The Major League Playoffs’ division series matchups are set, and it’s almost time to begin the most exciting times of the year for any fan of America’s pastime.
The Division Series kicks off this week with the following matchups:
- NL: Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals
- NL: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals
- AL: Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays
- AL: New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins
It’s time to take a deeper look at this series and make our picks for who will win.
Braves vs. Cardinals: Braves in 5
This series hinges on the health of Atlanta’s star players. First baseman Freddie Freeman and center fielder Ronald Acuña Jr. each missed games in the final week of the season due to elbow bone spurs and a groin strain, respectively, but are both set to go for the division series.
If they can stay healthy, we think the Braves’ dynamic offense with the two aforementioned players as well as Ozzie Albies and Josh Donaldson will back a pitching staff that has seen improvement from its bullpen in recent weeks to beat St. Louis. The NL’s best second half starter, Jack Flaherty, as well as Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong, however, won’t make it easy.
Dodgers vs. Nationals: Dodgers in 4
The Nationals have one of the league’s best 1-2-3 pitching tandems with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, but we just don’t think it’s enough to handle LA’s big bats. The Dodgers’ lineup is insanely deep, and they should be able to inflict some damage on Nationals pitching.
Keep an eye on Hyun Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw, however. If these two lefty starters for LA can’t revert recent struggles, it’s possible that right-handed bats like Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman could lead the Nationals to an upset.
Astros vs. Rays: Astros in 3
Sorry, Tampa. The Rays experienced an emotional high after beating the Oakland A’s in the AL Wild Card Game, but we don’t think they’ll be much of a challenge for the Astros. The World Series favorite has arguably baseball’s best rotation and lineup.
Zack Greinke, Gerrit Cole, and Justin Verlander are on a mission, and big bats like Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez bring the thunder to put a scare into any pitching staff. The Rays might be able to sneak a win when Charlie Morton starts, but don’t expect them to get much more than that.
Yankees vs. Twins: Twins in 5
The Yankees might have a home-field advantage and the bigger name in this series, but don’t be surprised if the Twins pull the biggest upset in the first round and knock off the Bronx Bombers.
If the Yankees have an Achilles heel, it’s their mediocre starting pitching staff. The Twins’ powerful lineup could end up turning Yankee Stadium into batting practice and slugging their way past the Yankees in what could end up being one of the highest-scoring series in the history of playoff baseball.