October is here and playoff baseball is back (Oh, thank GOODNESS). After the MLB’s long, 162-game season, the stage is finally set and The Daily Cal has you covered for the Wild Card and Division Series
NL Wild Card — Milwaukee Brewers at Washington Nationals
Noah Parker: Brewers 4, Nats 2. Winners of 19 of their last 25 games, the red-hot, albeit Christian Yelich-less Brewers, will ride their late-season momentum to a second straight NLDS appearance. Nationals starter Max Scherzer is expected to be dominant on the bump, but a shaky bullpen (Washington owns the worst bullpen ERA in MLB) will ultimately lead to another disappointment for the nation’s capital.
Josh Yuen: Nats 7, Brewers 5. Recent history will reveal that the Nationals have not fared well in the early rounds of postseason play. But with Milwaukee’s outfield banged up and Brandon Woodruff getting the nod on the bump against Max Scherzer, it’s hard to envision a situation where the Brew Crew jumps out early, which is what their deep bullpen needs. Stephen Strasburg figures to be ready at a moment’s notice as well — expect a low-scoring affair that has the potential to get interesting late.
AL Wild Card — Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics
Ethan Waters: A’s 3, Rays 1. With lefty Sean Manaea potentially back at the helm for this matchup and holding a 1.21 ERA over his last five starts, Oakland will just need to get its bats back to speed and tack onto its 257 homers this season to produce a win. Although the home crowd will be electric, this will be a narrow, low-scoring affair between two young teams who each have a legitimate shot at a deep postseason run.
Chanun Ong: Rays 5, A’s 2. The A’s would surely make Berkeley proud, but then again, they are a team whose top two starters are a streaky Mike Fiers and a faux-resurgent Sean Manaea, whose recent stretch has been bolstered by favorable matchups against the sub-.500 Tigers, Mariners and Rangers. Although the Rays may not be used to a rowdy Oakland Coliseum after playing their regular-season games at a Tropicana Field that seems to be generally devoid of raucous fans, they will trot out one of the best arms outside of Houston in Charlie Morton.
NL Division Series:
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves
NP: The Cardinals made a strong push late in the season to take the NL Central, but a lack of starting pitching depth behind Jack Flaherty and inconsistent play from their top hitters spell an early playoff exit. Atlanta quietly put together one of the strongest seasons in the majors, and the key additions of back end bullpen help, as well as the return to form of Mike Foltynewicz, make the Braves a darkhorse World Series candidate. Braves in four.
Benjamin Coleman: Both teams limped into the playoffs, but this series should come down to pure talent. Jack Flaherty and an inconsistent Atlanta bullpen should keep the Cardinals in it, but they’ll be overpowered by a young and skillful Braves team that is reaching their potential early. Braves in four.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. WINNER NL WILD CARD
EW: The Dodgers have lost the World Series for two years in a row, as everyone knows (and many love). This year, they’ll make a run again with the help of their ridiculous depth, starting with a sweep in the NLDS. Dodgers in three.
CO: As a Giants fan, what I’m about to say pains me — the boys in blue have been undeniably great on both sides of the ball and their national league-leading 106 wins shows it. Walker Buehler, Hyun-jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw could all be top-of-the-rotation arms, while NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger stands out in a lineup with top-to-bottom pop. Dodgers in four.
AL Division Series:
New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins
JY: Expect at least 30 home runs to find their way into outer space by the time this heavyweight head-to-head concludes. Rocco Baldelli deserves to be near the front of the Manager of the Year award race, but he’ll need Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler to play smart rather than play big, which is probably the way to go considering that Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are in the opposing batter’s box. New York’s got just about everything a championship team needs, but don’t count the Twins out right away. Yankees in five.
BC: This should be a great slugout between two heavy-hitting teams. The Yankees playoff dominance over the Twins has been well-publicized, and the deep and powerful Yankees will be eager to continue this trend. Minnesota has a thin rotation, but they hit homers better than almost anyone else. That alone will help them upset New York and end the Yankees reign over them. Twins in five.
Houston Astros vs. WINNER AL WILD CARD
EW: As much as I’d love to see Houston take an early exit from this year’s postseason, they just won’t quit. Oakland will put up a fight, though, and it will take the Astros all five games to lock up the ALDS.
CO: I love my small-market teams, but the Rays’ underdog magic won’t be quite enough against the power arms of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. A lineup with 24-year-old Austin Meadows as its centerpiece may need a year or two to ripen before the time comes in Tampa, but the Rays will give the favorites a scare. Astros in five.