After two games in each series, the heat of the MLB postseason is underway. In what should be one of the most exciting postseasons in a long time, we are already seeing three series with a score of 2-0, and we may be seeing the shape of the Championship Series taking place. Although I did not write an article featuring my initial predictions for this round of the postseason, I want to take a minute to recap how each of the series has gone so far, how they compare to my original predictions, and where I think the rest of this initial round will go.
RED SOX VS. INDIANS
Initial Prediction: Red Sox in 4
Series score (as of October 9): Indians 2-0
Going back to Fenway, this series has been nothing but a disaster for the Red Sox so far. Their ace, Rick Porcello, was outdueled by Trevor Bauer Thursday night in a 5-4 loss, in which the Indians hit three home runs in the bottom of the third. The Sox then faced their worst nightmare Friday night when David Price, who is a career 0-8 in postseason play, got shelled yet again in a 6-0 loss. Now down 2-0, the Red Sox must take three straight in order to make it back to the ALCS, including a Game 5 back in Cleveland.
While things may look grim for Red Sox Nation, don’t count the Sox out yet. Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez, who will most likely throw Games 3 and 4 respectively, have been good as of late, with Buchholz letting up one hit over six innings in his last regular season start, while Rodriguez allowed just a 2.89 ERA in all of September.
This is where injuries could potentially hurt Cleveland. Although Bauer and Cy Young finalist Corey Kluber have dominated the top part of the Indians’ rotation, they lost both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to season-ending injuries, leaving Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger to fill the void. Tomlin has had an ugly second half to the season, posting a 4-7 record and a 5.59 ERA, while Clevinger has had a relatively better looking record of 4.17 ERA in the second half, but a 5.26 ERA overall in 2016. If the Sox want to come back, this would be their chance.
That being said, the Sox would need a lot to happen. Their young stars seem to have a case of stage fright and have been atrocious offensively – MVP finalist Mookie Betts has gone 1-7, Xander Bogaerts has gone 1-8, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. has gone 0-8. The Indians meanwhile, have seen four different players score by the long ball this series (Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, and Lonnie Chisenhall), and have scored from all over their lineup. The Indians also have an incredibly deep bullpen to maintain a lead, including the destructive combination of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen at the back end, which could spell out trouble for the Sox if they fall behind.
Although the cards look stacked against the Red Sox, I still think they will at least pull out Games 3 and 4 back at Fenway. With Big Papi’s farewell season on the line and with the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd, the Sox will come out pumped for these two, then could win in Cleveland with the momentum from these two wins. Expect an exciting conclusion to this series.
Red Sox over Indians in 5
TORONTO VS. TEXAS
Initial Prediction: Rangers in 5
Series Score (As of October 9): Blue Jays 2-0
Similar to the Red Sox-Indians series, this series has seen the Blue Jays unexpectedly go up 2-0. However, unlike the Indians, the Blue Jays won those games on the road, and are now returning home to potentially close the series.
This series was supposed to be an exciting rematch of last year’s epic 2015 ALDS, but so far has proven to be a one-sided blowout. Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, the two aces at the top of Texas’ rotation, got lit up the first two games, with Hamels allowing 7 runs (6 earned) over just 3.1 innings of work on Thursday, and Darvish allowing 5 earned runs over 5 on Friday. On the other side of the coin, everyone knew going into the series that the Blue Jays have a terrifying offense, but their pitching has done exactly what it has needed to do. Marco Estrada pitched a gem in Game 1, allowing just 1 run over 8.1 innings of work, while JA Happ and the Blue Jays bullpen held Texas’ well-rounded offense to 3 runs in Game 2.
The series now moves back to Toronto, with Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman set to pitch the next two games. Two aces pitching in the next two possible games, along with the red-hot offensive firepower from the likes of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, and Edwin Encarnacion, the Rangers should be in panic mode. Although the Rangers have an absurd 36-11 record in one run games this season, they also have one of weakest bullpens ERA-wise in baseball (4.40), and even though Game 3 starter Colby Lewis had a solid start to the season before hitting the DL, he is coming off of an ugly September, going 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA (i.e. 13 runs allowed over 12.0 innings pitched).
