By Jarod Spohr
As we enter the most important month in Major League Baseball, there are many different opinions on which teams are best suited to win the World Series this year.
Let’s start with the wildcard games. The Yankees are playing the Twins on Tuesday. By the time you read this article, one of those two teams are going to be playing the Cleveland Indians. The Yankees are heavy favorites to win this matchup, given that Twins’ starter Ervin Santana’s career ERA against the Yankees is 5.56, with a record of 6-10. Given that, as well as the fact that the Yankees are 20-9 at home since Sept. 1, makes this a difficult road game for the Twins. Regardless of who wins, they will be going up against a powerhouse Indians team who set the MLB record of 22 straight wins in September.
For the National League wildcard, the Colorado Rockies square off against the Arizona Diamondbacks at home. Zack Greinke has been named the starting pitcher for Arizona, as he holds a 13-1 record, and a 2.87 ERA at home this year. However, I anticipate this to be a good game, as the Rockies carry lots of momentum and have secured their first playoff berth since 2009. Regardless of who wins, that team will face off against the other league powerhouse, the 104-58 Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers, while compiling an extraordinary regular season record, have been in a serious slump for the last six weeks. Their 13-17 record in the month of September is tied for the 12th worst all time for playoff bound teams. In addition, their best player and pitching ace Clayton Kershaw, has not looked great since his return from the disabled list. Nevertheless, there are some very bright spots on the team right now, as Justin Turner hit .296/.396/.521 in September with four home runs, seven doubles and 13 RBI. Pitcher Rich Hill gave up only six runs in his five starts, posting a 1.86 ERA with 40 strikeouts and eight walks in 29 innings. The bottom line is, the Dodgers were the best regular season team in baseball, but it is going to take a cohesive team effort to climb out of the end of season lull that they’re experiencing if they want to be successful in October.
On to the Division Series matchups. The defending World Champion Chicago Cubs face the Washington Nationals. The Chicago Cubs core is largely the same as last year, and they are more eager than ever to defend their title. If history serves as an indicator, the Nationals will not make it past this matchup. In the last six years, the Nationals have won their division, only to lose in the first round. The AL East compared to
the Nationals is pretty weak, and superstar Bryce Harper has only recently came back from an injury, logging only 18 at bats since being hurt. In addition, pitching ace Max Scherzer isn’t healthy, his hamstring is cause for concern. Even though he states he is fine, the 16-6 record and 2.51 ERA pitcher is at risk of missing a start if his hamstring flares up.
On the American League side, the out of this world Astros compete against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox clinched the AL East title with a win over the Astros. The Sox have been playing great baseball, especially behind ace Chris Sale. But the Sox can not match up with the Astros’ position players. There is little debating that the Astros have all around better hitters than the Sox. Where Boston really does damage is in the bullpen. David Price, Addison Reed, Carson Smith and phenomenal closer Craig Kimbrel are the strong suit of the team. If the Sox can tire out Houston’s starting pitching and get into their bullpen, they will be successful. The Astros bullpen ranks 7th out of the 10 postseason teams. However, the Astros are heavily favored to win this matchup. Why? They have a rock-solid lineup from top to bottom, including superstar Jose Altuve, who is hitting .346 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI. They have valuable assets in Carlos Correa, George Springer, Brian McCann and Evan Gattis. Their first two starters are strong in Dallas Keuchel and veteran Justin Verlander, and their bullpen contains strong relief in Chris Devenski and Ken Giles. It seems to fit all together for the Astros, as they have a solid team with very few holes.
Let’s conclude with the hottest team in baseball. Just how favored are the Indians to win the World Series? Las Vegas odds put the Indians odds of winning at 9-4, whereas the updated odds for the Dodgers (who were atop the odds all season) are now 5-2. The Indians aren’t only the hottest team in baseball, they are the hungriest team in baseball. After last year’s Chicago Cubs victory, the Indians became the Major League team with the longest World Series drought. It has been 69 years since the Indians have won it all. Not only are they hungry, but they want revenge after losing a game seven. Will they keep the momentum on their side, or will they fall victim to a postseason slump?