Following the St. Louis Cardinals decisive 9-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, the MLB playoff bracket was finalized. The Cardinals won the National League Central division for the first time since 2015 and will make their first trip to the playoffs in four years. Last year’s World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, will miss the playoffs and won’t be able to defend their title. With the regular season in the rear view mirror, it’s time to take a look ahead to the playoffs.
The Houston Astros fired on all cylinders throughout the season and ended up with the best record in baseball at 107-55. They were led back to the postseason by their two Cy Young candidate pitchers, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The pair became the first teammates to strike out 300 hitters in a season since 2002, when Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling accomplished the same feat with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Offensively, the Astros were led by rookie Yordan Alvarez and rising star Alex Bregman. They will face the winner of the wildcard game, the Oakland Athletics or Tampa Bay Rays.
Tampa Bay Rays/Oakland Athletics
Tampa Bay was led offensively by Tommy Pham and by Blake Snell. Pitcher Charlie Morton led the Rays pitching staff during the 2019 campaign. The Rays missed the playoffs last season, despite winning 90 games in a tough American League East division. The Athletics, the Rays’ opponents in the upcoming AL Wildcard Playoff, will counter with an offense led by power hitters Marcus Semien, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson and a pitching staff led by Brett Anderson and Mike Fiers.
Minnesota Twins/New York Yankees
In the other ALDS, the Minnesota Twins will face off against the New York Yankees. Both teams have won more than 100 games and the clubs have two of the best offenses in baseball. The Yankees are led by Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton offensively and their pitching is led by starters like Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka with Aroldis Chapman closing games. The Twins are led on offense by Miguel Sano, Nelson Cruz, and Eddie Rosario. Jose Berrios and Taylor Rogers lead the pitching staff. Both teams hit more than 300 home runs this year so whichever team allows the fewest home runs will likely win this series.
Los Angeles Dodgers
In the National League, the Dodgers dominated all year long, finishing 106-56. They were led offensively by MVP candidate Cody Bellinger and the pitching staff was once again headlined by a stellar effort from Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers will face the winner of the National League Wild Card game, the Milwaukee Brewers or Washington Nationals.
Milwaukee Brewers/Washington Nationals
The Brewers were on fire in September until their last series of the season against the Rockies, which cost them a chance at the National League Central championship. They are also missing their big offensive leader and reigning National League MVP, Christian Yelich. Pitchers like Zach Davies and Josh Hader have held them together and should continue their pitching prowess in the Postseason. Washington surprised many by making the playoffs in their first year without Bryce Harper, whose his offensive production was replaced by Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strausburg’s pitching performances helped solidify Washington’s status as a true playoff contender.
Atlanta Braves/St. Louis Cardinals
On the other side of the NL playoff bracket, the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves will face off again. The Braves were led offensively by rising stars Ronald Acuña, Jr. and Ozzie Albies along with Freddie Freeman. The pitching staff is lead by Dallas Keuchel, Mike Soroka, and Mark Melancon. The Cardinals are led on offense by sluggers like Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong, and Marvell Ozuna. Their pitching staff is lead by Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, and Carlos Martinez. Both teams have very streaky hitters so whichever pitching staff is able to withstand a hot steak from the opposing offense will win this series.
We are in store for one of the best Octobers in MLB history. While high scoring offenses have been the trend this season, pitching will end up being the key to teams’ success. At the end of the month, we will know which team will have the best combination of pitching and hitting when a new World Series Champion is crowned.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.