Photo via Dale Zanine USA TODAY Sports
Go ahead. Let it out.
OK, that is enough. Enough, I said.
I would not blame you if you are still laughing. After all, I went a whopping 3-5 in my predictions for the Wild Card Round. I guess it is not bad, but that does not (and probably should not) mean you should waste a good chuckle. Keep it going.
With the Wild Card Rounds concluded, it is now time for the Divisional Series, where all four matchups have two inter-division rivals facing off against each other. In what looks to be a dramatic best-of-five bout in each matchup, here is my preview of each matchup with a (attempted) prediction for each one.
(1) Tampa Bay Rays vs. (5) New York Yankees
Oh, how regular season records can be deceiving. Tampa Bay throttled New York during the regular season, as the former took the season series, 8-2. The x-factor for Tampa Bay came in the form of their crafty pitching staff, whether it be from their traditional starters or mix-and-match “openers” and relievers. The x-factor going against New York during the regular season came in the form of injuries, as the 2019 injury bug reared its ugly head and plagued star players, including Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, among others.
New York, though, might just be cooking at the right time, as they dismantled a dominant Cleveland pitching unit by scoring 22 runs in only two games. While Tampa Bay was able to keep the “Bronx Bombers” grounded during the regular season, the postseason is a new animal, as is the New York team they will be facing now. While the series is likely to go the distance, New York’s now potent (and healthy) lineup will overwhelm Tampa Bay’s deep pitching depth.
Prediction: New York
(2) Oakland Athletics vs. (6) Houston Astros
The regular season matchup between these two teams also shows a lopsided result. After suffering through five seasons of sub-.500 play against Houston, Oakland finally found Houston’s number this season, as the Athletics went 7-3 against their Texas adversaries.
Let’s keep it to the point. Oakland brings the pitching, while Houston brings the postseason pedigree riled in controversy. Should the series reach shootout levels, Houston could gain the advantage, as their offense, despite having decreased production when compared to previous seasons, will go up against an opposing lineup in Oakland that is without one of their star batters in Matt Chapman. The potential slugfest, however, will not come to be, as Oakland’s depth in the rotation and bullpen will be enough to quell Houston’s lumber from coming out of its season-long slumber.
(1) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (4) San Diego Padres
The Dodgers took care of business against the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Round, while San Diego overcame their Cardinal curse and disposed of St. Louis in a postseason series for the first time in franchise history. For Los Angeles, it was about sticking to the script, as they utilized their star power and depth all over the roster to overwhelm a Milwaukee roster not as fortunate in the depth and producing department. San Diego, meanwhile, went against the script, as starters in Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet were out of action. As a result, San Diego was forced to lean on their stout bullpen in the deciding game against St. Louis. In that game, they used not one, not two, but nine pitchers in what amounted to a 4-0 shutout.
If you want youth, you have it in Cody Bellinger and Fernando Tatis Jr. If you want steady veterans in their prime, you have it in Mookie Betts and Manny Machado. Do you like pitching? There is plenty to go around between these two teams, too. The deciding factor toward determining a victor in this series, though, could come down to who is healthier and hotter. The statuses for Clevinger and Lamet for San Diego are still up in the air, while Clayton Kershaw for Los Angeles arguably delivered his best postseason start of his career on Oct. 1, as the southpaw pitched eight shutout innings and picked up a postseason career-high 13 strikeouts. The Dodgers are my pick, but this could very well be a coin flip. Get some butter, pronto. This popcorn needs it.
Prediction: Los Angeles
(2) Atlanta Braves vs. (6) Miami Marlins
Perhaps I treated Miami too harshly. After making quick work of the Chicago Cubs in a 2003 National Championship Series throwback, the Marlins now find themselves playing postseason ball in a divisional round and have yet to lose a postseason series in franchise history. Atlanta, meanwhile, overcame the lethal rotation of the Cincinnati Reds and picked up clutch hits from their core group of batters. Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman, anyone?
If it was not made apparent already, Miami is playing with house money. They bring veterans and young upside to the table, for sure. Atlanta, however, brings more balance on offense when compared to Chicago. While Miami will make it interesting, the story officially ends here. It was a good run, and they have a potentially bright future. Atlanta, however, is better built to win now, and it will show in this series.