Last week's Wild Card round was nothing short of awesome. We got a 13 inning game between two of the league's best pitchers and a 10-9 shootout with countless lead changes which was in my opinion, the best game of the year. I went 4/8 on my predictions with both of my big underdogs losing, the Reds and White Sox, but I’m feeling good about this round after seeing all these teams play in the Wild Card round.
Yankees V Rays
The Rays did what was expected of them in the Wild Card round, sweeping the Blue Jays 2-0 in a series where they displayed how good their pitching staff is, giving up a total of three runs in the series. As for the Yankees, they dominated AL Cy Young favorite Shane Bieber as he gave up seven runs over five innings of work and in a very weird game two which featured two rain delays, the offense went to work again posting ten runs on the team many thought had the best bullpen in the league. Gio Urshela was the MVP as he hit a grand slam off of James Karinchak and turned an incredible double play in the eighth inning which arguably won them the game. As these two teams meet in San Diego to play, let's look back on the season series, where the Rays dominated, winning eight out of their ten meetings. These two teams do not like each other, benches cleared once already after both teams were purposely throwing pitches at each other, including a 100 MPH fireball from Aroldis Chapman which almost blew Michael Brosseu’s head off. This series is what every baseball fan wants to see and it is must see TV. The Rays will have the pitching advantage in all the games Cole doesn’t pitch, but in every game, the Yankees lineup will be better than the Rays by a big margin and because of this, I expect the Yankees to win in five as Gerrit Cole will pitch twice and the Rays will struggle to keep up with the Yankees offense. The big X factor is the Yankees bullpen and how Aaron Boone will manage it. We know the hitting is there, it's just up to the pitching to back it up. As for the Rays, their X factor is the opposite, we know the bullpen is solid, it's just up to the offense to score some runs. This is a match made in Heaven and I can’t be more excited.
Astros V Athletics
Well the 29-31 Astros are in the divisional round and as much as I hate to say it, they deserve it, their pitching was outstanding and they made the Twins bullpen look like a mess. As much as I hate to see them here, I actually see them winning this series as well. The Astros are one of the best teams in the league versus lefties and they will see both Luzardo and Manaea in this series, making them very dangerous. The Athletics offense did not impress me at all, they got extremely lucky in game three as Rick Renteria did a horrible job managing the bullpen and it seemed like whoever he chose couldn’t throw a strike to save their lives. Like I already said, the Astros pitching was outstanding versus a Twins offense which is easily better than the A’s especially without Matt Chapman. Yes, the A’s dominated the season series as they won seven out of ten meetings, but this actually makes me like the Astros more as they will be playing with a chip on their shoulder and even more so as they are seeking approval around the MLB to prove they can still compete without cheating. Once again, we have a Yankees Astros ALCS.
Padres V Dodgers
For me, it was much harder predicting the NL than the AL this round. The Padres escaped the Cardinals behind an incredible outing from their bullpen as they used nine different pitchers and gave up zero runs. It looks like Lamet and Clevinger may be ready for this series which would be huge for them as it gives them four serviceable starters versus the explosive Dodgers offense. The Dodgers didn’t look amazing versus the Brewers but they did enough to send them home after two games. I feel like the stage is too much for this young Padres squad and going up against three all star pitchers isn’t doing them any favors. I can see the Padres winning this series but this Dodgers team is way too good to go down this quickly. If we see the same Paddack and Davies we saw in the Wild Card expect the Dodgers to tee off them and advance to the NLCS with ease. I see the Padres taking one game but the Dodgers will dominate the series and win in four.
Marlins V Braves
Two teams I both had going home after the Wild Card meet in the divisional round. Wow, the Marlins just continued to shock us, Alcantara and Sixto pitched gems in what was both of their first postseason starts and the offense raked off the Cubs bullpen in game one and a Garrett Cooper homer off Yu Darvish in game two lifted them to keep their postseason series streak alive. As for the Braves, they were the most impressive team in the Wild Card round. I knew Fried would bring it but there were a lot of questions surrounding the rest of their rotation and their bullpen. Obviously the Reds offense is notoriously bad but the Braves bullpen was phenomenal, showing their talent and depth in a 13 inning thriller in game one and shutting them out in game two. Ian Anderson was also very impressive as I did not expect him to pitch that well in his first postseason start. The Braves are better than the Cubs in every aspect of the game and I expect the bullpen and starting rotation to pick up where they left off. This Marlins team is incredibly fun and I’d love to see them win this series but the Braves are just too powerful as I expect their hitting to improve in this series as well. Braves advance.