Writer: Aaron Hendon
The 2017 MLB playoffs set to start up on October 3rd starting with the wild card games. This is looking like the best playoff year ever. The six division winners are all stacked with a few scrappy wild card game winners trying to take down the big boys. All games with “where and when” are based off of game 1, games 2 through 5, if necessary, are subject to change. Here’s the road to the World Series.
(4) New York Yankees Vs. (1) Cleveland Indians
Season Series: Cleveland won 5-2
Game 1 Probables: Sonny Gray (10-12, 3.55 ERA) Vs. Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19 ERA)
Where: Progressive Field, Cleveland, OH
When: October 5th, 7:30 PM ET on FS1
If the Yankees continue to score runs they could give the Indians a run for their money, with one of the deeper pitching staffs in the AL ranking 3rd in team ERA, behind Boston and Cleveland of course. No doubt rookie of the year pick, and potential MVP candidate Aaron Judge continues to be hot, slapping an 0-1 slider into the 1st row of the left field seats off Ervin Santana. The Indians will continue to be the best team in the AL, and in the league, over the 2nd half of the season. Starting with the best pitching staff in baseball, and a stout lineup 1-9 led by another potential MVP candidate in Jose Ramirez, the Indian 3rd baseman led all AL 3rd basemen in average (.318), on base (.377), and slugging (.538). Lets not forget the Indians also have a CY Young finalist in Corey Kluber, a monster in the playoffs (4-1, 1.83 ERA) in 34.1 innings.
Advantage: Cleveland Indians
(3) Boston Red Sox Vs. (2) Houston Astros
Season Series: Houston won 4-3
Game 1 Probables: Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA) Vs. Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA)
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
When: October 5th, 4 PM ET, on MLB Network
A much more intriguing matchup on the other side of the American League bracket. The MLB strikeout champion Chris Sale grabs the ball for the Red Sox. Sale became the fastest pitcher in MLB history to 1,500 strikeouts, with his 5th 200 strikeout season, and 2nd player in Red Sox history with a 300 strikeout year since Pedro Martinez in 1999. Just like Cleveland, Boston has a nasty bullpen topped with the most dominant closer in the game, Craig Kimbrel, who struckout more than he allowed on base and the Red Sox lineup hasn’t even been brought up yet. The Astros pitching bullpen is the worst among the 8 playoff contenders, ranking just outside of the top 10, against all of the major league teams. Luckily the bats make up for it with the sneakiest player in baseball, Jose Altuve, who completed the regular season by hitting his 200th hit for the 4th consecutive year, also with a healthy Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman, the Astros Offense is something to keep an eye on.
Advantage: Boston Red Sox in 5
(4) Arizona Diamondbacks Vs. (1) Los Angeles Dodgers
Season Series: Arizona won 11-8
Game 1 Probables: Patrick Corbin (14-13, 4.03 ERA) Vs. Clayton Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA)
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA
When: October 6th, 10:30 PM ET
The most interesting series of the divisional round, a series in which was taken by the lower seed in the regular season, they’ll both get 1 more go at it for an extra 3-5 games. The Dodgers are easily the favorite on paper but everyone knows sports just don’t usually go as planned. The D-Backs will be riding some momentum after winning the wild card game, but will be at a disadvantage when Zack Greinke doesn’t pitch, until game 2 or 3. An offense that outscored the best team in baseball will need to do just that, score, up against the best pitching staff in the National League. The Kershaw, Darvish, and Wood combo will be tough to top but it’s something Arizona has done before.
Advantage: LA Dodgers
(3) Chicago Cubs Vs. (2) Washington Nationals
Season Series: Washington won 4-3
Game 1 Probables: Kyle Hendricks (7-5, 3.03 ERA) Vs. Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52 ERA)
Where: Nationals Park, Washington D.C.
When: October 6th, 7:30 PM ET, on TBS
I love this matchup because the defending champs get a crack at one of the more consistent teams all year never losing more than 4 straight games. With Mad Max Scherzer tweaking a hammy in the last week of the season, could give the Cubbies an advantage if he doesn’t start game 1 or 2, he’d be unable to go again in game 5 if needed—that’s not to say he couldn’t come out of the bullpen like we saw Kershaw last year. Getting back the Nats scrap and fire with Bryce Harper off the DL is massive for them, he’s hands down their best player and brings intangibles that are much needed in October baseball, especially against the defending champs. Speaking of the defending champs, nobody should take them too lightly, sputtering out of the gate to begin the year and being down as many as 5.5 in the division, to come roaring back and taking the division. Now of course this is not a team that won 107 games a year ago, but without the same pressure from a year ago and the same core of young stars, as well as some playoff experience this Cubs team is very capable of making a run.
Advantage: Washington Nationals