MLB National League Playoffs Preview

Caption: Mets OF Yoenis Cespedes torrid hitting is one of the main reasons the Mets are appearing in the post-season for the first time since 2006

National League Baseball Playoff Preview
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Debby Wong

As I sit here and write this one week in advance of the end of MLB’s regular season there is one certainty we know – the National League representative in the World Series could be one of any of the five teams that made the post-season. Yes, that’s right, depending on match-ups, game times and home field any of the five National League playoff teams could advance to the World Series. In the American League, at press time, we still do not know who the remaining two playoff teams will be, but we are certain that it will be the Blue Jays vs Royals in the American League Championship Series. Sorry Yankees, Angels, Twins, Astros, Rangers fans. On a side note regarding the American League wild card teams, a nightmare scenario is taking shape that may involve a playoff between 3 and possibly 4 teams to capture one of the two wild card spots. The Yankees appear to have run out of gas and may very well wilt and lose their lead over the other teams and the Twins, Astros, and Angels were separated only by a single game in the lost column. Could you imagine a four team playoff to capture the two wild card spots? What potential drama. Of course, by the time you read this you will have already known the answer.

Over in the National League, the field is set – Cubs vs Pirates in the Wild Card game (barring a final week collapse by the Cardinals), Dodgers vs Mets in one NLDS and Cardinals vs the winners of the wild card game in the other NLDS.

So, taking out our crystal ball, we predict a rematch of the 2006 National League Championship series between the Mets and Cardinals, the last time the Mets and David Wright made the playoffs. In an eerie coincidence, in 2006 the Mets defeated the Dodgers as well in the NLDS. As far as who advances to the World Series, we’ll have to wait and see if our picks advance first.

National League Wild Card Game
Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates
(1-game Playoff)

The question we all are asking is who Cubs manager Joe Maddon will choose to give the ball to in this one and done game. Will he go with the veteran Jon Lester or put his faith in the likely NL Cy Young award Winner Jake Arrieta? Based on his recent performance against the Pirates we predict Maddon puts the ball in the hands of Arrieta. We expect Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to counter with Gerrit Cole.

Our prediction: In what we expect to be a classic game, possibly extra innings, the Pirates win in walk-off fashion when they get into the Cubs bullpen.

National League Divisional Series Match-up
New York Mets vs Los Angeles Dodgers
(best-of-5)

As unlikely as it was at the beginning of the year for the Mets to win the National League East crown, even more unlikely that they would be the first National League team to clinch their division crown, it is equally unlikely that they would overtake the Dodgers in the last month of the season to capture home field advantage in this matchup. But, as we go to press, they are indeed ahead of the Dodgers for home field.

The Mets might very well be the worst possible matchup for the Dodgers in a five game series. Even though the Dodgers have Kershaw and Greinke at the top of their rotation, both of whom are Cy Young candidates this year, the Mets counter with their own dynamic duo or triplets – DeGrom, Harvey, and Snydergaard. In addition, the Mets have been a torrid road team of late, having won 11 straight road games as we go to press. The Dodgers have the second best home record in the National League, only behind the St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers best shot at winning this series is to gain home field advantage and throw their aces Kershaw and Greinke in the first two games of the series during the twilight inside Dodger stadium. Otherwise, that $300 million payroll will fall far short of a reasonable return on investment.

Our prediction: Mets in 5, Mattingly shown the door as manager of the Dodgers.

National League Divisional Series Match-up
Pittsburgh Pirates vs St. Louis Cardinals
(best-of-5)

As we mentioned earlier, barring a complete collapse by the Cardinals in the final week of the season, they will be the National League Central Division champions and will have home field advantage in this best of 5 series. We predict the Pirates to outduel the Cubs in the wild card game.

Despite owning the best record in major league baseball the Cardinals do not receive the proper respect afforded to such a team. Their starting pitchers might be missing the Broadway lights names but they get it done – Garcia 2.36 ERA, Lackey 2.69 ERA, Martinez 3.01 ERA, Wacha 3.15 ERA, Lynn 3.16 ERA. And their bullpen is just filthy – lefty specialist Choate 1.26 ERA, 8th inning specialist Siegrist 1.16 ERA, and closer Rosenthal 1.26 ERA along with 47 saves in 50 opportunities.

The Pirates have a tall order going up against that staff. Cole, Liriano and Burnett will have to dig deep to keep the Pirates in games. The Pirates loss of Jung Ho Kang was huge. In a series where baserunners and runs will be precious, losing Kang’s bat weakens the entire batting order. The bats of McCuthchen, Alvarez and Marte may not be enough against Cardinals pitching.

Our Prediction: Cardinals in 4.

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