October baseball with full stadiums is back
With the regular season over, the MLB plays are upon us. Every game from here on out will be crucial for teams who want to extend their postseason bid.
White Sox vs. Astros
The Chicago White Sox will begin their playoff run against the notorious Houston Astros. The Astros have been a controversial team since the sign-stealing scandal following their World Series winning 2017 season.
The Astros are led by veteran players Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley. Both players hit over .300, and will be key to Houston jumping on White Sox pitchers. Mix in Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman and the Astros lineup is as lethal as ever.
The White Sox won their division by 13 games separating themselves from the monstrosity that was the American League Central.
Veterans Yasmani Grandal and José Abreu will attempt to lead the White Sox to postseason glory. Both players provide the power to a loaded lineup, as well as veteran leadership. One player that could be a menace to the Houston rotation is Luis Robert. Robert has put up outstanding numbers for the White Sox including bolstering a .338 average and 93 hits in only 68 games played.
Braves vs. Brewers
The Atlanta Braves are back in the playoffs season and enter the National League Division Series against the Brewers with a little more confidence and experience. During the season the Braves lost one of their top stars, Ronald Acuna Jr., after he tore his ACL in July, but the Braves still have a solid ball club.
Atlanta has a lot of power in their lineup, with three players hitting over 30 home runs. Austin Riley had a fantastic season hitting .303 with 33 home runs. At only 24, Riley will continue to be an integral part of the Atlanta lineup.
The Braves will have to utilize their power across the lineup if they want to have success against the Brewers. Milwaukee’s pitching staff was among the best in the MLB, so the long ball will be a difference-maker.
For the Brewers there isn’t too much to say, the team bats around .240 overall, they don’t hit too many home runs and they are often prone to striking out. The Brewers have superstars like Christian Yellich and Jackie Bradley Jr., but the pair aren’t having the greatest seasons. Willy Adames currently leads Milwaukee with a .285 average, and Avisail Garcia hit 29 home runs during the season.
The Brewers have a lot they need to do if they want to move on to the NLCS. They need to be aggressive at the plate, with that low of a team average they need to make contact and get on base. Milwaukee also needs to play very clean baseball, and not give the Braves any free bases via errors or passed balls.
The remaining field
The two top seeds in the AL and NL are the analytics-driven Tampa Bay Rays and the 107 win San Francisco Giants.
The Rays are set to square off against the Boston Red Sox after the Sox took care of business in the AL wild-card game against the Yankees. Tampa Bay will enter the series as the heavy favorites. It’s hard to pinpoint a weakness on this Rays roster. Tampa Bay hasn’t missed a beat despite losing their top three starting pitchers following last season’s World Series run.
The acquiring of Nelson Cruz at that trade deadline has worked out as well as the Rays could have hoped adding power and veteran leadership to a team ready to get over that World Series hump. Mix in all-world rookie Wander Franco, and you have a lineup that can go toe to toe with anybody in the league.
However, the worry is Boston gets hot and goes on one of those weird, out of nowhere deep playoff runs they seem to have every other season. There’s little doubt World Series winning manager Alex Cora will have his team ready to play, so don’t expect the Sox to go away quietly.
On the NL side, the San Francisco Giants await the winner of the Cardinals and Dodgers wild-card game. The Cardinals and Dodgers game will be over by the time this article is published, but whoever wins will have their hands full with this Giants team that posted the best record in baseball in the regular season.
The Giants field a team loaded with veteran leaders. Buster Posey continues to provide steady leadership behind the dish, but the real story has been the Giants bullpen. San Francisco relievers posted a sub 3.00 era on the season, and could very well be the difference in a World Series run, and a disappointing finish after a magical regular season.