Tag Archives: ALCS

MLB League Championship Series 2019 preview and predictions

 

The 2019 Major League Baseball postseason has already provided plenty of October excitement, with three of four Division Series pushed to decisive Game 5 dramatic conclusions.

Now the final four surviving ball clubs have moved on to battle in the respective League Championship Series over the next week or so. The two winners will earn their respective league pennant and advance to face-off in the World Series.

As for predictions, I went 1-1 in the Wildcard games and 3-1 in the LDS. With all of the craziness that is normally October baseball, I’ll take that 4-2 record and run with it. My LCS predictions come at the bottom of each series preview below.

This may be hard for most of my fellow Philadelphia Phillies fans to swallow, but at this point I will be rooting for the Washington Nationals to win it all.

My reasoning is that if the Phillies are not involved during any MLB postseason, I always root for any team(s) that have never won a World Series to finally enjoy that experience.

The Nationals have been in Washington since 2005 after playing their first 36 seasons north of the border as the Montreal Expos. The lone World Series crown in the history of our nation’s capital was captured by the Washington Senators back in 1926. That franchise moved to Minnesota, becoming the current Twins, back in 1961.

So, with that said, here the scheduled dates, times, locations, and TV network for each  in both the National League and American League Championship Series.

I have also listed the likely pitching match-ups, and the numbers in parentheses following the team names are where each finished in my final 2019 MLB Power Rankings of all 30 big-league ball clubs.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Washington Nationals (9) vs Saint Louis Cardinals (6)

  1. Friday, 10/11, 8:08 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Anibal Sanchez (WAS) vs Miles Mikolas (STL)
  2. Saturday, 10/12, 4:08 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Max Scherzer (WAS) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
  3. Monday, 10/14, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Patrick Corbin (WAS) vs Jack Flaherty (STL)
  4. Tuesday, 10/15, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs Dakota Hudson (STL)
  5. IF NECESSARY – Wednesday, 10/16, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: Anibal Sanchez (WAS) vs Miles Mikolas (STL)
  6. IF NECESSARY – Friday, 10/18, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: Max Scherzer (WAS) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
  7. IF NECESSARY – Saturday, 10/19, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: Stephen Strasburg (WAS) vs Dakota Hudson (STL)

PREDICTION: Nationals in five

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

New York Yankees (10) vs Houston Astros (2)

(Pitching match-ups in Game Four are speculative, especially for the Yankees where J.A. Happ could be starting instead of Sabathia)

  1. Saturday, 10/12, 8:08 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FOX: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Zack Greinke (HOU)
  2. Sunday, 10/13, 8:08 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FS1: James Paxton (NYY) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
  3. Tuesday, 10/15, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)
  4. Wednesday, 10/16, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: C.C. Sabathia (NYY) vs Wade Miley (HOU)
  5. IF NECESSARY – Thursday, 10/17, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FOX/FS1: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Zack Greinke (HOU)
  6. IF NECESSARY – Saturday, 10/19, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FOX/FS1: James Paxton (NYY) vs Justin Verlander (HOU)
  7. IF NECESSARY – Sunday, 10/20, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FOX/FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Gerrit Cole (HOU)

PREDICTION: Astros in six

Once the two series have finished and the World Series match-up is set, I’ll be providing a preview as well as the Fall Classic prediction.

More baseball pieces for your enjoyment:

Yankees find life as C.C. Sabathia turns back the clock

Sabathia gem helps cut Yankees ALCS deficit in half

The New York Yankees were in desperate shape entering Game Three of the 2017 American League Championship Series.

The Yanks trailed the Houston Astros by two games to none in the best-of-seven series. A loss back home in the Bronx would put them in an almost impossible 3-0 hole.

Manager Joe Girardi handed the ball to 37-year old, 17-year veteran C.C. Sabathia for the pivotal starting assignment on the mound.

Sabathia delivered, and then some. He would shut out the tough Houston lineup for six innings over which he threw 99 pitches. The big lefty surrendered just three hits, walked four, and struck out five batters in what he described as a “smoke and mirrors” performance per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.

Despite his age, there is no one his team would have wanted more in that position. Per Hoch, Sabathia is now 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts following a Yankees loss during the 2017 regular season and postseason.

