By Andrew Nason
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. October means one thing; playoff baseball is finally back! Here are my predictions for the 2017 playoffs.
Wild Card Games
Minnesota Twins @ New York Yankees
The Twins are a great story. They went from losing 103 games in 2016 to making the playoffs in 2017. Sadly, that great story will come to an end Tuesday. The Yankees have had a lot of success over the last few years against Minnesota’s Ervin Santana, and the Bronx Bombers will trot ace Luis Severino to face the Twins.
Colorado Rockies @ Arizona Diamondbacks
The Rockies offense has carried them to the postseason for the first time since 2009, but unfortunately, they’ll run into veteran Zach Greinke in a sudden death showdown in Arizona. Colorado’s Jon Gray has had success against the Dbacks this season, but I’ll take the Cy Young candidate with playoff experience.
Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros
The addition of former Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander makes this Houston team extremely dangerous. In 5 starts with the Astros, he is 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA. Likely to be matched up with Sox ace Chris Sale, that game is a toss-up, as the Sox limp into the playoffs with some nagging injuries to stars Mookie Betts, Eduardo Nunez and Andrew Benintendi. Houston also has Dallas Keuchel, oh, and the best offense in baseball. Boston won’t be able to keep up with the Astros on the scoreboard, despite Houston’s lack luster bullpen.
Winner: Astros in 5
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians
This one is an easy one for me. Cleveland is the hottest team in baseball and have the deepest pitching staff in the league. Cy Young favorite Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer form a deadly rotation, and Yankee hitters won’t be able to rest easy when they come out of games as the Indians still have Andrew Miller and Cody Allen waiting in the bullpen. Aaron Judge will face 3 starters who love striking guys out, something that doesn’t bode well for him or the rest of the Yankees offense.
Winner: Indians in 3
Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals
The reigning champion Cubs enter October playing great baseball, going 18-9 in September, and their starters had the best ERA in baseball during the second half. A talented roster with playoff tested veterans makes this a scary team, but the Nationals will be up to the challenge, with their loaded pitching staff and stacked offense, which gets Bryce Harper back at last following his recovery from a knee injury. If Harper is fully recovered and Max Scherzer’s hamstring cramps clear up in time, the National should be able to win a close one over the Cubies.
Winner: Nationals Washington in 5
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers, like the Indians, head into the playoffs with an extremely deep pitching staff, with Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill likely to be the starters going forward. Facing these guys night after night will be tough for the Diamondbacks to match up with, especially with ace Zach Greinke going Wednesday night against the Rockies, and likely not being ready to pitch until game 3 at the earliest.
Winner: Dodgers in 4
League Championship Series
Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Indians
Cleveland’s run differential this season was a ridiculous +254. This means two things; their pitching is dominating and their offense is scoring a ton of runs. The Astros have the league’s best offense, but don’t have the pitching depth to match up against the reigning AL champs.
Winner: Indians in 5
Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Everyone is taking Los Angeles here, and for good reason. Their pitching staff is deep, and their offense is stacked with young power and veteran leadership. But this Nationals pitching rotation, with Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez, is special, and Clayton Kershaw’s history or poor performances in the playoffs concerns me. Harper’s ability to bounce back from his time off will be a huge factor, but I’ll take the Nats as my upset pick.
Winner: Nationals in 7
Washington Nationals vs. Cleveland Indians
This series is the ideal scenario for those who love to watch good pitching match ups. The potential for Kluber vs. Scherzer, Carrasco vs. Strasburg, and Bauer vs. Gonzalez will undoubtedly make for low scoring, must watch games. Those two great rotations (both anchored by great bullpens) will face top offenses, led by Daniel Murphy and Francisco Lindor. Both teams have depth, both on the mound and in the lineups, so it truly comes down to the bullpens for me. Andrew Miller isn’t even the close for the Indians, and yet he may be the most feared reliever in the entire game. The Nationals will have to fight hard just to get Cleveland’s top starters out of the games, but then to have to face Miller, that is asking too much over a 7-game series. It doesn’t look like Cleveland will be winning any basketball championships anytime soon, or any football games for that matter, but baseball may just be able to deliver for this city.
World Champions: Indians in 6