eing a lifelong baseball fan, the game is ever so close, and near and dear to my heart. You have seen me picking the NFL games on a weekly basis here, so I thought I would do a bonus column for you, picking the baseball playoffs with my World Series winner.
Round 1: Wild Card Round
Astros @ Yankees – Tuesday 5:08 PM PST
The Astros are the immediate future of Major League Baseball, and it is always exciting and entertaining to see new and fresh blood in the playoffs, especially when they are going up against the old man — the hated Yankees franchise. The Yankees are going for their 28th World Series Championship this season, and you have to believe that the spirit of Yogi Berra will be riding with them as long as they are in the playoffs. The Yankees send Tanaka to the mound, and he has been pretty solid this season; although, he has not been not as wowing as his rookie campaign last year, which I believe is due to an ongoing elbow injury. Houston sends to the mound the bearded wonder, Dallas Keuchel, who is the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award. The Astros were on top of the AL West for a good stretch of the season, but then the long grind began to weigh in on the youngsters; unfortunately, this is as far as they go, and they will have to go home early. The Pinstripes win in the Bronx for Yogi and C.C. (who just checked into rehab for alcohol abuse) and move on to play the Royals in the ALDS. These young Astros will be back in the playoffs next year and will be around for many years to come, as this team should be fun to watch in the near and distant future.
Cubs @ Pirates – 5:08 PM PST
What more could you ask for in this one-game playoff series, other than to maybe expand this one into five or seven games. Man oh man, what a pitching matchup we are in store for on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. You have the Cubs Jake Arrieta, who is in running for the NL Cy Young, opposite of the young Â ace in the Burgh, Gerrit Cole. Both have had tremendous years and should have some very dominant years ahead of them. With these two aces on the mound, this will be a low-scoring affair. When you compare the starters, it is all in favor of Arrieta now. He is the hot hand and Â arm in the league right now. If it comes down to the bullpen, the Pirates have a big advantage, as they can lock down a lead and hold a team down, and hope that McCutchen and Company can score some runs. Back to Arrieta, he has amassed a miniscule ERA of .75 since the All Star Break, which lowered his already low ERA to 1.77 on the season. Oh, and by the way, he also managed to throw a no-hitter vs. the Dodgers. That should be the difference in this matchup, because as good as Cole has been, Arrieta has been even better. And after all, Back to the Future said that the Cubs won the World Series in 2015, so do I believe the magic of television and the thunderbolt of an arm that Arrieta has? My crystal ball says yes.
Round 2: Â The ALDS & NLDS
Yankees @ Royals
The Royals announced their starting rotation for the 1st round of the playoffs, with 24-year-old-flamethrower Yordano Ventura getting the game one start at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday night. Johnny Cueto will start game two, Â and game three will start with the man who has many names, Edinson Volquez. Ventura has been on fire, as he has a 2.16 ERA over his last four starts of the regular season, but leading up to that, he was just luke warm. I have to hope Cueto won’t be as bad in the playoffs as he was in the regular season for the Royals, because he is a solid starter in the league. Cueto started 13 games and pitched to a 4.76 ERA with the Royals; he had a 2.62 with the Reds before he was traded. It only gets worse: his WHIP (walk + hits/innings pitched) was a swollen 1.451, compared to his manageable 1.132 with Cincinnati. If the Pinstripes beat Houston in the Wild Card Game, Tanaka won’t be available for game one, and Sabathia will be unavailable until the 2016 season starts. That leaves a rotation of Pineda, Nova, Warren and Eovaldi (if he is cleared from an elbow issue). With the pitching said, the Yankees have great 8th and 9th inning guys, Betantes and Miller, but getting the ball to them with the lead could be a problem. The younger Royals should outdo the Yankees here and send them home early. As Yogi said, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and it’s now over for New York.
Royals in 4.
Rangers @ Blue Jays
I am going to say it here, and say it now: the Blue Jays are just going to mash their way to the World Series. They can put up runs from any part of the line up with the long ball from Donaldson (my AL MVP), to Bautista, to Encarnacion, to Martin and to Tulowitzki. Also the addition of speedster Ben Revere, who finally moved up to the leadoff spot, is just a catalyst for this team to score more runs. I really like Toronto’s offense, but then again, who doesn’t? And you know that the Dome is going to be ROCKING during game one, as this is the first playoff game in Toronto since Joe Carter’s walk-off home-run in game six of the 1993 Fall Classic. I just think that Toronto’s offense is going to be too much for the Rangers pitchers Gallardo, Hamels and Lewis, as they will just be ove- powered by the Jays’ lumber. Wait till next year when the Rangers improve, as they get Darvish back and pair him up with Hamels and Gallardo.
Toronto in 4.
Cubs @ Cardinals
This is an interdivisional rivalry set up for the second round; this division was so stacked this year, as it housed the three best records in baseball, which I should mention, was the first time that amazing feat has ever happened in Major League history. The Cardinals somehow keep on winning year-in and year-out, and they tallied 100 wins without their ace Adam Wainwright. They punched their ticket to their 5th straight postseason this year and the number one overall see in the National League.In my scenario, they take on the Cubs in a best of five series and have to face Lester and Arrieta twice, which will be their undoing. The magic that has been the Cubs advance, yes I am rolling with the Cubs right now, to the NLCS for the first time since the infamous 2003 series, where the Steve Bartman incident occurred. I love the Cardinals bullpen much more than the Cubs, but I love the fact the coaching of the Cubs and anytime you can have Lester on your mound for two games, you always stand a chance to win in the post season. The Cardinals’ Molina is in poor health with a bum thumb, and this could be a difference maker behind the plate and in the right batter’s box, as he is such an important figure on this team.