“Obviously you want to go out and have a good performance in the playoffs and give us a chance to get back in the series. Hopefully we did that tonight. We can come out tomorrow, swing the bats and score some more runs.” ~ Sabathia, per Hoch

Swing the bats they did last night as well. The Bronx Bombers came out bombing early and often against Houston starter Charlie Morton. The veteran right-hander yielded seven earned runs on six hits and two walks over just 3.2 innings of work.

Todd Frazier got it started in the bottom of the second inning. The former Little League World Series hero reached out and poked a three-run homer just over the right field wall. That blast got the offense rolling in what would become an eventual 8-1 Yankees victory.

For all of the offensive fireworks that followed, including yet another prodigious home run from mammoth rookie Aaron Judge, it was the work of Sabathia in keeping Houston’s own potent offense in check that would make the biggest difference.

With the left-hander taking the hill against his club, Houston skipper A.J. Hinch loaded his lineup with right-handed hitters. Hinch had Evan Gattis and Cameron Maybin take the places of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. He also moved shortstop Alex Bregman up into the two-hole in the batting order.

None of it mattered in the end. Maybin delivered a hit, but it was one of only four that the Houston order would generate on the night against Sabathia and a trio of Yankees relievers.

He comes up big for us when we need him,’’ said outfielder Brett Gardner per Mark Herrmann for Newsday. “He’s a big-game pitcher. He might not have the velocity that he used to have, but he’s a better pitcher and has better command than he’s had. He knows what he’s doing out there. We’re lucky to have him on our side.”

SABATHIA’S BIG LEAGUE HISTORY

Sabathia was the first round pick of the Cleveland Indians all the way back in the 1998 MLB Draft at 20th overall. Just three years later he was in Cleveland, winning 17 games as a 20-year old and finishing as the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up to a legend named Ichiro Suzuki.

In parts of eight seasons with the Tribe, Sabathia amassed a 106-71 record. He was the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, as well as a three-time AL All-Star.


With Sabathia headed for free agency, the Indians dealt him to the Milwaukee Brewers at the 2008 trade deadline. He went 11-2 for the Brew Crew, helping them to the playoffs, and then entered free agency.


Entering his age 28 season, an ace-caliber starting pitcher, Sabathia was one of the most coveted free agents on the market. He received a huge nine-year, $202 million dollar contract from the Yankees. That deal expires following this season.




With the Yankees, Sabathia has added on another 120 victories to his personal career win column. He also has three more AL All-Star Game nods, has finished in the top four of the AL Cy Young voting three times, and helped lead New York to their last World Series championship in 2009.

GEM CUTS YANKS DEFICIT IN HALF


We wanted him on the mound tonight,” Girardi said per Peter Botte of the New York Daily News. “We thought we had the right guy on the mound. Six innings, just an outstanding effort. Couldn’t ask for anything more.

Adam Warren followed Sabathia, tossing a pair of shutout innings. The only Houston offense was generated off Dellin Betances in the top of the 9th inning, but Tommy Kahnle came in to shut the Astros down and close out the victory.

The turn-back-the-clock Sabathia win cuts the Yankees deficit to 2-1 now, with the next two games slated for Tuesday and Wednesday. Those will once again take place in the postseason hotbed of Yankee Stadium.

On Tuesday for a late afternoon 5pm EDT start, Girardi will send Sonny Gray to the mound. Hinch will go with Lance McCullers in Game Four. Both managers will be hoping for a performance as clutch as the one delivered by Sabathia on Monday night.

ALCS: Houston Astros vs New York Yankees preview and prediction

Judge (top), Altuve lead teams into ALCS

The Houston Astros are right where most baseball pundits thought they would be when the 2017 MLB postseason began. The club will begin play in the American League Championship Series beginning on Friday night.

The Astros finished 101-61, the second best record in the American League. The surprise is that they will be opening this ALCS at home in Minute Maid Park.

The vast majority of those pundits, myself included, believed that Houston would be traveling to Cleveland to face the Indians, who won 102 games, the best record in the American League.

However, the Tribe were stunned in the ALDS by the New York Yankees. That was after favored Cleveland had jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the series.

Game Three was a nail-biting 1-0 affair. With a chance to sweep, the Indians had two runners on and two out in the 9th inning. But Carlos Santana’s drive to deep left-center field was hauled in by Aaron Hicks, and the Yanks stayed alive.

New York then tied the series up behind a gem from young ace Luis Severino, and finished the comeback with Brett Gardner’s huge two-out, two-run single in the top of the 9th inning of Game Five.

