As we do every year at this time, the staff at MLBbro.com has made its annual postseason predictions.
Our Panel: Rob Parker, JR Gamble, Mark Gray, David Grubb, Malik Wright, Dante Miles, Ronald Agers, Gary Sheffield Jr., Rachel Hill, Jaelen Gilkey, Kevin Moore
After the sudden completion of the Wild Card round, here’s how our crew’s predictions have panned out so far.
|Gary Sheffield Jr.||4-0|
|Rob Parker, David Grubb||3-1|
|JR Gamble, Rachel Hill, Kevin Moore, Malik Wright||2-2|
|Ronald Agers, Dante Miles||1-3|
|Mark Gray, Jaelen Gilkey||0-4|
The divisional round of the postseason begins on Saturday, with two upsets in the wild card round reshaping the brackets. Only three of our panelists (Gamble, Sheffield, Miles) correctly picked the Diamondbacks to advance to the second round. In the other series, six staffers selected the Rangers to knock off the Rays.
With berths in the League Championship Series on the line, the stakes are higher, and the series are longer. So here are our picks for who wins and in how many games.
American League Divisional Series
Minnesota Twins (3) vs Houston Astros (2)
Season series: Twins 4-2
The Minnesota Twins are on a roll. Since September 1 they are 21-10 (.677), including their two-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Their pitching staff surrendered just one run in the two games, with 19 strikeouts and only five walks. Royce Lewis (.333, 2 HR, 3R, 3RBI) had a record-tying performance in game one with home runs in each of his first two postseason at-bats.
Now, he and the rest of the Twins get to take on the champs. The Twins did win the season series, but the Astros have advanced to at least the ALCS in each of the past six years. We’re riding with the Astros, but we don’t think it will be an easy win.
Panel’s pick: Astros in 5
Texas Rangers (5) vs Baltimore Orioles (1)
Season series: 3-3
Well, the Baltimore Orioles won 101 games during the regular season. They’ve only done that three times in the last 50 years (1979, 1980). Baltimore scored 800 runs for the first time in 20 years. They also had a top five pitching staff.
The Rangers have bludgeoned their way into the playoffs and into the second round. Texas tied the Twins for the American League lead in home runs (233), and led the AL in batting average, runs scored, OBP, Slugging, and OPS. Texas shot down the Blue Jays by scoring 11 runs in two games. The big surprise was their pitching, which held Toronto to a single run in the series.
It was close, but in the end we believe that the Orioles will get past the Rangers and into the ALCS for the first time since 2014.
Panel’s pick: Orioles in 4
National League Divisional Series
Arizona Diamondbacks (6) vs Los Angeles Dodgers (2)
Season series: Dodgers 8-5
Arizona stumbled into the playoffs losing its final four games of the regular season. They were outscored by their opponents, but here they are taking on the juggernaut that is the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks got contributions from just about everyone in their lineup in beating the Brewers.
This series is between divisional opponents, and LA dominated the series. They have the better offense, the better defense, a deeper pitching staff, the more experienced manager, and the mission of “World Series or Bust.”
We’ll give the D-Backs enough credit to earn a gentleman’s sweep.
Panel’s pick: Dodgers in 4
Philadelphia Phillies (4) vs Atlanta Braves (1)
Season series: Braves 8-5
This series might be the best of the entire postseason. These NL East rivals are the last two representatives for the National League in the World Series. They played each other seven times in the month of September, with the Braves edging out the Phillies four games to three.
They were only three runs apart in those games, with three of them going to extra innings.
The only shame is this series is best-of-five instead of best-of-seven.
Ronald Acuna missed the playoffs last year, and this season he’s the likely MVP. He’s the headliner on an offense that launched 307 home runs into the stands and scored 947 runs. That would be enough to deal with for most teams, but the Braves are above average on the mound and in the field as well.
Philly comes in winners of 10 of their last 13 games and aren’t afraid of Atlanta. The Phillies should push the Braves to their limit, but ultimately Atlanta will emerge victorious.
Panel’s pick: Braves in 5