Friday, October 16, 2015

Now we're down to four-League Championship Series preview

You just can't script October baseball. Major League Baseball emphasized this in an ad campaign a couple of years ago, and it is so true. We're now down to baseball's equivalent to the final four, with each League Championship Series a best-of-7 to be contested over the course of 9 days, including 2 travel days in each series.

National League Championship Series: Chicago @ New York:

The battle of the upstarts. Joe Maddon's Cubs swept all 7 games from the Mets during the regular season. That, more than anything, notwithstanding the sudden power surge of the Cubs' kiddie corps of sluggers over the last week and a half in dispatching NL Central rivals Pittsburgh & St. Louis, has the pundits believing the Cubs are now the favorites to finally end more than a century of heartbreak on the North Side of Chicago, 10 years after the White Sox won the Series.

Then again, those 7 games vs. the Mets came before New York acquired slugger Yoenis Cespedes from Detroit in late July. While Cespedes fell into a slump in the last two games vs. Los Angeles, Daniel Murphy picked up the slack for his team and was virtually a one man offense in the finale vs. the Dodgers, going 3-4 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored, including the game winning homer off Zack Greinke in the 6th. Do we really need to mention the genius move of stealing an uncovered 3rd base on a walk to Lucas Duda, just because Don Mattingly decided to be a dunce and employ the now-overused defensive shift against the slumping Duda? Of course not. Karma, baby, karma. That's all it is.

The Cubs-Cards series turned when the wind blew out of Wrigley on Monday night, and Chicago's offense just went off. Come Saturday at Citi Field, they will have had three days rest, as opposed to just 1 for the Mets. Jon Lester will be matched with, most likely, Matt Harvey, since Noah Syndergaard pitched an inning in relief last night, though starting Syndergaard is not out of the question just yet. Those two, plus Jacob DeGrom and Steven Matz, matched against Lester, Jake Arietta, and whatever else the Cubs have? Interesting. Murphy aside, the Mets' bats have to wake up, and quickly, otherwise it could be all over early.

The pick: Cubs in 7. Yes, the Mets will finally win some games, but it's not their time yet.

American League Championship Series: Toronto @ Kansas City:

I don't know what surprises me more. Not to toot my own horn here, but the fact that I picked all 4 division series correctly, and also correctly predicted Toronto & Kansas City to win their divisions (I had the Mets as a wild card---what do I know?) only proves that the preseason preview books are a waste of money. For the record, I correctly picked three of the six divisions---St. Louis being the other---which may actually be better than most national pundits.

Digression aside, the Blue Jays-Royals series will come down to the Royals, looking to return to the Fall Classic on the 30th anniversary of their lone championship with grit, grind, and hustle, against the explosive offense of the Jays. In that regard, it's almost like a mirror image of Cubs-Mets. Simply sub the Jays for the Cubs and the Royals for the Mets. The Royals' pen is dinged, as closer Greg Holland is out for the year with an injury, moving Wade Davis into the closer's role. Yordano Ventura actually looked mortal vs. Houston, and it'll get worse vs. Toronto, I assure you. There will be blood, considering the Jays' showy antics, particularly that of Jose Bautista, on home runs. That sort of swagger will make the Jays closely resemble the 1986 Mets, if you can believe that. Then again, manager John Gibbons was a reserve catcher on the Mets back then. Hmmmmmm.

The pick: Blue Jays in 6. Sorry, Royals fans.

Just be prepared for an offensive showcase in the Series. Of course, I could be wrong.

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