By Steven Urena
NL and AL Championship Series
Dodgers vs. Braves
It’s a tough time to be an Atlanta sports fan. Last year the Braves blew a 3-1 lead against the Dodgers in the NLCS. In 2017 the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl versus the Patriots. The “choker” label is there and the Atlanta and Braves faithful know it. They get another life and a brand new opportunity to put a disappointing 2020 season behind them for good. The Braves of the 90’s and early 2000’s won 14 consecutive NL East titles in a row. What do they have to show for it? One World Series ring!!! You’re telling me Braves fans don’t want this more than ever? Hotlanta, it’s go time!
World Series or bust. World Series or bust. That’s the mantra in Los Angeles. Shoot, when you have a team like the Dodgers why wouldn’t you have high expectations? For the Blue Crew it’s now or never. Be phenomenal or be forgotten. The Dodgers don’t want one ring. They want several. LA wants a dynasty. They’re looking to be the first to go back to back since the Yankees won three in a row (98, 99, 2000). To win a championship is special. To win several is magical. This core group of Dodgers knows what’s at stake.
The Braves averaged 3 runs a game versus the Brewers. Not exactly Murderer’s Row. They relied on former Dodger Joc Pederson to provide some heroic home runs and Freddie Freeman put them ahead for good in the final and deciding game. It’s going to take more than two guys to beat the Dodgers. Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson helped carry the load this past season. If the Braves hope to move on, the rest of the offense needs to wake up.
The Dodgers offense was Jekyll and Hyde in their series with the Giants. One game they’re putting up 9 runs and the next they are getting shut out. As I pointed out earlier, the Dodgers can flat out hit but sometimes our bats go stone cold. Pitching has kept the Dodgers in low scoring games but make no mistake, if the Dodgers hope to advance, their offense needs to wake up. Yes, the long ball is how most teams want to score runs nowadays. However, there are times the Dodgers need to adjust. I’d like to see more walks, stolen bases and maybe even a drag bunt.
Pitching seems to be the Braves strong suit right now and if they’re going to beat the Dodgers then they’ll need their 3 horses to go deep into games. Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton are proven October contenders. Will Smith anchors the bullpen and he’s had success but their rotation really needs to get the job done against the Dodgers. Tyler Matzek and Luke Jackson came up clutch against the Brewers. The Dodgers are a different beast. All hands on deck!
The Dodgers pitching staff has been great. They gave up 4 runs in their first game and then gave up 2 runs twice and 1 run twice. Max Scherzer got his groove back. Walker Buehler and Julio Urias have proven themselves to be big time pitchers in October. The bullpen has been lights out. Pitching wins championships and the Dodgers staff has all the ingredients.
The edge, naturally, has to go to the Dodgers. The Blue Crew won 106 games during the regular season and the Braves had 88 wins. It seems a little unfair that the Dodgers are not going to have home field advantage but I guess that’s the way the pickle squirts.
The Braves showed the MLB what they are capable of during the playoffs. Last year they had the best team in baseball down 3 games to 1. The series is in the hands of Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton. They are the Braves only hope. If they can silence the Dodger bats they might pull off the upset.
The Dodgers are dangerous. If their pitching stays hot and their bats come alive it’ll be a short series. Their only disadvantage is they were in a dog fight with the Giants. Their arms are tired and I’m sure they’re a little mentally drained.
My prediction…Dodgers in 6! I can’t see the Braves grinding it out for 7 games with the Dodgers. They have too many weapons. Viva Los Doyers!
Astros vs. Red Sox
The Astros want this bad. They know the only way to shut up the baseball world is to win the World Series. Despite the heckling, trash can banging, hit by pitches and disrespect the Astros have risen up and will now make their 4th straight trip to the ALCS. In 4 trips to the ALCS the Astros have a World Series ring (kinda) and another trip to the Fall Classic (2019 loss to the Nationals). It’s personal and the Astros know it. Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, Yuri Gurriel, Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers know the deal. Win and they now have instant credibility. No more crying from the baseball world. Lose and be forever shamed. When I say forever, it’s foooorrrreeevvvvrrr. Even if the MLB still hates them, who cares, they got their sweet revenge. The pressure is on.
The Red Sox are out to prove that you cannot count the Sox Nation out, ever! Ever since the reverse of The Curse of the Bambino the Red Sox have won 4 World Series titles (2004, 2007, 2013, 2018). Something is special about Fenway, Big Papi, bloody socks and the Red Sox in October. It’s a huge change from Billy Buckner, Aaron Boone and Bucky Bleeping Dent. When you play for the Red Sox you have a responsibility to Sox Nation to be great. Tradition, pride and winning is what being a Red Sox is all about. It’s now or never for the Sox.
The Red Sox’s staff gave up 5 runs, 6 runs, 4 runs and 5 runs against the Rays. Not exactly power pitching but it’s good enough to advance. Starters Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez have been going five-and-dive but leaving with minimal damage. Garrett Whitlock has been a sure thing at the end of games. Aside from that, the rest of the staff has been just good enough to squeak out wins.
The spark for the Sox has been the usual suspects. Kyle Schwarber, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vazquez, Kike Hernandez and Alex Verdugo. Sometimes one of them is carrying the team, sometimes two and other times it’s all of them. It’s been typical Red Sox clutch hitting in the playoffs. Their lineup is scary but their pitching needs to step up in order to advance.
The Astros have heavily relied on Lance McCullers. In two postseason starts McCullers has pitched 10.2 innings and given up only 1 earned run. Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia got shelled in their lone postseason starts. The bullpen is on the same boat. Some relievers have gotten out of jams and others have allowed a small village to score. If the Astros expect to win a 7 game series, the rest of the staff needs to do their part.
The Astros offense averaged almost 8 runs a game versus the White Sox. Despite two weak starts from Valdez and Garcia, the Astros still prevailed. Just like the Red Sox, the Astros called upon the usual suspects to do their dirty work. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker. The guys that have done it all year for the Astros have shown up in October so far.
The edge in pitching goes to the Red Sox. The edge in hitting goes to the Astros. Since both teams were not expected to make it this far, both teams are loose and having fun. The Astros get the home field advantage but, make no mistake, playing 3 games at Fenway is no easy task. If the Astors go up 2-0 then they just have to lean on the Red Sox. If the Red Sox split in Houston and win 2 of 3 at home, they go to the World Series.
I like the Astros offense. Especially at home. I just don’t think their pitching can hold up. Lance McCullers is not going to win Games 1, 4 and 7. The Red Sox bats are rolling. Their staff has just enough to allow the other team to score less runs in a shootout.
My prediction…I promise this has nothing to do with Astros hate…this is based solely on my baseball knowledge.
Red Sox in 6.
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