]The best time of the year is officially in full swing (pun intended). The temperature has started to dip, and parents everywhere are making their kids rake the lawn. More importantly, we have reached the best thing in all of sports…
Baseball receives a lot of criticism during the regular season. Some of it is fair, but it is undeniable that when the calendar turns to October, America turns to baseball. Maybe it is simply the stakes or maybe it’s the fact that anything can happen in baseball. Either way, we are officially through the divisional round and it only gets better from here. With that said, let’s talk about what we know after each of the four series’.
NLDS: Dodgers vs. Nationals
We start with the most shocking result of the first round. The N.L. favorite Dodgers were upset by a Nationals team who earned their way into this series by winning their Wild Card matchup against the Brewers. This series was mostly competitive from start to finish with the exception of Game 3, where a 7 run 6th inning broke it open for Los Angeles. However, the Nationals fought their way back to force a Game 5. Washington’s cinderella run continued as they battled their way back from down 3 thanks to back-to-back bombs off Clayton Kershaw in the 8th. The Nats would capitalize on some questionable decisions by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts with a go-ahead grand slam by Howie Kendrick to power Washington to the NLCS in dramatic fashion. Going forward, Washington has the chance to play with anyone due to their outstanding starting pitching. However, their bullpen remains a glaring weakness that can be exploited.
NLDS: Braves vs. Cardinals
This was without a doubt the most exciting series of the four matchups. Starting with a Cardinals late game comeback in Game 1, every game seemed to go down to the wire through Game 4. The biggest story for the Braves surrounded young star Ronald Acuna Jr. when he didn’t run out a ball in Game 1. While the game ended up being decided by one run, Acuna Jr. was crucial in the Braves making the game close at all. He apologized, and all seemed to quiet down after Atlanta took Game 2. The highlights for the Cardinals revolved around franchise legends Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina as they helped force the series back to Atlanta with a walk-off single in the 10th. However, Game 5 was almost over before it started. The Cardinals scored an MLB record 10 runs in the first inning as they routed Atlanta 13-1. With similar roster construction to the Nationals, the Cardinals now find themselves in a favorable NLCS matchup now that they have home field advantage.
ALDS: Astros vs. Rays
While the Rays found a way to make the series interesting, the story of the series was without a doubt Houston’s pitching, especially Gerrit Cole. Cole was simply dominate in two starts, tossing 15.2 innings while only giving up 1 run and 6 hits for 25 strikeouts. While the Astros flexed their strengths in Game 5, the Rays may have caused an issue for Houston going forward. With Houston having to use both Verlander and Cole twice in the series, they won’t be able to throw them in Games 1 and 2 against New York on full rest. This is a big deal because if Houston can’t get quality starts consistently, they play right into the Yankees’ hands with their stellar bullpen.
ALDS: Yankees vs. Twins
If Twins fans don’t already have PTSD when it comes to pinstripes, they do now! Minnesota was swept with relative ease as they extend their postseason losing streak to an MLB record 16 games. To make matters worse, they have lost 12 of those to New York and have been eliminated by them for the 5th time since 2004. Everything seemed to click for the Yankees as they cruised into the ALCS. The only hiccup came during the team’s locker room celebration when closer Aroldis Chapman injured his throwing hand on a bottle. Chapman was even seen with that hand wrapped, but the team has said he will be fine for the rest of the Playoffs. The keys for New York are Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton. Having missed most of the season with injury, it is a positive that the Yankees have them for their October run. Anything the Yankees get from those two will make a huge impact.
After a great first round, we as fans are set up for two excellent matchups in the NLCS and ALCS. No disrespect to St. Louis or Washington, but I think everyone is focusing on Houston and New York. Many fans picked Houston to play New York in the ALCS before the season began. The one thing we do know is that if we get anything like we did from this first round, we are in for a great ending to the 2019 season.