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After a long summer of baseball, October is nearly upon us. The 2017 MLB Playoffs are shaping up to be very exciting with many headlines heading into next week:”Can the Cubs repeat?”, “Will the Indians and Dodgers capitalize on impressive regular season campaigns?”, “Can the Astros and Nationals finally breakthrough and go all the way?”, and “What Wild Card team(s) will make a deep run?” Check out my MLB Postseason predictions below as we enter into the final weekend of the regular season.
Minnesota Twins @ New York Yankees
Ervin Santana (MIN) 16-8, ERA: 3.36 Sonny Gray (NYY) 10-11, ERA: 3.31
Spin: The Minnesota Twins have been the most surprising team in the American League this year. Coming off a 100 loss season they have found their way to the top of a pretty crowded AL Wild Card race for much of the second half. The reason? Home Runs. The Twins have hit an MLB leading 80 homers since August 8. Leading the way on offense is veteran infielder Brian Dozier at second base who has accounted for 87 RBI and 32 home runs*. Along with Joe Mauer at first base. Yes, the same Joe Mauer who was the AL MVP in 2009. The Twins will be trying to win in Yankee Stadium where they were just swept earlier this month. The Yankees have been spending their second half trying to track down the Red Sox, but to no avail. Rookie phenom Aaron judge had a tough second half but has still finished the season with 50+ home runs, an MLB rookie record. The Sonny Gray trade at the deadline helped beef up a solid starting rotation already consisting of CC Sabathia and Luis Severino who is having a break out season.
Prediction: In the end, having to go on the road to win a “do-or-die” game will be too much to overcome for the Twins. The Yankees pitchers will be sharp and the bullpen will come through to keep the Twins’ offense at bay in a close game. Look for Aaron Judge to begin a career of memorable October moments in New York.
Colorado Rockies @ Arizona Diamondbacks
Pitching Probables: Jon Gray (COL) 10-4, ERA: 3.67 Zach Greinke (AZ) 17-6, ERA: 3.18
Spin: The Diamondbacks, along with their loyal fan base, have been waiting six years to have a meaningful October baseball game in Chase field. After clinching the Wild Card game at home, tickets sold out in just over two hours. The folks down in Phoenix are ready to go, lets just hope their players are as well. Zach Greinke will be on the mound for the D’backs, and slugger Paul Goldschmidt will try to give some early run support for his starter. The Rockies come into the playoffs a little less gracefully, going just 13-12 throughout September, but ultimately outlasting a hungry Milwaukee Brewers team that was hot on their heels to the bitter end. Nonetheless, they are in, and sometimes that is all a team needs. Third baseman Nolan Arenado should easily be the NL MVP with 36 home runs and 129 RBI. He looks to get his team back to a division series for the first time since 2009.
Prediction: The Diamondbacks ride the wave of the Greinke, and win handily to set up a series with their division rivals out in L.A.
Yankees vs Indians
Spin: The Indians are out for revenge this year. If 22 consecutive victories isn’t enough to prove that, then I’m not sure what is. The hitters are hitting and pitchers are pitching. Corey Kluber is having another Cy young worthy season, and the electrifying Francisco Lindor leads the way on offense and defense. Simply put, the Indians are clicking on all cylinders. The Yankees will have to find a way to win a road game if they want to advance, and won’t have their ace for the series opener assuming they get past the Twins.
Prediction: The Indians will just be too much for the Yankees, and continue to ride the magic of their 22 game winning streak. Indians in four.
Red Sox vs Astros
Spin: Between the Indians streak and the Yankees’ rookie sensation, both of these teams quietly won their divisions rather easily. The Astros made one of the biggest moves at the deadline by acquiring Justin Verlander from the Tigers, creating a nice one-two punch of starters with Houston ace Dallas Keuchel. The offense is led by All-star second baseman Jose Altuve batting almost .350 on the season. On the other side we have the Red Sox who have gone out in consecutive offseasons to acquire some of the top starting pitchers in the American League. Chris Sale has fit in nicely for the Red Sox, recording 17 wins this season, while David Price has found himself another opportunity to prove himself in the playoffs. A trio of upcoming stars Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts look lead this young team to the ALCS for the first time since their World Series title in 2013.
Prediction: The Verlander move pays off for the Astros who squeak by the Red Sox in an exciting five game series.
