Photo courtesy of flickr.com | The Houston Astros, last year’s World Series Champions, have advanced to the ALCS and are making a strong push to win a second-straight title.
Just about two weeks into the MLB playoffs, only four teams remain. The American League is being represented by the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox. The National League stands with the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Both of these series are quite compelling, considering they arguably consist of the two best teams in each league. October baseball is in full swing and should have baseball fans everywhere excited for the future.
The Astros and Red Sox have matched up quite evenly thus far into their series.
The Astros are undoubtedly the most complete team in baseball. They are led by young stars Alex Bregmen, George Springer and Carlos Correa. All the while, they still hold the veteran presence of Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve and Brian McCann.
What seems to separate the Astros from the rest of the league is the bullpen. Houston’s bullpen can get long innings from Lance McCullers, Jr., who has flourished in the reliever role this season. Setup man Ryan Presley put together a career year as well, with a 2.54 ERA and 101 strikeouts in the regular season. During the trade deadline the Astros got a new closer after landing Roberto Osuna in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. This has provided Houston with a stable back end to the bullpen that was not present with the team’s former closer, Ken Giles.
The Boston Red Sox combat the Astros with an offense led by Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez. They also throw out two former CY Young winners in Chris Sale and Rick Porcello. However, the Red Sox’s bullpen is going to need to perform better if they want to move forward and win the World Series.
In recent weeks, the bullpen has become an even bigger concern with the struggles of All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. He was one pitch away from blowing ALDS Game 4 against the Yankees and did not look strong in Game 2 of the ALCS. David Price will be a guy the Red Sox need if they want to succeed. His career playoff numbers, including relief appearances, are shocking. He is 2-9 with a 5.42 ERA. We will have to wait and see if the lack of pitching will hold Boston back from a World Series appearance.
The Dodgers and Brewers have had incredible series so far. The Dodgers might have the most talented team in the National League, but they are playing against the hottest team in the MLB.
The Brewers have been making moves left and right beginning this offseason, with the acquisitions of outfielder Lorenzo Cain and MVP candidate Christian Yelich.
Milwaukee also made transactions at the trade deadline by adding infielders Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Scoop.
The Brew Crew has also seen the emergence of first baseman Jesus Agular and stud relief pitcher Josh Hader. The Brewers might not be the most talented team, but they are young and hungry. They have brought a baseball buzz to Milwaukee that I have never seen before.
It’s hard to find weaknesses in the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have 12 to 13 position players that have proven and good enough to every day players in the MLB.
For example, veteran players such as Brian Dozier and Joc Peterson have been in the postseason before, yet they do not find their names in the lineup card every day.
The Dodgers rotation is led by three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and rookie sensation Walker Buehler with a bullpen held down by All-Star Kenley Jansen. Acquiring star shortstop Manny Machado might be what puts this Dodgers team over the edge.
Each of these teams has a chance to win the World Series, but it is going to come down to managing, execution and timely hitting.
My prediction is that the Astros will defeat the Dodgers in six games, repeating as World Series Champions.
By: Tim Kramer | Staff Writer