As the calendar shifts from September to October, the MLB gears up for another round of October baseball. With the regular season coming to a close on Sunday, we are left with only 10 teams fighting for the chance to lift the World Series trophy. The biggest stars in the game will highlight this postseason. With Derek Jeter hanging up his cleats for good on Sunday, Mike Trout, the new face of baseball, will get his first chance to showcase his skills on MLB’s biggest stage. Clayton Kershaw has the chance to step out of Sandy Koufax’s shadow by bringing a World Series trophy back to L.A. for the first time since 1988 and solidify his case as not only the best pitcher in Dodger’s history but possibly of all time. Other big names include the golden boy Buster Posey, Miguel Cabrera, Bryce Harper, and David Price. With the AL wild card game less than six hours away, let’s get into some predictions for this postseason.
AL Wild Card game: Athletics at Royals
Throughout the entire season it seemed like a forgone conclusion that the A’s would win the AL West. They were shattering records for run differential and it appeared that Moneyball might finally get over the hump and make a deep playoff run. With the acquisitions of Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester, the A’s pushed all their chips into the pot in hopes of playing deep into October. However, since acquiring Lester on deadline day the A’s have been in a downward spiral and just barely fought off the Seattle Mariners for the second wild card spot. Now, the season that was supposed to end with them lifting the World Series trophy hangs in the balance as they travel to Kansas City—fighting for a chance to play one more game.
On the other side of the field the Kansas City Royals have to be happy to be back in the postseason, their first appearance since 1985. However this is a team no one should take lightly. The Royals are built around their pitching and defense and can shut down any lineup any given night. So who wins this game? Despite all that’s gone wrong with the A’s the past couple of months, I have to go with Oakland in tonight’s game. Runs should be at a premium with Jon Lester going against Big-Game James Shields. The crowd should be raucous as they’ve waited for this moment for nearly 30 years, but I think Jon Lester proves why the A’s traded for him and carries them to the ALDS.
NL Wild Card game: Giants at Pirates
Just like their counterparts across the bay, the Giants were sitting pretty at the All Star break. Leading the Dodgers by as many as 9.5 games, it appeared that San Francisco was going to run away with the NL West. However, between the Dodgers getting hot and the Giants getting injured, San Francisco has landed itself in the Wild Card game. Nonetheless, as a longtime Giants fan, I know this team’s M.O. The Giants often torture their fans throughout the season with close games, never making it out easy. The catchphrase “Giants baseball… torture!” has become a slogan for the team’s brand of baseball, and this year was no different. Wednesday’s matchup vs. the Pirates will just continue this trend. The Pirates come in as one of the hottest teams in baseball posting a 15-6 record in September, nearly catching the Cardinals for the division title. Their pitching was dominant during this stretch, leading the MLB in team ERA. The cherry on top, Andrew McCutchen pieced together another MVP-caliber season and comes in batting .347 in September. However, I’m going to have to stay true to my roots, and pick the Giants to get it done and advance to the play the Nationals. Even though the Pirates come in as the hotter team, I the odds any night when Madison Bumgarner is on the bump for the Giants. He’s the best pitcher in the NL not named Clayton Kershaw, and he excels pitching on the road, posting a 2.22 ERA and 11-4 record. Was there really ever any doubt I wouldn’t go with my Giants? Probably not, as I foresee the Giants moving on, and the torture just beginning.
Athletics over Angels in 4:
As much as I’d like to see the Jersey Boy Mike Trout carry the Angels through the postseason, I still like the A’s to get it done. The rotation of Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Sonny Gray is enough to stifle the Angels loaded lineup. The loss of Garret Richards in the front of the Angel’s rotation is going to end up hurting them in this series.
Orioles over Tigers in 5:
If we’re measuring star power in this series, then the edge goes to Detroit. Boasting the past three AL Cy Young winners on their team and the two-time reigning MVP in Miguel Cabrera certainly gives the Tigers an advantage. Still I believe the Orioles win this series and advance to the ALCS for one reason: Buck Showalter.
Dodgers over Cardinals in 4
As much as this pains me to say, I believe the Dodgers will win this series. My hatred for the Dodgers runs deep as a Giants fan, but I believe Dodgers have too much talent not to win this series. Kershaw and Greinke alone are enough to win any series, but the resurgence of Matt Kemp will be the x-factor in this series.
Giants over Nationals in 4
No shocker here that I have the Giants advancing to the NLCS. Despite the Nationals having the best all-around team in MLB, I still think the Giants advance to the NLCS. Buster Posey should be the MVP of the NL and he’ll show why in this series. In addition, the best acquisition at the trade deadline, Jake Peavy, will be a key for the Giants to advance.
Athletics over Orioles in 5
As stated before, I think the A’s pitching is what propels them in this series. I picked them at the beginning of the year to represent the AL in the World Series, and I’m sticking by that selection. The losses of Manny Machado and Matt Weiters are going to end up costing the Orioles in this series. Also their big lefty bat in the lineup, Chris Davis, will miss at least the first three games of this series due to a 25-game amphetamine suspension in September.
Giants over Dodgers in 7
As if this rivalry wasn’t heated enough, putting a World Series birth on the line will definitely raise the stakes between the Giants and Dodgers. Many experts would say I’m crazy to pick the Giants to beat the Dodgers when L.A boasts one of the most talented rosters in the league, but then again, what experts care about what I have to say? Well that’s just hurtful of them, because if the Giants have proven anything in the past, it’s that they thrive as the underdog in the playoffs. In 2010, they weren’t supposed to give the Phillies a challenge in the NLCS, but a nice six-game dismantling of Philadelphia proved that theory to be wrong. Yet another example is 2012, when the Giants were down 3-1 to the Cardinals in the NLCS and everyone wrote them off. Oh wait, they won that series too. Am I biased? A tad, but history backs up my so-called crazy predictions, and that’s why the Giants will advance to the World Series.
Giants over A’s in 6:
Well look at that, it’s the same prediction I made before the 2014 season. This series will feature dominant pitching, a man named Buster taking over, and a lot of shots off the Golden Gate Bridge. The two teams by the bay will be playing against each other in the World Series for the fifth time and first since 1989. The key in this series will be which offense can squeak across more runs against these loaded pitching staffs. I think the Giants have more firepower than the A’s, and win their third World Series in five years. The three P’s for the Giants will end up being the difference makers in the Championship series: Panik, Pence, and Posey. Also, look for Tim Lincecum to reprise his role as a dominant reliever that he was in the 2012 playoffs. Bruce Bochy will continue to remind people that he is the best manager in baseball, and Buster Posey will continue to add on to his legacy by adding a third ring and his first World Series MVP. The Giants will reign over the baseball world once again, but they won’t do it without putting their fans through a little bit of torture in process.
Follow Tyler on Twitter @TylerDarwick and listen to him on B-Side Sunday nights from 9-10 pm