Cubs in 5. Â
Mets @ Dodgers
The ideal situation here for the Dodgers is that Kershaw and Greinke go seven innings each start, then hand the ball to J.P. Howell for the 8th inning, and Kenley Jansen for the 9th. But we all know baseball is not ideal and strange things happen. If the Dodgers offense can get a few runs on the young, dynamite Mets pitchers — deGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard and the not so young Mr. Power Stomach, Bartolo Colon — then they have a chance to handle the Mets with ease. I love the Dodgers offense, when it shows up, and I love Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but I donâ€™t love the Dodgers 3rd and 4th starter, whomever they may end up being, and the fact that their offense sometimes goes in a lull. There is also something to discuss that I royally dislike about this Dodgers team, and that is their bullpen. This bullpen has been atrocious! Someone has to step up and get the ball from the starters to Howell & Jansen. If the Dodgers are up in games one and two, expect Donnie Baseball to have Clayton and Zack go seven to eight innings each, so that the ball can be dropped into the hands of the quality guys of Howell and Jansen. Dodgers and Mets should be a very good and close series, as the Dodgers advance, yet again, to the NLCS. And if Jim Johnson is on the Post Season roster…don’t even get me started.
Dodgers in 4.
Round 3: The ALCS & NLCS
Blue Jays @ Royals
Weâ€™re in for some blue on blue action here in this ALCS, as the Royals advance this far for the second straight year, showing last year was no fluke season. Â The Blue Jays have streaked their way after all those midseason acquisitions and have positioned themselves as one of the top flight offenses in the majors. Their offense is miles above what the Royals have in their lineup, and I think that will be the difference-maker in this series. Yordano Ventura ended the season strong, but the rest of the year he was anything but an ace. The “ace” they thought they traded for in Johnny Cueto, scuffled from the start, but he has shown some flashes here and again. When you can combine lackluster pitching trying to put out the atomic-bomb-like offense the Blue Jays possess, you are going to have problems and be in for a long off season.
Blue Jays in 5.
Cubs @ Dodgers
Three of the top pitchers in the National League in one series? Yes please! This is great for baseball as you have the three front runners for the NL Cy Young Award, and could even have one of these guys winning the MVP. In a series where you have Lester and Arrieta for the Cubs vs. Kershaw and Greinke for the Dodgers, you know it is going to be one hell of a ride. This series has seven games written all over it, with these four horses going at least twice each, and maybe even seeing them team up and relieve the one another, giving us flashbacks to the 2001 game 7 World Series, where Randy Johnson relieved Curt Schilling. With the Cubs and Dodgers battling it out in the NLCS, this is the matchup of the playoffs; no offense to the Blue Jays and Royals, but this series is just more entertaining. The young Cubs, with superstars all around the field, vs. the big money spending Dodgers, who have the beset 1-2 punch in baseball. Dodgers have the home field advantage in this series, and I love the combo of Kershaw/Greinke, as Back to the Future gets it wrong. The Dodgers advance to their first World Series since 1988 to play the Blue Jays.
Dodgers in 7.
Round 4: The World Series
Dodgers @ Blue Jays
I have the Dodgers finally getting over the hump of the NCLS, since the Cardinals and Phillies aren’t standing in their way, and finally reaching the World Series. This would be the first time since 1988, when they beat the Oakland A’s four games to one and Kirk Gibson inspired them with one of the most memorable World Series moments of the last 30 years. The Blue Jays are my American League team in the Fall Classic, which would be the first time since 1993, when they won their second consecutive World Series, being the Phillies four games to two. Both of these teams have suffered a “drought,” though not as long as the Cubs 1908 World Series win and 1945 last World Series droughts. Some other notes, the Dodgers have been here a total of 18 times in franchise history winning six times (1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988) and the Blue Jays going twice and winning Â in only 1992 & 1993. That being said, this really has nothing to do with the outcome of this World Series, it is just interesting history.
So, let’s get down to business shall we…Dodgers at the Blue Jays. It takes a team 11 wins to become a World Series Champion, 12 if you are in as a wild card team. These two teams are now just four wins away from hoisting the trophy and going down in baseball history. Do the Blue Jays stay perfect, going 3-0 in the Fall Classic? Or do the Dodgers with the massive payroll, and even more massive preseason expectations, bring a seventh trophy to Chavez Ravine? For the Dodgers to win it all comes down can Kershaw and Greinke cool off and calm down the bats of the Blue Jays. When you measure the starters for both squads, the Dodgers have an advantage with these two aces, because even though the Jays have David Price, the other starters do not compare to the talent that Price possesses. You have to believe that Toronto will see them twice each, and the depth of Zack and Clayton should be a difference-maker. Greinke has been pitching out of this world this entire season, and you better believe that if he can pitch the Dodgers to a championship, his wallet and bank account will be stuffed to the maximum, as he can opt out of his contract at the end of the season. I expect the combo of Greinke and Kershaw to win two games each, and the others to scuffle a bit and take the losses. Â
Dodgers win their 7th title in six games, with Zack Greinke getting the World Series MVP and a hefty raise after the seasons ends.