2016 ALCS & NLCS
Indians in 7
Both the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays were unbeaten and unbowed in the Division Series, marching their way into the ALCS with a three game sweep. Both teams could not have played any better, as the Jays got all the clutch hits, while the Tribe shutdown the Red Sox power packed lineup. Both teams got good starting pitching and flawless relief, and appear to be evenly matched with a trip to the World Series on the line.
Both teams have solid offense, though in the regular season the Blue Jays at times had their struggles as they only hit .248 as a team, while the Indians had the third highest average in the AL at .262. Most importantly though both teams ranked in the top five in scoring. Toronto’s offense is paced by Edwin Encarnacion who led the league with 127 RBI, while hitting 42 home runs. His biggest blast came in the Wild Card game, launching Toronto on its current run. Encarncion has had monster postseason so far with three homers and seven RBI, while batting .375. If the Indians are going to advance they will need to keep Encarncion under wraps. The Tribe have a much more balanced line up and at times used small ball to get past the Red Sox. Jose Ramirez was a key player in the ALDS, batting .500, while scoring four times.
The Cleveland Indians have a more settled starting rotation as Corey Kluber will start the opener, followed by Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Thus far Toronto has only named Game 1 starter Marco Estrada. Expect J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez to start the remaining games. Overall the Tribe have the better rotation despite missing Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Facing the Red Sox, who were baseball’s best offense, the Indians allowed just seven runs in three games. Kluber in his start, pitched seven scoreless innings, with seven strikeouts. Estrada meanwhile had a fantastic start against Texas in the Division Series opener, allowing just one run before exiting in the ninth inning. Corey Kluber has had his struggles in the past against Toronto, with a career record of 1-3 and an ERA of 5.34. If Cleveland is to win this series, Kluber has to pitch better.
When series are this close, most often it comes down to the bullpen and the Indians pen was fantastic in their win over the Red Sox, as both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen did some heavy lifting to get wins in games one and three. If needed both can pitch more than one inning, which could come in handy. The Blue Jays bullpen was just as good, despite Closer Roberto Osuna pitching with a sore shoulder. The Jays pen has allowed just two runs in 14 innings, as they pitched five scoreless innings in the Wild Card Game and four and a third scoreless in the Game 3 clincher against the Rangers.
This series has seven games written all over it. With that decisive game at Progressive Field, and Terry Francona having the expiernce of leading his teams to win in such big games the edge has to go to the Indians.
Cubs in 5
Need more proof this is the year of the Chicago Cubs, look at the what they did in the Division Series against the Giants. They got clutch hits from Javier Baez and strong starting pitching throughout the series. When things started getting hairy down 5-2 in the ninth inning of Game 4 they scored four times to finally slay the Giants even year magic. If you don’t think that is a big deal, consider this the San Francisco Giants won three World Series, in three playoff appearances in even years. To do that the Giants were magical in elimination games winning ten straight and were on the way to an 11th before the Cubs bats woke up and saved a lot of heartburn from long suffering Cubs fans not wanting to see a do or die Game 5.
The Los Angeles Dodgers did not win their Division Series they survived it, they continued the strategy of pitching Clayton Kershaw on short rest and won Game 4. They then used their entire pitching staff to win Game 5, benefiting from the Nationals misadventures in base running. In short the Dodgers pitching staff is a mess. Kershaw will likely get the nod in Game 2, but who throws the opener? Kenta Maeda who was awful in Game 3 perhaps, even though the Dodgers won his two starts Kershaw did not pitch well in the NLDS, posting an ERA of 6.17, while Rich Hill the Game 5 starter was also ineffective. One pitcher who could be an ace in the hole for Los Angeles is Joe Blanton, who did not allow a run in two wins over the Cubs in the regular season. The Dodgers were able to overcome their pitching struggles against Washington, but the Cubs lineup is too strong and their rotation is too good and too deep. The Dodgers bullpen is also in shambles as they needed to call on Closer Kenley Jansen to go three innings in Game 5 and out if desperation had Kershaw record the final two outs.
The Cubs needed just four games to beat the Giants and their pitching rotation is rested and lined up perfectly for the NLCS. It is quite possible Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester will finish 1-2 in the Cy Young voting and that is who the Dodgers after a five game war with the Nationals have to face in the first two games at Wrigley Field. Then when they go home they get Jake Arrieta, who last season tossed a No Hitter on the mound at Dodger Stadium going Game 3. The Dodgers would have to consider themselves fortunate if they are not down 0-3.
Justin Turner is the Dodgers hot bat, if they are to have a chance in this series he must continue to collect big hits, like the triple to center, that plated two key runs in the Dodgers three run rally in the seventh inning of Game 5. The Cubs lineup is much deeper and both Javier Baez and Kris Bryant had big hits and hit .375 against the Giants. The Cubs do get more out of Anthony Rizzo who struggled in the NLDS with just one hit in 15 at bats.
The odds are stacked too high in Chicago’s favor this is the time it’s now or never, the Cubs will vanquish the goat and reach the World Series for the first time since 1945 and the series will be relatively easy.