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MLB Postseason Preview and Predictions

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All 10 of the MLB playoff teams are set and games are set to start with Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh on October 1st at 8 p.m EST.

MLB Postseason: Scenarios and Shake Ups

The autumn air is here, and that means that the Major League Baseball regular season is coming to a close. It is once again time for the playoffs. Last year, the San Francisco Giants took the crown, sweeping the Detroit Tigers four games to nothing in a less than disappointing 2012 World Series. This year is a completely different story, and you’re about to find out why. Let’s take a look at both the American and National Leagues and see who the favorites are to go to the Fall Classic this year, as well as a predicted World Series winner.

National League: There are already five teams that have clinched a spot in the postseason for the 2013 season. The Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, and Los Angeles Dodgers. All of these teams clinched a spot with more than a week left in the regular season. Both Atlanta and Los Angeles took advantage of poor playing by the rest of their respective divisions and took the division crown, avoiding the dreaded one game Wild Card playoff. That puts the rest of the National League East and West out of playoff contention, giving the National League Central the upper hand by sending three teams to the postseason. With the Cardinals leading the division by 3.0 games with five games to play, it’s safe to predict that they will clinch here in the next few days. With the likes of Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright at the top of the rotation, the Cardinals pitching is far too strong for either the Pirates or the Reds to catch them. Let’s take a look at the Wild Card game match up.

NL Wild Card Game Probable Matchup: Cincinnati Reds vs Pittsburgh Pirates, Tuesday October 2nd, 2013 at PNC Park. This could be one of the most intriguing matchups of the postseason. Winner goes on to play the number one seed in the National League Division Series, loser goes home early and spends the winter preparing for the 2014 campaign. Both of these teams have had dominant pitching all year long from front to back. The pitching matchup for this game will  feature Cincinnati’s Jonny Cueto (5-2 2.82 ERA) vs Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano (16-8 3.02 ERA). Both pitchers have been strong for their clubs all year long, and in a one game playoff, you must go with the hot hand as a manager. Cueto has been hurt for a majority of the year, but pitches well in tough games.  However, Pittsburgh could have the upper hand in the bullpen. With Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli serving as the 8th and 9th inning guys, this Pirates bullpen has been called “The Shark Tank” by some. Pittsburgh has the third best bullpen ERA at 2.90 behind Atlanta (2.46) and Kansas City (2.57).

Cincinnati sits in the 8th position with a bullpen ERA of 3.32. This will be a very, very tough matchup for both squads, but Cincinnati has to face Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Justin Morneau, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez, just to name a few of the Bucs dangerous hitters. It will be no easy task for the Pirates bullpen either with Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Todd Frazier, and Jay Bruce in the opposing lineup.

NLDS Series # 1 (St. Louis Cardinals Vs NL Wild Card Winner): The number one seed in the National League belongs to the St. Louis Cardinals, after they finished the regualr season with a record of 97-65, one game better than the Atlanta Braves. Earning first place means earning home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Cardinals starting pitching has been solid all year long posting a 3.47 ERA. Here’s how things will likely shake out. The Cardinals have the Cubs in a three game series for the final weekend of the regular season.  The Cardinals swept the final series against the Cubs earning a record of 97-65, also known as the National League’s best record. This would put the Cardinals in the driver’s seat and the probable favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. Back to the first NLDS Series, the Cardinals would be playing the Pirates in a best of five series, with Game 5 being in St. Louis if a Game 5 is needed. With the Pirates being so young and inexperienced in the playoffs, the Cardinals will take this series in four games. With Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller at the forefront of the starting rotation, the Cardinals are far too strong for the Pirates.

NLDS Series # 2 (Atlanta Braves vs LA Dodgers): This series will  feature the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a best of five series. As previously mentioned, the Braves starting rotation has been spotty at times. However, with a 3.18 starting rotation ERA, this ranks better than the Cardinals. There is no doubt the Braves have the potential to go all the way with young stars like Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton at the top of the order, but will they be able to put it all together in the playoffs? History would say no, but this year is different. The Braves were able to bury the Nationals in early August and overcome injuries all year long, and finally come away with their first National League East division crown since 2005. No one saw this coming. The Dodgers on the other hand went out with their 200,000,000 million dollar payroll and spent it on some of the game’s best like top of the rotation starter Zack Greinke, premier set up man Brandon League, and an invaluable utility role player, Skip Schumaker. The Dodgers struggled out of the gate, but when young phenom Yasiel Puig made his way into the Show, things changed, and for the better. The Dodgers clinched their division with more than a week left in the season, and will more than likely take on the Braves in this series. It will be interesting. Game One will likely feature left handed ace Clayton Kershaw (16-9 1.83 ERA), one of the games’ best pitchers, against Kris Medlen (15-12 3.05 ERA). A strikeout pitcher (Kershaw) against an offense (Braves) that might break the record for most strikeouts in a season. This series will go five games, with Game 5 being played in Atlanta. This could be one of the most intriguing matchups of the entire postseason. Atlanta’s home record will reflect in this series, as they will slip past the Dodgers to make it the Championship Series against the Cardinals.

NLCS (Braves vs Cardinals – Best of 7): The Braves and Cardinals feature some of the best players in the game today. Yadier Molina and Brian McCann are the two catchers for the teams, and both have eight All Star appearances. The Braves outfield consists of Jason Heyward, along with BJ and Justin Upton. The Cardinals have Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, and Carlos Beltran, some of the best offense the game has seen in a long time. The Braves will not have home field advantage in this series, therefore leading to their downfall. Despite the Braves having the best home record in baseball, they have played below average on the road with a record of 40-41. The Cardinals play well no matter the circumstances, with a home record of 51-27 and a road record of 43-38. The Braves will not have home field advantage in this series, falling short of the Cardinals late push for the National League’s best record. Four game will be played in Saint Louis, while the other three would be played in Atlanta. Getting past the Cardinals in postseason play is tough enough as it is. Getting past them at Busch Stadium is an even taller order. The Cardinals will take this series in six games, advancing to the World Series yet again.

