Three teams won 100 games for the first time since 2003 and the sixth time in MLB history. But regular season wins only guarantee clubs a playoff spot. It’s a fresh start for everyone involved in the postseason.
From 30 teams down to eight, here we go in the divisional series. The reigning World Series champions are in one of the four series. The other championship finalist from 2016 in is another. Each series is a best-of-five showdown. Both AL series get underway Thursday, Oct. 5.
All four series are in action on Friday. Which teams will meet in the league finals? Let’s try and pick the winners (odds provided by topbet.eu).
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland — The Yankees fell behind quickly on Tuesday in the wild card game, only to respond like champions often do. Now they play the best team in the American League.
Is this the Indians’ year to finally win a World Series title, something they haven’t done since 1948? The Indians reeled off an AL-record 22-game winning streak while closing out the season on a remarkable 41-7 run. They made it to the championship last year, only to lose a heartbreaker to the Cubs in Game 7.
The Indians have it all, great starting pitching — Corey Kluber (18-4), Carlos Carrasco (18-6) — and an impressive bullpen. But the Yankees’ bullpen is among the best as well. Aroldis Chapman, David Robertson, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle logged a combined 0.37 ERA in September.
The Indians’ lineup is filled with all-stars in Francisco Lindor (.273, 33 homers), Jose Ramirez (.318, 29 homers) and Edwin Encarnacion (.258, 38 homers). In the other dugout, the Yankees rely on their three young stars — Aaron Judge (.284, 54 homers), Didi Gregorius (.287, 25 homers) and Gary Sanchez (.278, 33 homers).
The Indians went 5-2 against the Yankees this season, including a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium in late August.
VGB’s pick — Cleveland (-165)
Boston vs. Houston — The Red Sox are in the playoffs for the third time in five years and have won the World Series in two of those seasons. This is the Astros’ second trip to the playoffs in three years.
Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90 ERA) is the workhorse of the Boston staff.
He will pitch twice if this series goes the distance. Sale is 5-1 with a 1.31 ERA in his career against the Astros. Justin Verlander gets the call for the Astros in Thursday’s opener. Verlander, acquired minutes before the trade deadline, had an 1.06 ERA in five starts with the Astros in 34 innings of work.
The Red Sox don’t have the luxury of David Ortiz in their lineup anymore, but they have a lot of youngsters who can do some damage — Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi. Houston’s big three — Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer — lead what may be the best lineup in the game. The Astros finished the regular season with 896 runs and 1,581 hits — the best production in both leagues.
The Astros won the regular season series 4-3.
VGB’s pick — Houston (-170)
Arizona vs. Los Angeles — The Diamondbacks went toe-to-toe with their division rivals for nine innings in the wild card game before finally finishing the Rockies off 11-8 on Wednesday night. Now the D’backs meet another division rival in the Dodgers, who had the best record in baseball at 104-58.
Three-time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw will start in Game 1 for Los Angeles. The Dodgers ace finished the season 18-4, but he was 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA since returning in September from a back injury.
The Diamondbacks, who went from 69-93 in 2016 to 96-66 in 2017, won the season series 11-8 while outscoring the Dodgers by 28 runs.
VGB’s pick — Arizona
Chicago Cubs vs. Washington — This series all comes down to the health of Max Scherzer. The reigning Cy Young award winner is battling a hamstring injury. Scherzer says he’s fine. If he’s not, it would be hard for any team to win without their ace, especially against the defending World Series champs.
Kris Bryant (.295, 29 homers) and Anthony Rizzo (.273, 32 homers) lead the charge for the Cubs. Bryce Harper (.319, 29 homers), Daniel Murphy (.322, 23 homers) and Ryan Zimmerman (.303, 36 homers) fuel Washington’s offense.
The Nationals, who haven’t made it out of the NLDS in three attempts since 2012, won the regular season series 4-3.
VGB’s pick — Chicago (Even)