Four teams are still alive in the MLB playoffs, and while there may be valid complaints about the pace of play in baseball, there’s no doubt that the postseason moves quicker than other leagues such as the NBA. Setting aside scheduling preferences, we should have two excellent League Championship Series, so let’s jump in.
Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros (TEX leads 1-0)
There are several different levels of intrigue to this matchup. The first is recent playoff history. While it has come with controversy, the Astros have made the postseason every year since 2017. In that span, they have made the World Series four times and won it twice.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are making their first playoff appearance since 2016. It goes without saying that both teams have played well to get to this point, but Texas has had a particularly impressive run as they are a perfect 6-0 after Sunday’s win over the Astros.
To make things even better, they’re expected to get Max Scherzer (shoulder) back in the rotation, likely for Game 3.
Jordan Montgomery has been excellent this postseason, and he pitched 6.1 scoreless innings in Sunday’s aforementioned win.
However, we can bet the Astros aren’t panicking, thanks to the experience of their core group. In a seven-game series – rather than five as was the case in the ALDS – the outcome of Game 1 arguably hasn’t changed much for the outlook of the matchup.
Houston also likely has additional confidence thanks to their relative dominance over the Rangers in the regular season, when they went 9-4.
We should get a good feel for the rest of this series immediately, as Game 2 is set to be played Monday afternoon. The Astros will throw Framber Valdez and the Rangers will start Nathan Eovaldi. Valdez’s season-long line is solid, but he had a 4.66 ERA in the second half. He also allowed five earned runs in his only postseason start to this point.
Meanwhile, Eovaldi has been lights out in two postseason appearances, piling up a 15:0 K:BB across 13.2 innings while allowing only two earned runs.
That certainly points in the Rangers’ direction for a win (+100), and if they do that, they’ll certainly be the favorite in the series. They won’t maintain their perfect postseason record, but they’ll make a World Series appearance for the first time since 2011.
The Pick: Texas in 6 (+430)
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies
After Orlando Arcia’s accidental bulletin board material for Bryce Harper, we shouldn’t expect Arizona to do much trash talking, so this series could be relatively tame from a tension standpoint. The “new kids on the block” against the “been there done that” team does carry over to this matchup, however.
The Phillies made the World Series last year in an unlikely run as a Wild Card team. While they are once again a Wild Card team, they have an experience advantage over Arizona, who hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2017 — at which point, they had an entirely different roster.
Though neither team won their division, the Phillies finished six games better in the regular season and enter the series as considerable favorites as a result. Of course, the Dodgers were the third-best team in all of baseball, yet the Diamondbacks swept them in the NLDS.
The case for the Phillies is straightforward. Zack Wheeler is arguably the best pitcher in the series, and if he’s not, he’s certainly entering the series in better overall form as compared to Zac Gallen.
Philadelphia also has far more star power in the lineup, giving them a considerable advantage on paper. Depth is a similar story, particularly in the starting rotation, as Arizona could very well be relying upon Ryne Nelson to start Game 4.
The path to an Arizona win is also obvious. The top third of its order – Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte and Tommy Pham – have combined to hit .344 with five home runs, nine RBI and 16 runs scored. If they can find a way to solve Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler and keep that type of performance going, they’ll have the chance to keep pace.
Similarly, Merrill Kelly was excellent in his lone postseason start, while on the surface Zac Gallen has pitched well, too. On the other hand, Gallen’s 8:5 K:BB in 11.1 innings of work suggests we should be cautious, and ultimately, it’s difficult to project that things keep falling perfectly for the D-Backs.
The Pick: Philadelphia in 6 (+380)
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