So it will be the Astros hosting those Yankees for the first two games. For Houston, this will mark the franchise first ALCS appearance. The club moved from the NL Central to the AL West for the 2013 season.

As members of the National League, the Astros won a half-dozen division crowns, making four appearances in the NLCS. They won just a single National League pennant in that time, going on to suffer a sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series.

The Yankees went 91-71 to capture the top AL Wildcard playoff berth this season. They spotted the Minnesota Twins a 3-run first inning, and came roaring back to win that AL Wildcard Game by an 8-4 score. That led to the drama against Cleveland.

Houston captured their ALDS by 3-1 over the Boston Red Sox. The Astros scored three times over the final two innings, then held on at Fenway Park for a tough 5-4 victory in Game Four to seal the deal.

Both managers, Houston’s A.J. Hinch and the Yankees Joe Girardi, were big league backup journeyman catchers.

Hinch played seven seasons from 1998-2004 with seven different teams. He was with Oakland from 1998-2000, but did not appear in the 2000 ALDS in which the A’s were edged out 3-2 by the Yankees.

Girardi spent 15 MLB seasons spread across four organizations, with five of those coming as what would be considered the starting catcher. He won two World Series, with the Yankees in 1998 and 1999.

As a manager, Girardi guided New York to a victory in the 2009 World Series. The club has won three AL East crowns under his watch, but none since 2012. His Yankees teams have now come in second place in three of the last four seasons.

This is Hinch’s third year at the helm in Houston. He skippered the Arizona Diamondbacks for parts of two earlier seasons. This was the club’s first division crown in the American League, and so obviously the first under Hinch.

The Houston lineup is led by AL MVP candidate Jose Altuve.  The diminutive second baseman went 8-11 with five runs scored over the first three games of the ALDS, including a three-homer performance in the opener. He hit for a .346/.410/.547 slash in the regular season, with 24 homers and a team-high 32 steals.

The left-side infield combo of shortstop Carlos Correa and third baseman Alex Bregman is one of the youngest and most talented in all of baseball. Center fielder George Springer led Houston with 34 home runs and tied Altuve for the team lead with 112 runs scored.

In addition to their young talent, the Astros have a bevy of savvy veterans, many of whom bring playoff experience. The group includes Marwin Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Evan Gattis, Cameron Maybe, Yuli Gurriel, and Josh Reddick.

The Yankees also have a group of talented youngsters, including the lead AL Rookie of the Year contender in right fielder Aaron Judge. His prodigious power produced 52 home runs this year. Judge also led the team with 128 runs scored and 114 RBI.

Catcher Gary Sanchez slammed 33 homers during the season. He and slugging young first baseman Greg Bird each slammed a pair of ALDS home runs. The middle infield of second baseman Starlin Castro and shortstop Didi Gregorius is strong defensively, and both can hit, including with power.

There is plenty of veteran support in the Yankees lineup and dugout as well. Gardner, Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Holliday, Chase Headley, and Todd Frazier providing that experience and leadership.

Both Girardi and Hinch have chosen to go with an extra pitcher on their ALCS rosters, carrying a dozen arms apiece. This is a clear nod to the possibility of needing to utilize the “bullpenning” trend that has taken Major League Baseball by storm in the postseason.

Girardi is giving the ball to Masahiro Tanaka to take the mound for the opener, with Hinch opting for lefty Dallas Keuchel.

The 28-year old Tanaka won 13 games during the regular season. It was his brilliant Game Three outing that started the Yankees ALDS comeback. He shut the Indians out on three hits over seven innings in that start, striking out seven and allowing just one walk.

Keuchel was the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner. The 29-year old won 14 games this season despite missing most of June and July to injury. Seven of his last nine regular season outings were of the Quality Start variety. He then won Game Two of the ALDS vs Boston with 5.2 strong innings.

Two years ago, it was Tanaka vs Keuchel when these same two clubs met in the AL Wildcard Game. In that one, Keuchel got the better with a brilliant outing, shutting the Yankees out on three hits over six innings in which he struck out seven. The Astros won 3-0 to advance.

Game Two will feature a pair of aces at opposite ends of the age and experience poles. The 23-year old Severino will go for New York. He will face 34-year old veteran trade deadline acquisition Justin Verlander for Houston.

Back in the Bronx for Game Three, the managers have announced a battle of veterans. 33-year old right-hander Charlie Morton is scheduled to go for Houston against 37-year old lefty C.C. Sabathia for the Yanks.

