MLB Postseason Preview: Will anyone trip Boston or Houston?

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Statisticians and baseball experts have, since the beginning of the season, predicted that the 2018 playoffs would be rich with drama because of the presence of multiple sturdy clubs in both the American and National leagues, but I doubt that anyone thought things would be this crazy. Powerhouse teams? We’ve got eight. Rivalries? Some that go back as far as the early 1900s. Upsets? We’ve already had a few of those — so buckle up.

All eyes were on Wrigley Field on Tuesday night as the Cubs hosted the Rockies for the NL Wild Card game, a matchup Cubs fans never thought they’d be watching at the beginning of the season. The Rockies started out strong and scored a run in the top of the first — that run kept them in front of the Cubs for the majority of the game.

Just when Cubs fans thought all hope was lost, spirits rose in the crowd after Javier Báez’s double that brought Terrance Gore to the plate, tying the game in the 8th inning and sending the winner-take-all game into extras. The Rockies countered with a two-out RBI single from unlikely hero Tony Wolters to reclaim the lead in the 13th, enough to extend Colorado’s postseason run into the divisional round against Milwaukee.

It’s not unlikely, however, that the Brewers will come out on top in this series. Most of their power lies in hitters such as MVP candidate Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun, but their pitching is reliable enough to make the Rockies sweat. Whether or not the Rockies’ bullpen, packed with stars, can keep the Brewers’ bats at bay will make for an entertaining series between the two. In Game 1, Mike Moustakas continued the early postseason drama with a walk-off single off of Adam Ottavino in the 10th inning, giving Milwaukee the early edge.

The Oakland A’s also had their postseason dreams cut short after a disappointing loss to the New York Yankees during a “Moneyball”-esque scene Wednesday night. Similar to the Rockies, the Yankees literally hit the ground running after Aaron Judge’s two-run homer in the bottom of the first.

The pinstripes added to their lead in the 6th, with Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit and Didi Gregorius ringing in four more runs between the trio of Bronx Bombers. The A’s didn’t respond until the 8th, with Khris Davis’s homer that scored two for Oakland. It was too little too late, however, and the Yankees will be facing their bitter rivals from Boston on Friday afternoon in what is sure to be an incredibly dramatic series.

Both teams feature charismatic players such as Judge and Mookie Betts, but charm aside, each team is a force to be reckoned with. Both parties have high expectations to bring a championship back home, and more importantly, they both have very good chances to do so.

The Sox, however, are the most likely to make a very deep run into the playoffs and have a sturdy roster that will make them heavyweights for the foreseeable postseason future.

The Cleveland Indians will kick things off with the defending champion Houston Astros in what is poised to be the most intense competition in the playoffs thus far. Despite the difficulty of obtaining back-to-back World Series titles, if any team is capable of doing so, it’s the Astros. Their lineup is stacked top to bottom with talent, with hitters such as José Altuve and the presence on the mound of Justin Verlander making Houston nearly impenetrable.

The Indians, however, are sure to give the Astros a run for their money — with Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer in the starting rotation, and Francisco Lindor, José Ramírez and Michael Brantley poised to step up to the plate, Cleveland is well-equipped to play spoiler to Houston’s back-to-back aspirations.

Back in the National League, the Dodgers and Braves will be facing off in a battle of old against new, with the former making a returning postseason run and the latter appearing for the first time in five years. These teams contended in very similar circumstances in 2013, when the Braves narrowly lost to the Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

Atlanta’s postseason berth this year was unexpected, to say the least, but the team’s consistency both at bat and on the mound has earned the young Braves a rightful place in the playoffs. Atlanta is notorious, however, for succumbing to postseason pressures, and hasn’t won a World Series since 1995.

It will be no easy feat for Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuña Jr. and company to overcome the Dodgers, a team that seems to be built for postseason success. Manny Machado has been a huge asset for LA since the team acquired him from the suffering Orioles in July, and despite the dwindling trade chatter, he has already become the unsung hero for the Dodgers in the games leading up to postseason play. The Dodgers can also count on pillar players such as Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig to see them through to the next round. The Dodgers appear to have the unique ability to thrive off of heightened pressure during the playoffs, as is evident by six straight NL West titles.

Will the Astros walk away with the World Series trophy yet again? Will the vying Red Sox or Indians finally get what they’ve been wanting for a combined 75 years? Or will the NL underdogs surprise us after all? This playoff season is just getting started.

Emily Ohman writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact her at [email protected].