October 12, 2020

MLB Postseason Preview and Predictions:: ALCS and NLCS

After two rounds of an expanded MLB postseason format, we have made it to the AL and NL Championship Series. While the favorites have mostly moved on, there's one Cinderella team — which is more like an evil stepmother — remaining at this point in the Houston Astros.

Who will win the two Championship Series and move on to the World Series? Here are our predictions. 

Tampa Bay Rays vs Houston Astros

The Tampa Bay Rays earned the No. 1 seed in the AL this year but, to some, they weren’t the best team. Many believed that the New York Yankees were the superior squad and if not for injuries, they would have been the top seed. Well, New York had a chance to prove that in the ALDS but fell short. The Rays won their series against the Yankees 3-2 after an exciting Game 5 that saw the Rays smack two solo home runs to win the game 2-1.

The Houston Astros are embracing their villain role this season. Outside of Astros’ fans, not too many people are happy to see this Houston team still alive. The sub-.500 Astros have been playing their best baseball of the year during the postseason. They swept a good Twins team and then used their bats to eliminate the Oakland A’s in the ALDS. This matchup between the Rays and Astros will be a repeat of last year’s ALDS that the Astros won, 3-2. 

Tampa Bay has one of the best rotations in baseball and they showed that in Game 5 against New York. However, they have their offense to thank for winning this series. The Rays’ pitching had some trouble with the Yankees in the first four games of the series, allowing 23 runs. In the first two games of the series that the Rays won, they scored 15 runs of their own. 

Houston’s pitching had their own struggles in the ALDS. In four games, the Astros allowed 22 runs to the A’s. The Houston offense is responsible for the Astros still being in contention. The Astros scored 33 runs in the ALDS, including two double-digit scoring games. They also scored at least five runs in each game.

If the Astros are going to keep this run going, it will be because of their hot hitting. If any team can slow them down, it is Tampa Bay. Usually, in the playoffs, good pitching takes care of good hitting. With the Astors' pitching being vulnerable, the Rays' offense should put up plenty of runs of their own. 

The Astros need games to be high-scoring if they are going to win this series, they can’t win a pitching duel against this staff. Tampa Bay is the best all-around team in the AL and they showed they deserve to be here. Side with pitching in this series as the Rays should move on to the World Series.

Rays Advance 4-2

Los Angeles Dodgers vs Atlanta Braves

Nobody can argue that the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves are the two best teams in the NL and deserve to be playing each other. They had the two best records in the NL and their offenses were substantially better than their competition. Both teams rolled through their first two rounds, with each team not dropping a single game.

The Dodgers employ the best offense in baseball this year. They can crush home runs and they can score by manufacturing runs. They have shown their ability to do both in these playoffs so far. Los Angeles also has one of the best rotations in baseball. It doesn’t hurt to have one of the best pitchers of his generation in Clayton Kershaw. While Kershaw has had his postseason struggles in the past, he has allowed just three earned runs in 14 innings this season — including 19 strikeouts. 

Many believed Atlanta would make it to the ALCS but it was expected that their offense would be the reason, not their pitching. After having somewhat questionable starting pitching this year, the Braves have shutout their opponent in four of their five games. They have allowed a total of five runs in five games.

Having Kershaw pitch to his ability is huge for the Dodgers. But don't sleep on the Braves' pitching. We expect good pitching from L.A. but can the Braves really keep up the success they have been having? Miami and Cincinnati both had questionable offenses and were in the playoffs mainly because of their pitching. The Dodgers’ offense is a different animal. 

This should be an exciting series between two of the best teams in baseball. However, Game 1 will go a long way toward predicting how this series will go. If the Braves can put together a good pitching performance in Game 1 and prove that they can keep these Dodgers’ bats cool, then the Braves have a chance to win this series. If L.A. comes out swinging and puts up a ton of runs in Game 1, it will be hard for this Braves pitching staff to rebound mentally. As good as the Braves are, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. Unless Atlanta can continue their miracle pitching, L.A. should be playing in the World Series this year.

Dodgers Advance 4-1

Photo: Getty Images