By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
Back in the day, the baseball playoffs just was a simple dance in October. Two divisions in each league would meet in the best-of-five League Championship Series with the winners meeting in the World Series.
Hell, even before that concept came to fruition in 1969, all teams in the league were bunched together with the teams the best record meeting in the World Series. Simple and painless, right?
Subsequently, we’ve seen the advent of Wild Card teams as well as a winner-take-all Wild Card Game in each league. Has it bastardized the postseason a bit? Yeah. But has it also added a bit of juice to the procedure? Absolutely.
This year, we’ve also had a pair of National League divisional tiebreakers added to the mix. Even though they’re just two extra regular season games, they’ve definitely added to the angst and tension surrounding this year’s postseason party.
Now we’re down to MLB’s version of the Final Four. Last year’s World Series finalists are still here hoping to get back. The Dodgers are set to meet arguably the game’s hottest team in the Milwaukee Brewers.
In the American League, the defending World Series champions in Houston have hit their stride as they prepare to meet one of the teams they eliminated along the way last year — the AL East champion Boston Red Sox.
Once again, here’s our modest take on both best-of-seven matchups.
DODGERS vs. BREWERS
How’d they get here: Milwaukee defeated Chicago in the Central tiebreaker and then swept Colorado 3-0 in the Division Series. L.A. defeated Colorado in the West tiebreaker and then dismissed Atlanta in the Division Series in four games.
Season series: Dodgers won 4-3
Skinny: Despite their series wins, neither team has hit well collectively in the postseason. As a team, the Dodgers batted just .210 in the NLDS but slugged eight homers. As for Milwaukee, Yelich and Cain combined to go 2-for-18 against Colorado. You do get the feeling that might change a bit in this series.
Did you know: Milwaukee’s current 11-game winning streak — which includes the final eight games of the regular season and an NLDS sweep — is the second-longest in franchise history. The longest belongs to the 1987 squad which set an American League record with a 13-0 start to the year.
X-Factor: Another call to the bullpen. Milwaukee and Los Angeles are ranked 1 and 2 in relievers’ ERA since the start of September, led by the Brewers’ mark of 1.89 — nearly a run better than the rest of the pack
Prediction: Brewers in 7. Just going with the team with the best momentum.
ASTROS vs. RED SOX
How’d they get here: The AL West champs from Houston completely outclassed Cleveland in their 3-0 sweep. Boston followed their historic regular season by defeating the rival Yankees in four games.
Season series: Astros won 4-3
Skinny: With apologies to both Milwaukee and L.A., there are some media wags — especially in Houston and Boston — that are looking at this year’s ALCS as the “pseudo” World Series. I’m not one of them. Sure these are the two best teams in the AL, but this writer feels that either NL squad can handle their business with either team in a short series.
Did you know: Both teams set a franchise record for regular season wins. In fact, the two clubs’ total of 211 combined regular-season wins ties a record for LCS opponents, previously set by the Seattle Mariners (116) and New York Yankees (95) in 2001.
X-Factor: Is that you, buddy? After serving as A.J. Hinch’s bench coach in Houston last year, Alex Cora helped lead Boston to MLB’s best record and a division title. They both have power, pitching, speed, and a heaping helping of analytics at their disposal. Let the chess game on the diamond begin.
Prediction: Astros in 6. They’re still the champs until you can beat them.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.