the table setters and will need to be at their best. Chicago’s starters can match up with anyone, but their bullpen is what will make or break their chances of getting to the NLCS.
Cubs in 5 games
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals
Will this be the year that Clayton Kershaw finally gets out of his October funk? He had better if the Dodgers will look to be contenders rather than just be in for one series. Their pitching staff has always been their strength, but they need to score runs to take pressure off the arms. Adrian Gonzalez can’t do it by himself. Yasiel Puig and Howie Kendrick are just two names that need to step up and drive in runs during crucial stretches.
There has always been high expectations for Washington to make a run for the NL Pennant. This year is no different, but they are coming into this without their ace Stephen Strasburg. Their rotation is still good with Max Scherzer at the top, but their bullpen has always had issues in October. What will Bryce Harper accomplish in this series and can rookie sensation Trea Turner continue his hot stretch when he was called up in August?
Dodgers in 4 games
American League Division Series
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers
Toronto slugged their way into October once again and they didn’t disappoint with a walkoff 3-run HR by Edwin Encarnacion in the Wild Card game. This lineup is still dangerous and they can score with the best of them. Their pitching has a lot of holes, especially in the bullpen. If Toronto’s offense can score plenty of runs that might not be such an issue going forward for them.
The Rangers made some moves during the season acquiring Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy in separate trades to help bolster their lineup. It matches up well with Toronto in the run scoring department. Having Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish at the top of your rotation isn’t bad either and there in lies the advantage for Texas. Their bullpen is deeper and healthier than Toronto’s.
Blue Jays in 5 games
Boston Red Sox vs. Cleveland Indians
Conventional wisdom has this Boston team poised to be one of the best scoring teams in recent memory. David Ortiz is having a career year in his final season. Mookie Betts has been on a tear most of the year. Not a lot of holes in the lineup to pitch around. The pitching isn’t the best in recent memory, but they have two capable closers in the bullpen that they can call upon to close out a game in Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara.
Cleveland has been bitten by the injury bug going into October. Carlos Carrasco will not be available to pitch. Corey Kluber missed a few starts at the end of the season, but will pitch in Game 2. The bullpen is solid and it’s a good thing they acquired Andrew Miller at the trade deadline. The lineup is sneaky good and you can bet that Francisco Lindor will make a splash at some point in this series.
Red Sox in 4 games