Diamondbacks vs Dodgers
Spin: This series contains the most entertaining team in 2017: The Los Angeles Dodgers. A stretch of 43 wins in 50 tries, followed by losing 16 out of 18 a month later. Nonetheless, they still are one of the most talented and experienced in the field. Going on their fifth straight postseason, Clayton Kershaw looks to lead this Dodgers team over the hump with help from Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and a reemerging Yasiel Puig. Yu Darvish adds depth to this rotation, something it lacked last postseason. The Diamondbacks will be fresh off a Wild Card win and ready for their division rival. The best-of-5 structure always seems to put immense pressure on the favorite team to win the first game of the series, but Kershaw will continue his dominance into the playoffs.
Prediction: A tough Diamondbacks team will give it all they can but ultimately the Dodgers will prevail with too much star power and clutch playoff at bats. Dodgers in four.
Cubs vs Nationals
Spin: The 2016 World Series Champions put together an impressive second half to secure their division crown. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Wilson Contreras will produce on offense while Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta lead this loaded pitching staff. Wade Davis comes in to replace Aroldis Chapman as the closer from last season. As for the Nats, Bryce Harper will be back and reigning NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer will look to pitch two games of this series. Skipper Dusty Baker tries to overcome a managerial career overshadowed by a lack of postseason success.
Prediction: Cubs experience allows them to steal one of the first two games on the road and finish the series at Wrigley. Cubs in four.
Astros vs Indians
Spin: The Astros come in only have one playoff appearance since their World Series defeat in 2005. The Astros starting rotation has more depth, which could come in to play a huge factor if these series runs its full course. The Indians have more big time hitters, like Jose Ramirez, and will also enjoy having home-field advantage in this series. Both teams have very deep bullpens. Houston’s is lead by former starter Francisco Liriano, while the Indian’s is headlined by Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw who had incredible playoff numbers last year. The Indians came so close last year, but now hold the longest title drought in baseball. Look for a few early wins by the Indians at home but a strong response by the Astros and Jose Altuve in the games following.
Prediction: I’d be crazy to pick against the Indians, right? Well I’m doing just that. The pitching is there, and someone on the Astros is going to make their name known as clutch hitting and pitching get them to their first World Series in 12 years. Astros in seven.
Cubs vs Dodgers
Spin: Who wouldn’t want a rematch? Easily the second best series from last year’s postseason, will be back for its encore this year. This time around the Dodgers will come in as the favorites and the Cubs will have to win a game in L.A. I would give the Cubs the slightest edge in starting pitching only due to their number 4 starter, Jose Quintana, who came on strong in the second half after departing from a sinking White Sox team. For each teams number one, two, and three starting pitchers, its a dead lock. The regular season offensive production gives the Dodgers the nod, but this is October and the Cubs have big time players who have shown they are capable of making big time plays. Look for strong defensive plays to keep these games close. The only part I haven’t spoken of, the “achilles heel” of any successful playoff team, the bullpen. Both team’s closers are both lights out (Wade Davis for Chicago, Kenley Jensen for L.A.). That means the difference will often come in the middle relief innings.
Prediction: The Cubs won the 2016 NLCS. 2017 will be no different. The Cubs will win two out of three at Wrigley and find a way to win a pair of close games in L.A. Cubs in seven.
Cubs vs Astros
Spin: Will this series live up to 2016? Well, half of the combination is there. The Cubs will get back to the World Series and find an unfamiliar opponent in the Astros whom they have not seen this year. Like last year, the American League club will have home-field advantage. However that worked into the Cubs favor as they were able to utilize slugger Kyle Schwarber who wasn’t able to play in the field due to an ACL injury suffered earlier in the season. The Cubs will have a tough time against Verlander and Keuchel, but can get some damage done against the bullpen. The same may reign true for the Astros as the Cubs are often most vulnerable here.
Prediction: After falling behind again in the series, the Cubs win two in a row at Wrigley to take a 3-2 lead in the series back to Houston where the Astros will have an ace awaiting, but the Cubs hitters will show up. No one has the offensive depth like the Cubs. If the Cubs’ starters can go 5 or 6 innings per start, the bullpen should be able to survive a few innings to pass the ball off to Davis and wrap up any game. Cubs win it again, in six games this time around.