Flyer News Sports Staff Makes MLB Playoff Predictions
By: Steve Miller – Sports Editor and FN Sports Staff
Both defending league champions return to Major League Baseball’s playoffs this season, but face stiff competition on their road to defending their pennants.
On the American League side, the Cleveland Indians have the top seed and home field advantage, but will have to battle the winner of the resilient Minnesota Twins and the high-powered New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. Although the Indians took the league by storm with their historic 22-game win streak, it’s a whole new ballgame in October when records are wiped clean.
The youthful Houston Astros look to jumpstart their city, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey, against the Boston Red Sox in the other ALDS. Boston won the AL East for the second-consecutive season, but look to avoid being bounced out in their first series again.
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In the National League, the Chicago Cubs failed to run away with the regular season crown the way many predicted. Instead, the Los Angeles Dodgers completed one of the most hot-and-cold 100-win seasons in baseball history.
No matter the outcome of the NL Wild Card, the Dodgers will face a fellow NL-West rival in the NLDS. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies both return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and 2009, respectively, and will take on each other’s electric offenses in the wild card game.
Chicago, who hold the three-seed, will take on the second-seeded Washington Nationals in the other NLDS. Washington, who has failed to win a playoff series in their three attempts since 2012, brandishes hot bats heading into October. And with a one-two pitching punch of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, will be a tall task for Kris Bryant and the Cubs’ offense, which struggled significantly more this year than last.
The Flyer News sports staff laid out their predictions for the October ahead.
This year’s MLB playoffs should be extremely exciting with the amount of young teams finally reaching their potential. I think pitching will be the biggest factor, especially in the shorter opening rounds, where the top two or three in the pitchers in starting rotation play a large role in setting the tone. With a “final four” of the Dodgers, Nationals, Indians, and Red Sox, it is hard for me to choose. The Nationals and Red Sox have a great combination of veterans, young stars, and starting rotations that have enough playoff experience and potential to win their conferences. Ultimately, Boston has two former Cy Young winners who aren’t even considered to be their ace alongside a loaded lineup with a leader in Dustin Pedroia who has been there a few times before.
Growing up just north of Chicago and remembering times when I would go to watch games at Wrigley Field knowing there was a greater chance that I would catch a foul ball than there was of the home team actually winning, I had to pick the Cubs to win it all. I believe that Chicago has the toughest road to the Series, as the Nationals and Dodgers are two clubs that have proven consistency throughout the season; nonetheless, I look forward to October and hope to see some of last year’s magic to the diamond.
As a native Virginian, it’s in my heart to declare that this is the year the Nationals will break out of their NLDS funk and make it to the championship series. I don’t trust the streaky Dodgers to beat whichever wild card winner emerges the hottest, so I picked the Diamondbacks to advance to the NLCS as well.
On the American League side, the young Houston Astros have been on the verge of greatness for a while, and I think this is the year they’ll finally push all the way through. There’s something to be said for resilience, and passion. The Red Sox won the World Series in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Yankees won the AL pennant in 2001, and I think Houston pride will propel the Astros to a World Series in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
It saddens me that I did not pick the Red Sox to win it all (I hope Big Papi doesn’t find out about this) but I’m being realistic here.
Although Yanks’ starter Severino has a hot arm, he’s never played in the postseason at any level and whilst the New York offense is explosive, the Twins should prevail under starter Ervin Santana. The NL Wild Card will be closer because D-backs’ Greinke has been seesawing his performance in the postseason. Even so, I think the Arizona bats, led by Goldschmidt, will compliment Greinke’s decent enough outing to beat the Rockies. After this it gets surprisingly easier. The Red Sox have enough pitching and offensive, but only enough to best the Astros in five games. The Indians just can’t stop, and the Twins just don’t have the capability to stop their offense. Sorry Steve, but the Nats are missing something…I don’t know what it is but they’re missing some vital feature that allows a team to remember how great they are and continue playing that great in the postseason; thus, the Cubs, who have been there before move on to the NLCS. Although Los Angeles has been streaky, I believe this year they have the thing the Nats are still looking for and sweeps Arizona. The Indians will once again just step over my Red Sox in similar offensive fashion, and the Dodgers will overpower the young swingers in Chicago with pitching. In the end, the #WIndians, with their bullpen take the pennant this year.
For the Wild Card games, I predicted the Diamondbacks will beat the Rockies and I am predicting a surprise win with the Twins over the Yankees as the Twins’ hitting has heated up as of late. For the NLDS, the defending champs Cubs will beat the Nationals and a hot Diamondbacks team will beat the Dodgers, who have not looked good in the late parts of the season. For the ALDS, the Astros will beat an inconsistent Red Sox team and the Indians will beat the Twins. For the NCLS and the ALCS, the Cubs will beat the Diamondbacks and the Astros will actually beat the Indians. For the World Series, the Astros will beat the Cubs because MVP candidate Jose Altuve has been an excellent leader for the team all season, especially going into the postseason.
Follow along all October as baseball’s 10 best teams duke it out for the World Series title. The AL Wild Card game is Tuesday, Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The NL Wild Card game will be held Wednesday at 8 p.m. on TBS.
Graphic designed by Jessica Burnham