Astros in 6
Never more than before has the League Championship Series had the feeling of a World Series like this heavyweight matchup between the defending World Champion Houston Astros who were 103-59 in the regular season and the Boston Red Sox who were 108-54. The combined 211 wins are one of the best ever for a postseason matchup. The winner will host the World Series, and be an overwhelming favorite of the NLCS, which almost feels like the undercard in a huge prizefight. Both teams were impressive in their Division Series wins, as the Astros swept away the Indians, while the Red Sox outclassed the rival Yankees in four games.
This is the second straight season that the Astros and Red Sox are meeting in October, as the Astros beat Boston in four games in last yearís division series. During the regular season, the Astros won four of seven meetings, splitting a four-game series at Minute Maid Park at the beginning of June, and winning two of three in Fenway Park in September. In last yearís ALDS, the Astros got monster series from Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, keeping them in check is on the series checklist of musts if the Red Sox are to win.
Both teams feature deep and versatile lineups that can score runs in a number of ways as well as break a game open with a home run. As the ALCS begins, the Astros top hitter is Alex Bregman, who after a strong postseason last year had a breakout 2018, with a team-high 31 home runs. Against the Indians Bregman had a superhuman 2.048 OPS, batting .556 with a pair of home runs. Marwin Gonzalez also had a monster series, batting .538 with five RBI. Boston meanwhile got several big hits from J.D. Martinez, who hit .357 with six RBI in the Division Series, while Brock Holt delivered the first postseason cycle in MLB history in Bostonís Bronx beatdown in Game 3, while Andrew Benintendi was an important sparkplug, which was extra important as likely AL MVP Mookie Betts struggled.
The Astros and Red Sox are not on the bullpen bandwagon. As both teams bullpens during the regular season was their weakest link. In the Division Series against Cleveland, the Astros bullpen was flawless, while the Red Sox survived a shaky Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox got solid middle relief, meanwhile with journeyman Heath Hembree retiring all nine batters he faced.
The Red Sox main concern has to be the starting pitching, while they got a great start by Nathan Eovaldi in Game 3, the continued postseason struggles of David Price has to be a concern. Chris Sale, pitched well in the Division Series but did not pitch deep, as he got the win and had a perfect inning of relief in Game 4. Sale must be the pitcher that was a Cy Young favorite, if the Red Sox are to win this series, as he likely will be matched up against Justin Verlander who has been one of the most reliable pitchers in the postseason, with a career record of 12-6 with an ERA of 3.08, winning the ALCS MVP in 2017. This is even more vital with Gerrit Cole who had a dominant effort in the ALDS getting the start in Game 2. Nathan Eovaldi who gave Boston a great start in the Division Series, may not be able to provide the same type of performance against the Astros, as he was able to take advantage of the Yankees over aggressiveness. Against Houston a team that is among the hardest to strikeout, he could be a vulnerability.
The Red Sox got all the headlines all season, as they had the best season in franchise history winning 108 games, as they battled the 100-win Yankees. The defending champion Astros meanwhile enjoyed the time in the shadows, as they quietly won 103 games, finishing the season strong. The Astros are the absolute worst team for Boston matchup wise. They are patient, have good starting pitching and can match the Red Sox potent lineup. Add in stronger frontline starters and it is clear that Astros are the better overall team and will win the series.
Predictions Made October 11, 2018 at 11:50 pm ET
Brewers in 6
There is no hotter team in the postseason than the Milwaukee Brewers, who have not lost a game since September 22nd. Since that date, Milwaukee has won 11 games in a row, including a one-game Central Division Tiebreaker over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, and the NLDS sweep, in which they outscored the Rockies 13-2. The Los Angeles Dodgers also come in playing their best ball of the season, record an 18-9 record in September before beating the Rockies in a one-game Western Division tiebreaker. In the Division Series, the Dodgers easily dispatched the overmatched Braves in four games.
In the season matchup, all in the two-week window after the All-Star Break, the Dodgers won four of seven. Taking two of three in Miller Park with the debut of Manny Machado, and splitting four in Dodger Stadium two weeks later. At the time, the Brewers were scuffling, as Christian Yelich had yet to hit his MVP stride.
The Brewers main concern as the series begins has to be rust as they finished off Colorado on Sunday. When you are as red-hot as the Brewers have been you want to go out to the park every night. The Dodgers who are in the NLCS for the third straight year are seeking a return to the World Series, having dominated the Cubs last year after losing the year before. Clear Los Angeles has the edge in experience; a key will be taking the fans in Milwaukee out of the game. With an edge in starting pitching the Dodgers must take control of the game early, as the Brewers bullpen is one of the best in baseball. In their sweep of the Rockies, Milwaukee ran the bullpen game in all three games effectively as Colorado scored in just one of the 28 innings played.
Clutch at-bats and timely hitting have been the key for the Brewers, as they did not make much use of the long ball against the Rockies, though Christian Yelich seemed to be in the middle of every rally, with a .571 OBP. Mike Moustakas acquired at the deadline from the Royals had several big hits in the Division Series; he is the most experienced Brewer in the playoff having played a big role on Kansas Cityís 2015 World Championship. The one area Milwaukee needs to improve is base running as they ran themselves out of a few innings in the NLDS. Mistakes against like that a team against the Dodgers may be harder to overcome.
The Dodgers meanwhile are home run happy, coming off a Division Series where they hit eight home runs in four games. Nobody appears to be more locked in than Max Muncy and Manny Machado who each had a pair of dingers. Machado, who struggled at times with the Dodgers, has shown why he was the prize of the deadline market, with six RBI against the Braves. Justin Turner meanwhile continues to be a postseason masher batting .357 in the NLDS. The 2017 NLCS co-MVP has a lifetime .325 average in the postseason.
In the old days a team like the Brewers, without a frontline starter would be no match for the Dodgers, who are able to call upon Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jim Ryu, and Walker Buehler to give them quality innings. However, 2018 is the era of the bullpen, it seems that itís more important to have a stronger and deeper bullpen. Add in home field for Milwaukee and you have the Brewers in six.
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