Feel free to comment throughout these series below!
The Rays enter the series having been outscored in the Division Series by the Yankees, 24-21. But that doesn’t matter when you win the most games. Particularly impressive was the Rays’ ability to silence the New York bats in the decisive Game 5. The Rays allowed only three hits and four walks against one of the most potent lineups in the game. The question becomes, can their pitchers continue to silence the defending AL Champion Astros?
Speaking of whom: the Astros are appearing in their 4th-straight ALCS. They join the 2011-2014 Cardinals, 1998-2001 Yankees, 1991-1999 Atlanta Braves (that’s 8 seasons not 9, due to the 1994 work stoppage), and 1971-1975 Oakland A’s as the only teams to make 4 or more consecutive League Championship Series. Though the Astros finished the regular season with a losing record (29-31), they now have a winning record (34-32) including the postseason. They will need to win at least 2 games to finish .500 or better on the year.
Something’s gotta give: it’s a matchup of two undefeated postseason teams. The teams with the top two seeds in the National League (and the best two winning percentages in the NL, postseason inclusive) face off in an NLCS with a lot of potentially-exciting storylines.
For the Braves, they enter with a fabulous offense – second in the Majors in runs scored (and second by only a single run to the Dodgers). Four of their key players finished the season with a .900 or better OPS:
Travis d’Arnaud: .321/.386/.533
Ronald Acuna, Jr.: .250/.406/.581
Marcell Ozuna: .338/.431/.636
Freddie Freeman: .341/.462/.640
I don’t know how often a team has had two players bat .330/.430/.630, but I’m going to guess that what Freeman and Ozuna did this year is pretty special.
Add in ace pitcher Max Fried – he of the 7-0 record and 2.25 ERA – and the Braves look pretty tough to beat.
However, that’s before you’ve looked at the Dodgers. The Dodgers led the NL in runs scored and (fewest) runs allowed; in fact, they nearly led the Majors in both, but Cleveland managed to allow four runs fewer.
Anyway, the Dodgers outscored their opponents by over two runs per game (2.27 per game, to be specific). That’s similar to the 1927 Yankees (2.44 per game), and even better than the 1906 Cubs (2.13), 2001 Mariners (1.85), 1998 Yankees (1.90), and anyone else I could think to check. Including postseason, they’re now winning games at a .738 clip – that’s a 119-win pace over 162. This is, arguably, one of the great teams of all-time. We’ll see, of course. But as for individuals, Mookie Betts looks decently likely to become the second-ever player to win MVP awards in both leagues. Clayton Kershaw, who is supposed to fade in the postseason, has been lights-out in two postseason starts: 14 innings, 3 R.
So, folks, stay tuned for what will hopefully be two outstanding postseason series. And stay tuned to the comments for conversation and analysis of the games!