While you can’t really rule out the Rangers because of how competitive they have been all season, I think their season has finally come to die in Toronto.
Blue Jays over Rangers in 3
CUBS VS. GIANTS
Initial Prediction: Cubs in 4
Series Score (as of October 9): Cubs 2-0
The Team of Destiny vs. the Team of Dynasty. After winning the last three even-year World Series, the Giants may finally see their streak come to an end as they take on the Chicago Cubs. Looking for their first World Series title in 108 years, the Cubs rolled into this series as the team most likely to bring the gold home. They have explosive youth all throughout their lineup in players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Addison Russell, complemented with key veterans like Ben Zobrist and Jayson Heyward. They’ve solved their pitching depth woes that ailed them last season and now have a deep, experienced rotation that includes Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and John Lackey. Lastly, they added Aroldis Chapman to an already solid bullpen, ultimately rounding out their overall depth on both sides of the ball.
So far, this series has gone as expected. The Cubs won Game 1 off of a Javier Baez home run in an epic pitcher’s duel between Johnny Cueto and Jon Lester, then won last night’s Game 2 with a 5-2 victory after knocking Jeff Samardzija out of the game in the 2nd inning, at the expense of losing Hendricks to injury after allowing 2 runs in 3.2 innings of play (which could come back to haunt the Cubs in the NLCS, but not for now).
The Cubs are expected to go back to the NLCS, but will most likely have to wait until Game 4 to celebrate, as they match up against the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner tonight. Bumgarner, who just threw a 4-hit shutout in the Wild Card game against the Mets last week, is arguably one of the greatest postseason pitchers of all time, and has a 2.14 ERA at home this season and a career postseason ERA of 1.94.
Despite this, the Giants just don’t have the offense that they need to beat the Cubs. Although 11th in the league by team batting average (.258), they don’t score very much, only managing to score 715 runs in 2016 for the 19th highest total. Facing off against such a strong pitching staff against the Cubs, the Giants will struggle to provide any kind of run support for their own solid pitching staff, as seen in the first two games of this series.
I see destiny trumping dynasty this year, but dynasty will hold on for just a couple more days.
Cubs over Giants in 4
DODGERS VS. NATIONALS
Initial Prediction: Dodgers over Nationals in 4
Series Score (as of October 9): Tied 1-1
Honestly, this is, in my opinion, the least interesting of the four series. Ironically, though, of the four, this is the only one that has been tied through two, both of which have been very interesting indeed.
After two games, the Dodgers and Nationals have split in Washington and now move back to LA. In Game 1, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw continued his inexplicably poor postseason track record by allowing three runs through five innings and 101 pitches, but managed to outduel Max Scherzer after a strong four innings of work from the Dodgers bullpen and key home runs from Corey Seager and Justin Turner. The Nationals managed to beat Rich Hill in Game 2 after a key Jose Lobaton 3-run homer in the 4th and two clutch RBI singles from Daniel Murphy later in the game.
The key factor will come down to pitching depth. With Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias going in Games 3 and 4, the Dodgers will have two red-hot pitchers going before potentially turning back to Kershaw. Meanwhile, the Nats have announced Gio Gonzalez as their Game 3 starter, who struggled in September to the tune of a 7.43 ERA. Even though the Nats and Dodgers have two of the best bullpens in baseball, the Dodgers’ bullpen edges out the Nats’ bullpen, with a 31-21 record vs. a 21-21 record, and a 3.24 ERA vs. a 3.37 ERA. The higher quality of pitching depth should be an advantage for the Dodgers moving forward in the series.
Ultimately, even though the pitching matchup is tight, crucial injuries should be detrimental for the Nationals. Losing Stephen Strasburg hurts their rotation depth, while losing Wilson Ramos to season ending injury is a downgrade offensively (despite his replacement, Lobaton, hitting the go-ahead homer for the Nats in Game 2). Adding to the equation down years for Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth (among strong seasons from Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner), the Dodgers should be able to move onto the next round.
Dodgers over Nationals in 4