by Jacob Gurvis
The leaves are changing color, the temperature is dropping (except for the odd 80 degree weather last weekend), and October is here. All of this means one thing: playoff baseball is upon us. The Red Sox’s embarrassing season is over, the Jeter World Tour is over, and it’s time for October baseball.
The 2014 playoffs do not look normal. The Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays are all out of it, meaning some of the game’s best playoff stars, David Ortiz, Carlos Beltran, and Derek Jeter, will be watching from home this fall. But there will be no shortage of stars. That is for sure.
Here are my round-by round predictions for the entire playoffs.
Wild Card Round
AL: Oakland Athletics at Kansas City Royals
Clear your calendars, because this has the potential to be a phenomenal game. Jon Lester faces off against James Shields in this elimination game as both teams seek the one wild card spot, and it’s bound to be a pitcher’s duel. The A’s were baseball’s best team for many months at the beginning of the season, and slowly lost their division lead and barely made the playoffs. The Royals are in the playoffs for the first time since 1985, and are hoping for more than one game of playoff baseball. Look for Big Game James and Jonny Lester to both pitch gems, possibly seven or eight shutout innings. Then The Royals will win it late, as they just have better offense than Oakland, and have more weapons that could come up clutch.
Prediction: Royals over A’s 3-1.
NL: San Francisco Giants at Pittsburgh Pirates
This isn’t as great a pitching matchup, with Madison Bumgarner going against Edinson Volquez, but it should still be a good game. Bumgarner can be dominant, and the strong Pirates bullpen can pick up Volquez if he doesn’t make it deep into the game. The Pirates have one of the best players in the game in Andrew McCutchen, and are playing on their home turf at the beautiful PNC Park. I’m taking the Pirates here, with Cutch coming up clutch with a big hit or home run in the late innings.
Prediction: Pirates over Giants 4-2.
Matchup 1: Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles
Both teams won their divisions this season, and are simply two of the game’s best teams. The Tigers have MVP candidate Victor Martinez along with Miguel Cabrera, and the game’s best rotation with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, and David Price. The Orioles have 40 homer hitter Nelson Cruz, all-around star Adam Jones, and an overall very potent lineup that hit the most homers in all of baseball in 2014. Baltimore lacks in pitching, with Chris Tillman as their ace, and their lack of depth in the rotation might come to hurt them. They lost Chris Davis to a suspension, and won the lackluster AL East. It could be a good series, but don’t expect it to go to all five games. The Tigers just have significantly better pitching, and V-Mart and Cabrera will be enough to carry the Tigers’ offense past Baltimore.
Prediction: Tigers over Orioles 3 games to 1.
Matchup 2: Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals
Record wise, the Angels are the American League’s best team. They have Mike Trout, baseball’s best player, Albert Pujols, who has rebounded and is still a feared and talented hitter, and a bit of a surprise ace in Garrett Richards. They won 98 games, and finished ten games ahead of the Athletics in the AL West. The Royals have Big Game James, MVP candidate Alex Gordon, and a formidable hitter in Eric Hosmer. The Angels scored the most runs in baseball in 2014, and traded for closer Huston Street, a proven, elite pitcher who matches up well with Royals closer Greg Holland. The Royals will be riding the adrenaline of winning the wild card game, but will be no match for Mike Trout’s Angels.
Prediction: Angels over Royals 3 games to 2.
Matchup 1: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last year’s NL champion Cardinals had another great season, winning 90 games, and finishing atop the NL Central. The Dodgers won 94 games and their division, and are as strong as ever. With superhuman Clayton Kershaw as their ace, baseball’s earned run average leader a record four times in a row, the Dodgers have baseball’s best pitcher, and potentially the NL MVP and Cy Young award winner. Add to that Zack Grienke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Los Angeles has a solid rotation. The Cardinals own baseball’s best catcher in Yadier Molina, star Matt Holliday, and a core of young pitchers in Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller to complement veteran John Lackey and ace Adam Wainwright. The Cards are good, but not good enough to beat Kershaw and the Dodgers.
Prediction: Dodgers over Cardinals 3 games to 2.
Matchup 2: Washington Nationals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Nationals won 96 games, had baseball’s best team ERA, and capped off the season with Jordan Zimmerman’s no hitter in the last regular season game. With Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister to go along with Zimmerman, Washington definitely has the NL’s best pitching, and have been great all season. The Pirates don’t have as solid a rotation, but have a strong bullpen, Andrew McCutchen, and will be full of momentum after winning the wild card game. The Nationals have had big expectations the past few years, and are one of the game’s best teams. The Pirates are no match for the Nationals stellar pitching, and won’t make it past this round.
Prediction: Nationals over Pirates 3 games to 1.
Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Angels
The Tigers lost to the Red Sox in the ALCS last year, and are still hungry for some World Series action. Detroit led baseball in hits and team batting average, and has a very powerful lineup, not to mention a ridiculous rotation. The Angels won the most games in baseball this season, have the best player on the planet in center field, and a stellar closer. Both teams are very good. It’s simple. Detroit has better offense and pitching, and are a perennial playoff team, with many experienced playoff stars. And with their insane pitching, they’re making it the World Series in 2014.
Tigers over Angels 4 games to 2.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals
This will be the best matchup so far in the playoffs. These are baseball’s two best teams, and the pitching matchups will be intense. The Dodgers had baseball’s best team on-base percentage and Clayton Kershaw. The Nationals had the best ERA, second most quality starts, and have four great starters in Strasburg, Zimmerman, Gonzalez, and Fister. They have a solid lineup, including Adam LaRoche, Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, and Ian Desmond. The Dodgers boast Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, and Matt Kemp, plus speedster Dee Gordon and veterans Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford. But most importantly in this series is Clayton Kershaw. He is unhittable. And he will be the dealbreaker in this series.
Prediction: Dodgers over Nationals 4 games to 3.
Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Fall Classic will be classic. Incredible pitching. Powerful lineups. David Price and Miguel Cabrera versus Clayton Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez. Plus Scherzer, Verlander, Greinke, Ryu, Martinez, Kemp, and yes, I think you get it. This will be a good series. Both teams have very good pitching and hitting, and tons of award winners and proven performers. The Dodgers have the third most strikeouts, and the Tigers have struck out the sixth fewest times. 2013 Cy Young Award winners will face each other. 2014’s MVPs could be facing each other. I’m getting repetitive. Both teams are very good and this could be an amazing series. Unfortunately for Detroit, there is only one Clayton Kershaw. And if he can pitch two or three times in the series, I’m afraid this is Los Angeles’s series to lose.
Prediction: Dodgers over Tigers 4 games to 3.
Let the games begin (tonight at eight with the AL Wild card game on TBS)!