By Andrew Zuhosky
The journey began last February in Florida and Arizona for 30 MLB teams. They battled through a grueling six-month regular season, and now they’ve reached the end.
Earlier this week, 22 clubs saw their season end, and now, only eight franchises remain. Later today, both of the American League Divisional Series begin.
The action starts on TBS with Game 1 of the series between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, and the Toronto Blue Jays and the Texas Rangers.
Of course, here in Youngstown, there’s a big interest in the Boston/Cleveland series. This will mark the fourth time in postseason history that this pairing has occurred in the Divisional Series.
Previously, the Indians and Red Sox met in the ALDS in 1995, a series that was swept by the Indians 3-0, as well as 1998, a series that was won by Cleveland 3-1, and 1999 — Boston won the series 3-2.
But enough about their past head-to-head encounters. Let’s talk about the 2016 ALDS.
In Game 1 today, the Indians will go with Trevor Bauer, the right-handed pitcher who posted a record of 12-8 and a 4.26 ERA in the regular season, while the Red Sox will be countering with fellow right-handed pitcher Rick Porcello, who posted a record of 22-4 in the regular season with a 3.15 ERA.
Tomorrow’s Game 2 will bring a pitching rematch of the snowed out home opener in Cleveland from April with Corey Kluber and David Price on the mound for both teams.
If the series were to extend to a Game 5, Kluber would be called upon to pitch again for the Indians after Bauer would be scheduled for a Game 4.
Another series I have my eye on is the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals series. As I said before, the regular season began in the spring. Now any time the Dodgers send Clayton Kershaw out to pitch a game, you’ve got to watch.
The Chicago Cubs, who ended the regular year with 103 wins, will face the winner of the San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets National League Wild Card Game.
Now that the MLB playoff picture is in complete focus, how about I make some predictions as to how the playoffs will go? As you’ll remember, I refused to do this in March to not sound like a moron this morning.
Anyway, I’ll say that the Cubs’ NLDS results in a Chicago sweep. The Cubs are just too good.
Los Angeles vs. Washington — let’s go with Los Angeles, three games to one. Daniel Murphy could give the Dodgers some fits, but I really think Corey Seager and the Dodgers’ offense will ultimately overpower the Nationals.
This would set up a Dodgers/Cubs NLCS. Oh, baby, would that be an incredible series. That’s a pay-per-view quality matchup right there. The Cubs and Dodgers are closely matched. I could easily see that series going the full seven games, with the Cubs eliminating LA from the playoffs.
Now, over to the AL bracket. Boston/Cleveland starts the bracket off. I give Cleveland the advantage here, because they’ve got four really great hitters in Jason Kipnis, Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis and Carlos Santana. How could they lose?
The other matchup would be Texas vs. the Blue Jays. Give me the Rangers here. I really like Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus’ hitting abilities.
That sets up a Cleveland/Texas ALCS. Again, Kipnis, Napoli, Davis and Santana would give Rangers’ pitching some major fits. Indians win the series in six.
Now, we reach an Indians/Cubs World Series. Someone’s title drought has to end here. Kipnis and Napoli will carry the Indians all the way to the title in seven games.
Again, these are just predictions, but you can complement me on them if proven correct. Go to the grocery store, buy some hot dogs and nachos — don’t forget the melted cheese — and enjoy playoff baseball!