2019 Division Series
Dodgers in 5
Sorry Washington, but your Wild Card victory does not count as a series. That was more of a play-in scenario, in MLB’s postseason format. Now you are truly in the playoffs, where bad things usually happen. The Los Angles Dodgers are seeking to get to the World Series for the third straight season as they played the bride’s maid to both the Astros in 2017 and Red Sox in 2018. The Dodgers again were the best team in the National League, posting a record of 106-56.
The Dodgers are the class of the National League, and it is by a wide margin. If L.A. is at its best than none of the other three teams in the NLDS, have a shot. The Dodgers’ pitching is superior, and the lineup is deep. The bullpen is solid, especially when Kenley Jansen is healthy. In short, the only chance the Nationals have is if something breaks down on the Dodgers side of the field.
If this is going to be a long series, Game 1 will be telling as the Nationals send Patrick Corbin against the Dodger’s lefty laden lineup. Los Angeles meanwhile will be sending Walker Buehler to the mound, hoping he does not take the day off. Beuhler was the Dodgers’ most reliable starter in the second half, as Hyun-Jin Ryu struggled after the All-Star Break. Playing in the Wild Card Game has stretched out the Nationals pitching, as they needed to use Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. If Corbin can come up with a big outing, the Nats could have a shot to pull off the upset.
In the end, the Dodgers’ bats will be too much to overcome, as there is not a weak spot. The Dodgers also can find some thunder off the bench. The series though will go the distance, as Washington as they showed against the Brewers can be pesky and has no quit.
Cardinals in 5
It has been 18 years since the Atlanta Braves last advanced in the playoffs, as they have lost eight straight postseason matchups, including last year’s NLDS against the Dodgers. The Atlanta Braves have great promise as they have both a strong lineup and a solid starting rotation. The bullpen also has been strong and deep for Atlanta. The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile made the most out of their team beating out the Cubs and Brewers in a three-team Central Division race.
The biggest factor for the Cardinals is Jack Flaherty, who has been the best pitcher in baseball in the second half, posting a 0.91 ERA. The Cardinals needed Flaherty to pitch Game 162 to win the division, meaning he will not take the mound until Game 2 of the Division Series.
With Flaherty taking the mound in Game 2, that means the Braves must take the opener with Dallas Kuechel on the mound. Kuechel has been reliable since singing in June and is the best choice with his experience while pitching in the playoffs with the Astros.
The Braves lineup is superior to the Cardinals, but the health of Freddie Freeman is a worry as the first baseman was not at his best in the final weeks of the season. This means they will need Ronal Acuna Jr. and Josh Donaldson will have to carry the weight.
The Braves postseason failures have been concerning. The Cardinals meanwhile have a history of rising in the October spotlight, look for the Cardinals pitching led by Flaherty to play a significant role as they pull off the upset in five games.
Astros in 3
As the season came to an end, there was no team better than the Houston Astros. They finished the season with the best record at 107-55. At the heart of Houston’s great season was a pitching staff that was second to none as Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole were the top two pitchers in MLB. Both Houston hurlers won 20 games, with Verlander leading the way with 21. Both pitchers had 300 strikeouts, with Cole leading the way with 326. The two also were 1-2 in ERA in the American League with Cole at 2.50 and Verlander at 2.58. For any team to beat the Astros, they must win at least two games started by the Astros dual aces. This does not even take into account Zack Greinke, who was acquired at the trade deadline and posted an 8-1 record over the last two months in Houston.
Charlie Morton had played a significant role in the Astros 2017 World Championship. Morton is now the ace for the Tampa Bay Rays, but he was needed in the Wild Card Game and will be not able to pitch until Game 3 at the earliest. By then the series could already be over.
The Astros lineup is just as strong as their starting pitching, with Alex Bregman has put up MVP numbers. The Astros have five players in their lineup with an OPS over .900. This includes Bregman and Rookie Yordan Alvarez who each had OPS over 1.000.
The Tampa Bay Rays hit four home runs in their Wild Card upset win in Oakland. That power surge was not typical of the Rays, who were among the bottom ten ranked teams in MLB for home runs in the regular season. The Rays won all season on pitching and to have a shot they need to outpitch the Astros. Nobody has been able to outpitch Verlander and Cole all season. This one has sweep written all over it.
Twins in 4
There can be no denying that the New York Yankees have dominated the Minnesota Twins over the last two decades. This includes the postseason, with the Yankees eliminating the Twins four times, winning ten straight games overall since Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS. Overall including the regular season and playoffs, the Yankees are 99-37 against Minnesota, making the Twins task to win this series look daunting indeed.
Both teams managed to top 100 wins, with the Yankees winning 103 and the Twins winning 101. Both teams also battled for history as they became the first squads to top 300 home runs in a season. In the end, Minnesota had the edge hitting 307 longballs to the Yankees 306.
One significant advantage the Yankees have is their bullpen, Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottevino have all been reliable all season. This will mean any game that gets past six innings without the Twins in front, Mission Impossible for Minnesota.
The Yankees have had a next man up philosophy all season as they dealt with a record “man games” lost to the Injured List. That strain may finally be catching up as their lineup struggled in the final week. If they are to make a long run, they will need a healthy Gary Sanche, and for either Edwin Encarnacion, Luke Voight or Giancarlo Stanton to be healthy and find their power strokes.
The Yankees big weak spot is the rotation as they seem to be undecided as to who gets the starting nod in Game 1. This is where their downfall will be. The Twins power will overwhelm the Yankees starters making the task an uphill climb for New York, one they will not be able to complete. Look for this to be the upset of the postseason Twins Win in four.