This week was, to say the least, surprising and unpredictable. The three MLB teams with the best regular season records — Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers — were eliminated this week in the divisional series. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: that’s what makes the postseason so exciting.
In the American League (AL), the No. 1 seed Orioles faced the No. 5 seed Texas Rangers, and the Rangers swept the O’s in three games. The Orioles were a slight surprise this season. It was common knowledge that they were a young team with a lot of promise, but hardly anybody predicted a triple-digit-win season out of this team so early.
The worry about Baltimore going into this series was its lack of pitching. The starting pitching was thin, and while its bullpen was among the best in the league, arguably the best closer in the league Félix Bautista was unavailable due to his need to get Tommy John surgery. The Rangers teed off in this series, scoring 21 runs, making the pitching worries of Baltimore warranted.
With that being said, the O’s aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They’ve got a lot of young talent on the roster to go along with the best farm system in the league. Expect them to be back next year.
The second series on the AL side was between the No. 2 seed Houston Astros and No. 3 seed Minnesota Twins. The ‘Stros came out on top, winning the series in four games. What else was to be expected?
Framber Valdez, arguably the ace of Houston’s staff when working right, had a blowup game in Game 2, giving up seven hits and five earned runs in 4.1 innings, which is totally out of character for him. It didn’t matter, though, as Justin Verlander, Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy stepped up and took care of the other three games. And Yordan Alvarez mashed — as he always does — finishing the series with a .438/.471/1.313 slash line.
The Texas rivalry in the ALCS should make for a fun one.
Moving over to the National League (NL) side of things, the No. 1 seed Atlanta Braves took on the No. 4 Philadelphia Phillies, with Philly beating Atlanta in four games.
Red October is so much fun; any time I’m watching the Phils play in October, I’m envious of those at Citizens Bank Park watching these games, and I’m not even a Phillies fan! The atmosphere is probably the most electric in the league, and Bryce Harper might be the coolest man alive right now. Harper has been the most clutch hitter of the postseason the last two years and carries a swagger that is so fitting for the atmosphere of Philadelphia.
The pitching staff stepped up in a big way, limiting the powerful Atlanta offense to seven runs in four games. If they can keep that up and Harper and Nick Castellanos continue to rake (they had seven homers combined in this series), I like the chances of Philly advancing to the World Series for the second straight year.
The final series to cover from this week was the shocking Arizona Diamondbacks sweep of the Dodgers. LA finished sixteen games ahead of Arizona in the regular season, yet got outscored 19-6 in three games this series. When your two best players — Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman — go 1-21 combined in the series and starting pitching gives up thirteen earned runs in 4.2 innings of work, I’d expect the series to go just the way it did. Simply put, the Dodgers saved their worst baseball of the year for the worst time possible, and the Diamondbacks took advantage.
The ALCS starts on Sunday, Oct. 15, with Game 1 starting at 5:15 p.m. PDT. Verlander will be pitching for the Astros at home, and Jordan Montgomery will be taking the hill for the Rangers.
I so badly want to take the Rangers as my pick to win this series, but it’s hard to deny the pitching and experience advantage Houston has. If the Rangers can keep the sticks hot, they’ve got a legit shot at their first World Series appearance since 2011. You know what, I will take the Rangers. Their offense is so exciting with bats like Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, and Nathan Eovaldi showed himself to be the ace he can be. This team is so fun to watch, and I hope it can win this Texas showdown.
My NLCS pick is the Phillies. It’s hard not to choose them, not only with the way they’re playing but with who their opponent is as well. They’ve got two pitchers who can both look like aces, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Their offense is powerful with bats like Harper, Castellanos, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, etc. I think they’re going to exploit the Diamondbacks in any way they can. Credit to the Dbacks for getting here in the first place, but I think their lack of experience and lesser offense will lead to their downfall.