The Major League Baseball season has ended with a usual mixture of heartbreak and optimism for next year, but some teams still have October to play for in their MLB postseason match-ups. Some teams have just come back for their yearly race, while others are finding themselves playing a longer season than usual this year. This is also a year in which neither the New York Yankees nor the Boston Red Sox extended their seasons, a first since the Wild Card was initiated in 1994, with the latter of the two being the defending World Series champions. Here is a short breakdown of which team looks poised to win, lose, and carry home a World Series trophy.
For the Wild Card games that sound the opening gong of the MLB Postseason, the match-ups are a mixture of familiar and new. The San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates have made this a yearly dance, with the Giants winners of two of the last four Series and Pirates making their second consecutive October playlist. Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Giants go on a run every other year, and this puts them on schedule to make it past this play-in game. A new match-up for this millennium is the Oakland Athletics and the Kansas City Royals. These are two teams that define small-market, but their play is still able to compete with anyone despite the price tag. That being said, the Athletics have slipped and slid down an icy hill for over a month now, and that trend will look to allow the Royals the next-round honors.
The Detroit Tigers versus the Baltimore Orioles and what would be the Washington Nationals versus the Giants have a familiar toss-up feel. There are huge pieces for some teams, such as Miguel Cabrera for the Tigers, that are countered by the opponents and could make these five-game sets intriguing. Should Justin Verlander decide to turn back into the magical ace of Tiger team’s past, then the combination of him, Matt Scherzer and Cabrera will be too much for the Orioles to counter. On the Nationals against Giants side, a Lincecum-less rotation is lesser, but the pieces of the remaining squad outweigh the Nationals’ line-up with experience and timely hitting. As it stands, Tigers and Giants squeeze ahead here.
The other two match-ups—St. Louis Cardinals versus Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals versus Los Angeles Angels—have sweep written along the box scores. Cardinals and Dodgers are very similar teams statistically with clear aces, timely hitting and power. Kershaw, however, is having a season for the ages and can nullify Wainwright and then some while the Dodger’s lineup has more stars. The American League match looks to give the Angels time to flex their power swings. Pujols, Hamilton and Trout seem to be prepared for a run with the Royals being the warm-up act. Angels and Dodgers should combine to lose only one game in the first round.
Next round action opens with the Angels against the Tigers in what could be a back-and-forth series in the clearest sense. One game should be a slugfest while another should be a pitcher’s duel reminiscent of the mid-2000 Yankees and Red Sox heavyweight bouts. In the end, the Tigers will squeak by on their steady arms and Cabrera in a roller coaster seventh game. The Giants against Dodgers National League series will inject some intensity into the rivalry and playoffs in general. That Giants magic, however strong, will run up against Kershaw, and it might seem really tough to win a series when the team is potentially losing two to three games he starts. The Dodgers glide through in six games.
The MLB postseason’s predicted end is in the match-up of the Tigers against the Dodgers. The Tigers have won a Series recently while the Dodgers have often struggled to make the playoffs; the former has a mastodon with a bat while the latter touts a gas-throwing magician on the mound, but the winner will here will be the team that accomplishes the little things. Kershaw versus Cabrera will happen, but these teams are a fairly close match down the roster, magnifying the shifts, pitching changes and pinch-hitter timings to a huge degree. Puig, Ramirez and Gonzalez will bring the energy that will counter the power of Cabrera, Martinez and Kinsler and find the needed gaps in the end. The MLB postseason, after a potentially long and draining ride, will have the Dodgers on top with this match-up going six games.
Commentary by Myles Gann