American League: The American League features some promising teams to take the crown in 2013. With teams like the Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, and the Tampa Bay Rays, the American League is strong yet again in 2013. The postseason shake up in this league is a very interesting one, with a forced Game 163 between the Rays and Rangers this afternoon to see who will face the Cleveland Indians in the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday, October 2nd. Who will take the American League Crown? More importantly, will the winner take World Series?

AL Wild Card Game (Cleveland Indians vs Tampa Rays/Texas Rangers):  With the tie breaker yet to be played, we don’t exactly know who will be playing in this game yet. David Price will face Martin Perez in Arlington this evening in a win or go home scenario. The winner faces Cleveland, in yet another win or go home scenario. Game 163 will be played in Arlington, Texas, giving the Rangers home field advantage for this sudden death match up. With big bats like Wil Myers and Evan Longoria in the middle of the order for Tampa Bay, it will be tough for Perez to silence the Rays completely. Perez has posted good numbers this year, going 10-5 with a 3.55 ERA, while Price, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, went 9-8 with a 3.39 ERA. A big bonus for Texas is that right handed slugger Nelson Cruz will make his return to try and help Texas advance into the playoffs. Cruz was suspended for 50 games due to a positive drug test for PEDs in baseball’s Biogenesis investigation. It will be tough, but ultimately the Rays will prevail in this game to advance to the Wild Card Game, in which they will face Danny Salazar (2-3 3.12 ERA) of the Cleveland Indians. Tampa Bay will likely start right hander Alex Cobb (11-3 2.76 ERA). Another fantastic game is on hand in Cleveland, with the Rays again overcoming the shadow of a one game playoff, and advancing to play the Red Sox in the NLDS.

ALDS # 1 (Boston Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays):  These two teams are division rivals, playing each other 18 times every year, and constantly competing for the AL East division. The Red Sox earned the American League’s number one seed with a record of 97-65. The Red Sox are just a year removed from one of the worst seasons fans in Boston have ever witnessed, winning only 69 games in 2012. With the hiring of John Farrell in the offseason, this proved to be the right move, as Boston shrugged off last season’s cloud and moved on. This is a best of five series, with Games 1,2, and 5 (if needed) being played in Boston. It’s no coincidence that the Red Sox have had the success they have had this year. John Lackey, who has struggled for most of his tenure in Boston, posted a resounding 3.52 ERA that affected the entire rotation. Jon Lester also had a memorable season, earning 15 wins. Their lineup features stars like David Ortiz, Will Middlebrooks, Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury. This series will merely be a bump in the road for the Red Sox, taking the ALDS and advancing to the ALCS for the first time since winning their last World Series in 2007.

ALDS # 2 (Oakland Athletics vs Detroit Tigers): This series will likely feature more offense than anything. With sluggers like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jhonny Peralta, this set of games is sure to be some high scoring. The Tigers have the advantage in this series despite the Athletics having home field advantage in the division series. Detroit will bring to the table a devastating pitching staff that includes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez. With these three aces, Detroit will a very tough postseason opponent. Despite Verlander’s struggles mid season, he has sinced bounced back, giving up no earned runs in 12 innings pitched in his last two starts. Tigers skipper Jim Leyland will likely send Max Scherzer to the hill for Game 1 of the Series. Scherzer has been a huge surprise this year for Detroit, posting career highlighting numbers with a record of 21-3 and an ERA of 2.90. Detroit will take this Series and play Boston for the American League Championship, but not before going five games. This series will have to go back to Oakland, but Detroit will emerge victorious, going back to the American League Championship Series for the second straight year.

ALCS: (Boston Red Sox vs Detroit Tigers – Best of 7): Two of the game’s elite pitching staff’s will be featured in this Series to see who will advance to the World Series. It will be a tough matchup for both offenses, having to face all of this talent on the mound. The Boston Red Sox have a team ERA of 3.79, while the Tigers have a team ERA of 3.61. Expect a tough, hard fought battle between these two teams, and not a lot of scoring despite both offenses being very potent. Boston has home field advantage, and a great pitching staff to boot. This series will go all 7 games, being one of the most exciting for fans all around baseball. These two teams could not be more alike. Each can pitch, and each can hit when it matters. It will be a very enticing match up to watch, but expect Boston to come away with this series in the end, and advance to the World Series to face the St. Louis Cardinals.

2013 World Series (Boston Red Sox vs St. Louis Cardinals): If it all comes out the way I think it will, the Boston Red Sox will be hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the Word Series at the end of October. Since the American League won the All Star Game this year, this gives home field advantage to the American League representative. The most impressive thing about these two teams is that they are consistently contending for the postseason on a year to year basis. Never count out these two teams when talking about the postseason. This series will be reminiscent of the 2011 World Series, with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers battling it out in one of the greatest World Series baseball has ever seen. Expect this series to be nothing short of that. David Freese, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, David Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, and Carlos Beltran round out the Cardinals batting order, while Boston presents David Ortiz, Shane Victorino, Will Middlebrooks, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Iglesias, and Jacoby Ellsbury. What a World Series this would be. If it were to shake out like this, fans would talk about the way this Series went for a long, long time. Unlike last year’s San Francisco Giants’ sweeping the Detroit Tigers and claiming the crown, it could not be more different. Both teams have the same record at 97-65, and both finished with the best record in their respective leagues. Expect it to go at least six, if not seven games, with a thrilling finish, and the St. Louis Cardinals emerging once again as World Series Champions, taking two out of the last three.

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