Image courtesy of MLB Static

Image courtesy of MLB Static

Evan O'Dowd, Staff Writer

It’s October, and that means the smell of postseason baseball is in the air. Even in this COVID season, all 30 teams were able to complete their 60 game seasons, and the 16 team playoff format has thus far proven to be successful (although, hopefully not permanent!). After an exciting Wild Card Series, only 8 teams remain. Here is what to expect from the matchups:  

ALDS 1: Rays vs. Yankees

Throughout the 2020 regular season, the Rays dominated New York, going 8-2 in head-to-head matchups. They outscored the Yankees 47-34 this year, all on their way to winning the AL East for the third time in franchise history. Led by dominant pitching in Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, Tampa will rely on this 1-2 punch to get the job done. The Rays also sport a superlative lineup to complement their rotation, built on hitters like Joey Wendle, Kevin Kiermire, Ji-Man Choi, and Austin Meadows. Although this matchup proved to be a one-sided affair during the summer, many believe that the Yankees have a clear-cut chance. The Bronx is home to one of the deadliest lineups in the Major Leagues. A complete balance of power hitters such as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Luke Voit, along with consistent hitters in DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Gio Urshela, are enough to set any pitcher off their rhythm. On the pitching side of things, New York will rely on the arms of Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka to throw shutout innings up and down the board, giving the ball to their lights-out bullpen. Left-Hander Aroldis Chapman (AKA The Cuban Missile) will likely try and close the deal for the Yankees, as they continue on their quest for title number 28.

ALDS 2: Athletics vs. Astros

Coming off their first AL West Division title in seven years, the A’s expect to show the world of baseball that they mean business. With a starting 9 including Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Khris Davis, and Marcus Semien expect quality at-bats, great situational hitting, and of course, the long ball out of Oakland’s offense. During the regular season, the A’s and Houston went at it 10 times, resulting in 7 Athletic victories. Oakland’s pitching was able to hold Astros hitters to a .202 batting average, with 22 runs scored in those 10 games (because guessing is harder than knowing). After being caught in one of the biggest cheating scandals in the history of sports, the Houston Astros look to silence the haters and prove they don’t need trash cans to win. Coming off a sub .500 season, Houston, with a lineup led by Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and George Springer, hope to rebound from an underperforming 60-game stretch. With ace Justin Verlander out with Tommy John Surgery, the Astros will look to pitchers like Lance McCullers, Jr. and Zack Greinke to step up and throw gas.

NLDS 1: Dodgers vs. Padres

Top to bottom, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. A team consisting of 3 former MVPs (Clayton Kershaw [NL 2014], Mookie Betts [AL 2018], and Cody Bellinger [NL 2019]), Los Angeles once again is a heavy favorite to win it all this year. Offensively, all nine spots in their lineup have the ability to hit the cover off of the ball. Similar to the Yankees, they consist of a balanced lineup of contact and power led by Betts, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Bellinger. Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Tony Gosolin, and 3x Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP Clayton Kershaw make up four of the electrifying arms in LA’s starting rotation. Their only weakness may be the bullpen, however. Kenley Jansen, once the dominant reliever all Dodger fans relied on, seems to have lost his stuff over the last few years. He has blown numerous save opportunities, making people question if baseball will ever see Jansen consistently dominate again. Although one would think the Dodgers would pull off an easy sweep, the Padres are young, flashy, talented, and hungry. 21-year-old Fernado Tatis Jr. took the baseball world by storm this year, showing off his glovework in the field as well as his offensive capabilities at the plate. After being traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to San Diego, Trent Grisham made a name for himself in the league as well. He hit for a .251 average with 10 home runs and 26 RBIs in 59 games. Furthermore, Manny Machado hopes to continue to prove that he is an elite 3rd baseman, hoping to help lead San Diego to their first title as an organization.

NLDS 2: Braves vs. Marlins 

The Atlanta Braves are one of the most underrated teams in the league today. Often overlooked by the star-power of the Yankees and the Dodgers, Atlanta has the ability to trade blows with the best of them. Seasoned veteran Freddie Freeman looks to continue to leave a legacy as a Brave, and young sluggers Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies aspire to begin one for themselves. Look to see Marcell Ozuna crush balls thrown on the inside part of the strike zone, living up to his 1 year, $18 million contract with Atlanta. They will face the slowly, but surely, rebuilding Marlins. Yes, you read that right. The Marlins. Making their first playoff appearance since 2003, Miami is here to prove the doubters wrong. The Marlins’ rotation consists of hurlers capable of throwing heat well over 95 MPH. Starter Sandy Alcantra averages 96 MPH on his fastball, and Sixto Sanchez averages 99 MPH on his. Although not known for their power, Marlins hitters are capable of a few big flies, as seen off the bats of Jesús Aguliar, Garrett Cooper, and Starling Marte.