By: Paul Fritschner ~Staff Writer~
As the days get shorter and the chill in the air becomes more pronounced, the Major League Baseball postseason begins to heat up. The playoff gauntlet is chock-full of storylines as the final four teams make their run for the Commissioner’s Trophy.
The first and most prominent storyline is the Chicago Cubs ‘and their quest for that elusive World Series championship. Their maladies have been discussed at length, their playoff woes written about for the past century. Many are convinced this is the year the North-Siders finally dispel the curses of the billy goat and the curse of the black cat as well as exonerate Steve Bartman for his “crime” against the team in 2003.
While the Cubs vanquished the San Francisco Giants in the first round, they are locked in a battle against the Los Angeles Dodgers in round two.
Chicago is far-and-away the favorite to win the World Series, but its play to this point hasn’t been as stellar as it may seem from the outside. Two of the club’s biggest stars, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, are struggling mightily to get their bats going, hitting .043 and .045, respectively. As a team, the Cubs are fourth among the four active teams in batting average, same with on-base percentage. However, they have had very timely hits, and that’s what matters this time of the year. They’re second in runs scored with 25, and their pitching staff has a 2.84 ERA.
The Dodgers squeaked by in the National League Division Series, edging the Washington Nationals three games to two behind their workhorse of a pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers have not won a game that Kershaw did not pitch in since Sept. 29, so that is one thing to keep an eye on as the playoffs progress.
In the American League, it is a much different story. The Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Andrew Miller has put together a historic postseason, leading an Indians team that has looked almost untouchable. Photos courtesy of cleveland.com Blue Jays are competing for a shot to play in the Fall Classic, but right now, it does not seem to be much of a competition.
Both teams swept their Division Series matchups, but the Indians have proved superior in the American League Championship Series. The Tribe is currently first amongst active playoff teams in batting average, third in on-base percentage and second in both slugging percentage and home runs.
Andrew Miller has been one of the biggest stories for the Indians. The closer has the most strikeouts through a player’s first 9.0 IP in a single postseason in MLB history, via the Elias Sports Bureau. He has 20 strikeouts to only two walks and has only given up four hits while not allowing any runs. He has the second-lowest batting average against among active postseason pitchers this year at .133.
Needless to say, when Miller has entered the game, Cleveland has felt confident in its chances.
The World Series is approaching, and a battle is looming. Game 1 is Oct. 25.