Girardi has already announced that Sonny Gray will be his Game Four starter. Hinch has not tipped his hand as yet for that game, which won’t take place until next Tuesday. That start likely will go to one from among a trio of righties: Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, or Brad Peacock, depending on their usage out of the bullpen.

The Yankee skipper wouldn’t mind at all if this turned into a battle of the bullpens. He can call on one of the game’s best and deepest with right-handers Dellin Batances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Warren, Jordan Montgomery, and David Robertson. From the left-side he can bring Jaime Garcia and his fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman.

Hinch will try to mix-and-match with right-handers Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Luke Gregerson, Joe Musgrave, and closer Ken Giles. He could also call on any of those potential Game Four starters listed previously. From the left side it’s only Francisco Liriano available, though Keuchel could conceivably see action later in the series.

These two ball clubs met seven times during the regular season. Houston captured five of the seven. The Astros won three of four at Yankee Stadium mid-May, then two of three in Houston as June turned to July.

Each of the Yankees wins this year over the Astros came when the Bronx Bombers opened up offensively. They scored 11 and 13 runs respectively in those two victories. New York scored just 13 runs in the five Houston victories.

I underestimated the Yankees against the Indians. I am not doing the same thing again – but I am once again picking against them. I am calling it Astros in six games. This should be an exciting series, one that I believe Houston will find enough in to advance to only the second World Series appearance in franchise history.

Indians, Astros battle for AL’s top record and home field advantage

Houston routed Boston at Fenway Park on Thursday 

The Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros have long ago clinched their respective divisional crowns.

But as Major League Baseball’s regular season opens its final weekend, the two teams find that there is still an important battle to be fought.

With a record of 100-59, the Tribe have the top record in the American League. The Astros at 99-60 are just a game behind.

Should the two teams eventually meet, which would likely only happen in an ALCS matchup, then Cleveland would be awarded home field advantage, were the season to end today.

Of course, the 2017 season does not end today. The Astros and Indians still have three games each to play. Those games will determine which actually finishes with that best overall mark.

Terry Francona and his Indians will be at home this weekend, hosting the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. At 66-93, the Chisox have the second-worst record in the league.

The Astros and their skipper, A.J. Hinch, are up in Boston, where they opened a four-game series with a 12-2 rout on Thursday.

John Farrell and his Bosox team are trying to nail down the AL East crown for themselves. Boston is three games up on the traditional arch-rival New York Yankees with three to play.

Despite the loss to Houston, the Red Sox ‘Magic Number’ dropped to just 1 in order to clinch a second straight division title. That happened when the Yanks were taken down 9-6 by the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday.

New York skipper Joe Girardi will be home this weekend at Yankee Stadium. There they will host the Toronto Blue Jays, still with a longshot hope to force a playoff for that AL East title. The Yankees would need a sweep, combined with a Boston sweep at the hands of Houston.

The likelihood is that at some point this weekend, Boston will indeed clinch that divisional crown, leaving the Houston-Cleveland fight for the top spot in the American League as the spotlight battle.

Should the two teams finish in a tie, the tie-breaker favors the Indians. During the regular season, Cleveland dominated Houston, winning five of their six head-to-head matchups.

The Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League have clinched the top overall mark in the senior circuit. The ‘Magic Number’ for the Dodgers to clinch home field in a potential World Series matchup is down to just 2 for Cleveland and 1 for Houston.

While the 2017 MLB season draws to a close for the majority of clubs this weekend, a handful still have something to play for, and it will be interesting for fans of the game to watch as final playoff berths and seeding are determined.

The MLB Postseason officially opens on Tuesday, October 3, with the American League Wildcard Game. That matchup is likely to find the Minnesota Twins facing New York at Yankee Stadium.

The National League Wildcard Game will be held the following day, on Wednesday, October 4. The Colorado Rockies are on the verge of clinching the final spot. Should they do so, they would visit the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

If any tie-breaker games are necessary, and those are still mathematically possible in the AL East and NL Wildcard, then those would be played on Monday, October 2, with locations to be determined.

As you can see, there are still a few details to be finalized. But we are now on the verge of October baseball. As temperatures cool down over the next four weeks, the drama and excitement will only heat up in America’s pastime.

