Photo via Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
And then there were four.
With the conclusion of the divisional rounds, the final four teams in the MLB postseason are set. On the Junior Circuit side of the bracket, you have the Tampa Bay Rays facing off against the Houston Astros starting on Oct. 11. The Senior Circuit, meanwhile, will see the Los Angeles Dodgers toe the rubber against the Atlanta Braves beginning Oct. 12.
All four teams can taste the Commissioner’s Trophy at this point. Who will come out ahead, though, and who will head home empty-handed? Within this article I preview each best-of-seven matchup and (attempt) to predict the victor. Well, let’s get into it, shall we?
(1) Tampa Bay Rays vs. (6) Houston Astros
Tampa Bay was able to hold off the Bronx Bomber onslaught that is Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of the New York Yankees’ lineup in five games. Houston, meanwhile, continued Oakland’s streak of playoff underperformance by dispatching their division rival in four games. The heroics of Tyler Glasnow, Randy Arozarena, Mike Brosseau and company will look to extend Tampa Bay’s success in what will be the team’s first championship series appearance since 2008. Houston, meanwhile, will lean on the awoken bats of their lineup and their young, high-velocity bullpen.
If you wanted two strengths pitted against each other, well, look no further than this series. Tampa Bay’s strong pitching, whether from their starting or relief core, will have to contend with a Houston lineup spearheaded by Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. All four batters (in six postseason games played apiece) each have an on-base plus slugging (OPS) over .900. Tampa Bay, however, has seen this script before, as they had to navigate through a tricky and sneaky deep New York lineup. The flexibility of Tampa Bay’s pitching, as a result, will show out once more and get the job done.
Prediction: Tampa Bay
(1) Los Angeles Dodgers vs. (2) Atlanta Braves
What a classic series. Why? Simple. You have the top two seeds in the National League not only playing each other but are also undefeated during the 2020 postseason. The Dodgers will look to show off their nine-deep lineup, while the Braves will flaunt their youthful pitching and their National League Most Valuable Player candidate in first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Something will have to give in this matchup. While both teams bring the youth and the blue-chip depth, they each carry a potential flaw as well. For Los Angeles, it is their bullpen. For Atlanta, it is their raw starting core that is without their top-of-the-rotation ace in Mike Soroka. Should either team gain the advantage over the other, they will need to capitalize on this weakness. While Atlanta brings a unique blend of upside and veteran leadership, Los Angeles brings more postseason experience. Despite the bullpen remaining a question mark for the Dodgers, they will lean on their postseason experience to overtake the Braves. In what amounts to a series that should go seven games, postseason experience might be the x-factor that moves the needle ever so slightly in Los Angeles’s favor. Expect it in this series.
Prediction: Los Angeles