The Division series is complete, which means it’s time to look ahead to the league championship series. I correctly picked 3 out of the 4 teams (Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles) bringing my overall playoff record to 4-2 so far.
NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals
The Dodgers and Cardinals haven’t faced off in the NLCS since 1985. The two teams have a combined 36 National League Pennants (37 after this series is over). St. Louis will be making its fourth NLCS appearance since 2004, while the Dodgers are back in the NLCS for the first time since 2009, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Dodgers won the season series 4-3, dropping two out of three at home but winning three out of four in St. Louis. The Dodgers are led by their two aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and powered by a lineup including Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig. Andre Ethier is also expected to play a bigger role in this series for Los Angeles. St. Louis counters with ace Adam Wainwright, rookie sensation Michael Wacha, and a lineup featuring Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, David Freese, and Yadier Molina.
Game 1: Zack Greinke vs. Joe Kelly
Game 2: Clayton Kershaw vs. Michael Wacha
Game 3: Hjun-Jin Ryu vs. Adam Wainwright
Game 4 (expected): Ricky Nolasco vs. Lance Lynn
Los Angeles X Factor: Yasiel Puig
One of the main reasons behind the Dodgers resurgence, Puig will have to get on base ahead of Adrian Gonzalez to do damage in this Dodgers lineup.
St. Louis X Factor: Michael Wacha
The rookie has been unbelievable, taking a no hitter into the 8th in consecutive starts. He will have to be just as good when matched up with Clayton Kershaw.
MVP: Clayton Kershaw
This guy is the best pitcher in the game right now. I expect him to go 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA and 15 strikeouts in two starts.
Prediction: Dodgers in 7
This series will go the distance, with Ryu upsetting Wainwright to put the Dodgers in the World Series.
ALCS: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox
The defending American League Champions head to Fenway Park to start a series with the best team in all of baseball. Detroit has enjoyed recent success, with three straight AL Central titles, 3 straight ALCS appearances, and 2 World Series appearances in the last 7 years. Meanwhile, the completely rebuilt Red Sox enjoyed a worst to first turnaround to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2009, reach the ALCS for the first time since 2008, and win the AL East for the first time since 2007. Detroit won the season series by taking four out of seven games. The Tigers have 1-2 punches on both offense and their pitching staff. MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder provide power in the middle of the lineup while Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer and ace Justin Verlander lead a dominant pitching staff. The Red Sox counter with probably the deepest roster in all of baseball. Ellsbury, Victorino, and Pedroia are constantly getting on base and threatening steal ahead of power hitters David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Add in veteran shortstop Stephen Drew, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, and Jonny Gomes and Xander Boegarts off the bench and you have the best offense in baseball.
Projected Pitching Matchups
Jon Lester vs. Max Scherzer
Clay Buccholz vs. Anibal Sanchez
John Lackey vs. Justin Verlander
Jake Peavy vs. Doug Fister
Boston X Factor: Mike Napoli
Napoli will need to get back on track and provide protection for Ortiz as a power threat in the middle of the lineup for the offense to do some damage to Detroit’s pitching staff.
Detroit X Factor: Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera has been Detroit’s man all season long, but he will have to overcome recent health issues to lead Detroit’s offense.
MVP: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury lit it up in the ALDS, and I expect him to wreak havoc on the basepaths in this series and spark the Red Sox offense back to the World Series.
Prediction: Red Sox in 6 games
Boston’s lineup is simply too good and too deep, from leadoff hitter to the bench. With a rotation featuring four pitchers that were aces of their respective staffs at one point, and a closer who has been absolutely lights out, the Red Sox will simply be too much for Detroit.
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