Blue Jays Could Beat Up Trevor Bauer in ALCS Game Three

As the American League Championship Series moves north of the border into Canada on Monday night, the host Toronto Blue Jays find themselves in desperate straits.
The Blue Jays trail the visiting Cleveland Indians by two games to one in the best-of-seven series, and simply cannot afford to fall into a 3-0 hole.
There have been 35 postseason series in Major League Baseball history that started with one team running out to a 3-0 lead.
Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox have won, rallying from that 0-3 deficit to take four straight from the arch-rival New York Yankees, a springboard to the BoSox ending their “Curse of the Bambino” by eventually winning the World Series.
Grant Brisbee with SB Nation did a nice breakdown of this situation when the Baltimore Orioles fell behind the Kansas City Royals by 3-0 in the 2014 ALCS, and when the Chicago Cubs fell behind the New York Mets 3-0 in last year’s NLCS.
If the Jays are to save their season and get into this series, they are going to need a big effort in front of the frenzied fans at Rogers Centre.
Fortunately for the Blue Jays, they may have just the antidote to their ills in Cleveland starting pitcher Trevor Bauer.
The 25-year-old right-hander is now in his third full big league season

, and his fifth year overall in MLB. Bauer was the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first round pick in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft out of UCLA.

Bauer had a 2016 season that was very typical of the performances that he has put up historically thus far in his career: 12-8, 4.26 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, 179 hits allowed over 190 innings pitched with a 168/70 K:BB ratio.
Bauer frequently gets himself into trouble with command and control issues. He had nine starts this season in which he walked at least three batters.
While Bauer provided the Indians with 16 quality starts out of 28, only seven of those came in his final 17 starts.
Over his last 16 starts, Bauer’s numbers got fairly ugly with a 5.51 ERA and .274 Batting Average Against. He allowed 101 hits over 94.2 innings, and had a -1.146 WPA mark.
His numbers since the start of September show even further deterioration with a 6.39 ERA over a half-dozen starts during the final month of the regular season.
He took the mound for Game 1 of the ALDS versus the BoSox, an eventual 5-4 victory for the Indians.
But in that start, Bauer lasted just 4.2 innings over which he allowed three earned runs on six hits, yielding home runs to both Andrew Benintendi in the third andSandy Leon in the fifth inning.
The Blue Jays have faced Bauer four times in his career. He has a horrible 6.27 career ERA and 1.554 WHIP against the Jays in those outings, which include three starts.
This season, Bauer made two appearances against the Blue Jays, one at Rogers Centre in Toronto in early July, and then in mid-August at home at Progressive Field.
At Toronto on July 1, Bauer came on in relief in a game that went 19 innings, pitching the final five frames and gaining the victory when the Tribe won 2-1 on a Carlos Santana home run.
In that relief outing, Bauer allowed just two hits over five innings, striking out three but also walking three batters.
On August 19 at home, Bauer set a career high by striking out 13 Blue Jays batters. He allowed just five hits over eight innings, yielding two earned runs.
Bauer did not get the win in that one, however, as the Jays received a strong start byFrancisco Liriano and took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth. 
The Indians again won late, taking a 3-2 decision with a pair of home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the second a dramatic walk-off inside-the-parker by Tyler Naquin off Roberto Osuna.
While the Indians can take some solace in those two performances by Bauer this season in his head-to-head meetings with the Blue Jays, his overall performances over the last two months have to be concerning. 
Bauer has now allowed three or more earned runs in seven consecutive starts, counting the ALDS start against Boston.
Add in the mishap in which he cut the pinky finger on his pitching hand while working with a homemade drone just four days ago, an incident that caused manager Terry Francona to drop him back from a scheduled start in Game 2 to this one, and you have even more about which to be concerned.
“I plugged it in, like I’ve done thousands of times, and my finger happened to be in front of one of the (four) propellers,” said Bauer per Cleveland.com Indians reporter Paul Hoynes.
“For whatever reason, three of the propellers didn’t spin like they’re supposed to, and this one spun up at max throttle. I have no idea why it happened. My finger just happened to be in the way of the prop and it cut me.”
Russell Martin is hitting .500 with a homer off Bauer. Josh Donaldson is hitting .400 with three RBI. Michael Saunders is hitting for a .556 average against Bauer.
On the good side for the Cleveland righty, he has handled slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who is hitting just .125 over eight career at-bats against Bauer.
Look for Toronto’s bats to come out “max throttle” in front of the home fans, to let Bauer get himself into trouble and then pound him for a victory that gets them back in this American League Championship Series on Monday night.