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MLB postseason: a look at the Divisional Round

October is here and baseball fans know this as the lead up to the Fall Classic. Both Wild Card games have been decided, with the Nationals besting the Brewers in a comeback led by young star Juan Soto, and the Rays and their pitching staff stifling Oakland’s offense. The Divisional Series are both underway and it looks like we’ll be in for a really exciting season of October baseball.

The American League has been home to reigning champions for the last two years, and while the 2018 champions in Boston didn’t qualify for postseason play, many still predict that this year’s champion will represent the American League. The teams competing for that honor are the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays, coming off a big win in Oakland, will take on the number one seed Houston Astros in a best of five series. The Astros finished the regular season 107-55, holding the best record in the MLB. When describing Houston’s season, one word comes to mind: dominant. The Astros finished first in batting average, third in hits, third in runs, third in earned run average, first in strikeouts and second in runs allowed. When looking at this team’s roster, there are very few weaknesses. They have arguably the best starting rotation in the league, led by not one, but two Cy Young candidates in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Following those two is veteran Zach Greinke, who has been an ace for much of his career, but on this star filled team is the third man up in the rotation. The Rays certainly have their work cut out for them, but they too have an extremely talented roster. The Rays finished 96-66, second in the AL East and in the Wild Card. They stunned Oakland’s crowd on Wednesday allowing just one run on eight hits, and scoring five on two homers from Yandy Diaz. They too sport a star-studded starting rotation, with ex-Astro Charlie Morton and Blake Snell paving the way from the rubber. The Rays have the lowest payroll in the MLB, and they are certainly motivated by that fact. This series is bound to be a good one and should be a low scoring pitchers’ series.

The Yankees and Twins will battle it out for the chance to play in the ALCS this year, and the narrative for this series ought to be a good one. The Yankees are everybody’s favorite team to hate, they have been to and won the most World Series of all MLB teams. The Twins, on the other hand,  are looking to win their first playoff series since 2002. Despite extreme differences in historical success, both these teams have performed extremely well this year.  The Yankees are coming off a 103-59 regular season that was filled with injuries. New York had 30 players on the injury list this year, besting the previous record of 28. With key players like Aaron Hicks and Miguel Andujar out for the season, players like D.J. LeMahieu have stepped up in a major way. LeMahieu lead the Yanks with a .327 batting average and driving in 102 runs. This Yankees team clearly has a lot of fight, but the Twins aren’t going to go down easy. The Twins are back on top of the AL Central for the first time since 2010, and they are the real deal. Minnesota finished 101-61 and has some serious young talent on offense. They finished top two in every major hitting category, including leading the league in long balls. Veteran DH Nelson Cruz and OF Eddie Rosario combined for 73 dingers and 217 RBIs this year, while Luis Arráez and Jorge Polanco have provided consistent on base ability, both strutting on base percentages of over .350. Unlike The Tampa Bay and Houston series, this series ought to showcase two of the most powerful offenses in the league in a shootout series of five.

Veteran DH Nelson Cruz and OF Eddie Rosario combined for 73 dingers and 217 RBIs this year.

The Dodgers will be hosting a best of five game series against the Nationals that will feature some of the best young players representing the league for years to come. The Dodgers finished the year with the second-best record in the league at 106-56. The Dodgers rotation featuring Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill led the league in all major pitching categories including ERA, hits and walks allowed. Along with this lethal starting rotation is 24-year-old MVP Candidate Cody Bellinger. Bellinger belted 47 homers and 115 RBIs on a .305 average and is considered by many to be the favorite to win the NL MVP this year. The Dodgers have a reputation of choking in the playoffs, as they’ve been to and lost in the World Series for the last two years. While this may be true, nothing can deny the talent on this team, and that alone might just carry a ring back to Hollywood. Washington has been a very interesting team, having gained star pitcher Patrick Corbin but losing Bryce Harper to division rival Philadelphia. Going into June, the Nats were a measly 24-33 and looked well out of the playoffs, but by the end of July had improved to six games above .500 at 57-51 and in August, they were white hot only losing seven games during that month. They won their last eight regular season games and stormed into the Wild Card game, where they narrowly beat Milwaukee on a timely double by Juan Soto. Like L.A., Washington also sports a very strong starting rotation with recently added Corbin and Max Scherzer at the top. Also like L.A., Washington is lead by an MVP candidate of their own, Anthony Rendon. Rendon has been redhot since the All-Star break, silently leading the MLB in RBI’s, and sending 34 long balls into the seats. This series looks like it will be a great matchup of strong pitching duels, and a battle of MVPs

The Braves will take on the Cardinals in a series featuring the rising stars and the seasoned veterans of the game. The Atlanta Braves finished second in the National League this year after a strong sophomore year from young phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. Acuña was a monster on offense this year, racking up 41 homers, 101 RBIs and a league leading 37 stolen bases. This Braves is certainly not lacking a veteran presence however as 10-year vet Freddie Freeman has certainly not lost his stroke. Freeman boasted another great year batting .295 with 38 home runs. The Braves have a great team this filled with talent of all ages, but will be challenged by the experience of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves have their fair share of veteran talent, but St. Louis has a ton of playoff experience on their team, in guys like Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals do, however, have a lot of young talent, especially in guys like Tommy Edman and Jack Flaherty. Flaherty has been lights out so far this year finishing with 2.75 ERA and looks like one of the best young pitchers in the league. This series is going to be very exciting, and looks to be a battle between the future and former stars of the league.

The National and American League Divisional Series, I think, will prove to be an exciting start to a hopefully great Fall Classic. There are a lot of young stars in this years playoff, and it’s definitely possible that we will see a lot more playoff baseball out of these guys over the next couple years. I think that we’re seeing the future faces of the league in this year’s playoff, and we just might not know it yet.

Dylan Edelman is a first-year student at West Chester University. DE936681@wcupa.edu

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