In the space of the last 10 days, the field in baseball's post-season tournament has trimmed from 10 to 4. The League Championship Series begin with the ALCS tonight. Let's see if we can't figure this out easier than the last round.
ALCS: Toronto @ Cleveland: The last time either team was in the World Series was in the 90's. Toronto, of course, won back-to-back titles in 1992-3. Cleveland fell to Atlanta in 1995 for Los Bravos' only title during their glory years, and also to Florida in 1997. But it's a new era, of course. The two teams match up almost evenly on offense, and Cleveland has a slight edge in pitching. Terry Francona is looking for that 3rd World Series ring, and with the Tribe picking up the momentum from the Cavaliers' NBA title four months ago, anything is possible. However, even the best pitching staff can fall to a relentless offense, as we just saw in the NLDS between Washington & Los Angeles. The upside is that both teams have had time to rest and reset their rosters.
The pick: Toronto in 7.
NLCS: Los Angeles @ Chicago: Last year, the Cubs were swept out by the Mets, who extracted revenge for being swept in 7 regular season games. This year, New York was eliminated by San Francisco, which in turn fell to the Cubs in 4 games. Joe Maddon's club has a difference maker in closer Aroldis Chapman, acquired from the Yankees over the summer. The Dodgers eliminated Washington in 5, as Dusty Baker's post-season failures continue even with a new team. As the NLCS opens Saturday, I would venture that LA will start Rich Hill, who started game 1 of the NLDS. Chicago could go with, oh, I don't know, Jake Arietta, maybe? Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw took a page from Madison Bumgarner's playbook and came out of the bullpen to close the series against Washington. Can't see him starting either game at Wrigley.
Of course, it'd be nice if, once the series goes to LA, Fox would be persuaded, if you will, to bring in newly retired Vin Scully for one last national curtain call and call a couple of innings. So not digging that Fox is farming out at least the first two games to FS1.
This time, the Cubs clear the last hurdle.
The pick: Cubs in 6. Of course, I could be wrong.