#3 Detroit Tigers at #2 Baltimore Orioles
This is a matchup that features one team with several playoff veterans and another team with many newcomers. The Detroit Tigers clinched the AL Central for the fourth straight year while the Orioles ran away with the AL East to grab their first division title in almost 20 years. Despite a disappointing season from 2013 Home Run King Chris Davis, offseason acquisition Nelson Cruz led the majors with 40 home runs in an effort to prove himself during a one year deal. The Orioles pitching has been a huge strength this year as well. Gonzalez, Chen, Norris, Tillman, and Gausman all posted ERAs under 4.00 this year and are more than capable of going toe to toe with the likes of Scherzer, Verlander, Price, and Porcello during this series. Cabrera and Martinez lead the Tigers offensively, although I think the Orioles are the all around more balanced team. I like Baltimore to win this series in 4 games.
Wild Card Kansas City Royals at #1 Los Angeles Angels
Just two months ago, it appeared that the Angels would end up as a wild card team as the A’s win the AL West. Oakland had baseball’s best record for two thirds of the season before nearly collapsing down the stretch and nearly missing the playoffs altogether. That’s why it was fitting that they collapsed in last night’s wild card game to give the Royals a berth in the ALDS. Meanwhile, the Angels caught fire towards the end of the season to run away with the division and the best record, despite some injuries to their rotation, most notably Garett Richard. The Angels staff still features ace Jered Weaver along with C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker. Combine that with an offense led by likely MVP Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton, I the Angels will be a force to be reckoned with in the 2014 MLB postseason. Meanwhile, Kansas City is one of those teams that doesn’t have any particular stars that stand out. Their offense is decent with Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler. Their pitching staff has some playoff experience with James Shields, although he will only make one start after pitching in the wild card game. Manager Ned Yost has done a great job maximizing the performance of the team this season, a team that nearly overtook the Tigers for the AL Central. In the end however, I think the Royals will simply be outmatched by the Angels in all phases of the game. Los Angeles sweeps the series 3-0.
#3 St. Louis Cardinals at #2 Los Angeles Dodgers
A rematch of the 2013 NLCS, this series may be one of the most fun to watch this postseason. Two veteran teams return to the playoffs again as the NL Central Champion Cardinals face off against the NL West Champion Dodgers. This series will feature two aces in Adam Wainwright and likely Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. Both teams feature solid offensive attacks as well with St. Louis led by Carpenter, Holliday, and Adams, while the Dodgers feature Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, and Yasiel Puig. I think this series will go the distance, but ultimately the Dodgers will come up with more key plays at critical moments. The Cardinals weren’t overly impressive for most of the year until snagging the division in the final weeks, and with home field advantage swapped for the rematch, and a potential Game 5 featuring Clayton Kershaw, I like the Dodgers to win the series in 5 games.
Wild Card San Francisco Giants at #1 Washington Nationals
Both teams return to the playoffs after a one year absence in a very interesting matchup of the playoff veteran against the relative newcomer. The San Francisco Giants disposed of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild card game to make their 3rd trip to the NLDS in the last five years, with the previous two ending in World Series championships in 2010 and 2012. The Washington Nationals were dominant in their run to the 2012 postseason but were quickly knocked off by the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals. Having regained form here in 2014, Washington hopes to use that experience to able to advance to the NLCS. The Nationals are led by Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth on offense, while Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman anchor the pitching rotation. San Francisco has several players left over from their recent championships, including Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Pablo Sandoval in the starting lineup in addition to Tim Hudson, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong in the rotation. I think Washington is the better team and should win this series, but the Giants have the intangibles that won them the title in 2010 and 2012 when they weren’t expected to, so I think they will follow the trend again in 2014. San Francisco takes the series in 5 games.
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