Pitching Usually Prevails In Playoff Scenarios

IBWAA

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Atlanta's Truist Field, home of the Braves, could host its first World Series this fall.Dan Schlossberg, IBWAA

By Dan Schlossberg

The business of making baseball predictions is risky, at best, and foolish at worst. That being said, no writer would be worth his byline without at least trying.

So here goes.

With 10 teams in the playoffs instead of 16, a revenue-grabbing experiment enacted only for the Covid-shortened season of 2020, things are much easier to figure out.

Entering the final weekend, there were two undecided races: the National League West title chase between the Dodgers and Giants and the four-team American League battle for two wild-card spots.

Though the Dodgers are the defending World Champions, they have spent nearly 162 games trying to catch the Giants — but started play Friday two games behind with three left to play. Barring a miracle, they’ll have to settle for the one-and-done Wild Card game.

In the Junior Circuit, the Yankees got hot at the right time, sweeping the Red Sox in Boston and taking two of three in Toronto. All they need now is to hold their own against Tampa Bay, a team that clinched eons ago, in the Bronx.

That being said, here’s a quick look at the possibilities:

National League

Wild-Card Game: Even though Adam Wainwright is a big-game pitcher who suddenly discovered life begins at 40, the Cardinals are not as good as the deep and versatile Dodgers. L.A. has the home-field advantage, better hitting, and a rotation anchored by three Cy Young Award candidates. Edge: Dodgers

Division Series: Like the Dodgers, Milwaukee’s top three pitchers are All-Stars. The Brewers also have a better bullpen than the Braves, coupled with home-field advantage. Unless the slumping Freddie Freeman and Adam Duvall wake up, this is an easy pick. Edge: Brewers

Division Series: With no idea how San Francisco led the majors in victories, the seasoned Dodgers have to be favored over the aging Giants. Both teams have power but those L.A. starters can shut down opponents in a hurry. Edge: Dodgers

League Championship Series: In a matchup of the NL’s best pitching staffs, the experience factor will tip the scales toward Los Angeles over Milwaukee. L.A. can out-hit and out-pitch the Brewers. There’s a reason that team won more than 100 games. Edge: Dodgers

American League

Wild-Card Game: Give the Yankees home-field advantage and that raucous crowd, coupled with the short right-field wall, will help them advance over the reeling Red Sox or Blue Jays. Boston’s failure to beat the weak sisters the final week was a telling tale. Edge: Yankees

Division Series: Tampa Bay, with the most wins in the AL, held its own in the 2020 World Series and will make a strong bid to return — with the additions of young Wander Franco and old Nelson Cruz. The Rays always manage to parlay pitching, speed, and defense into a winning formula, especially at home. And how long can Giancarlo Stanton keep lighting up the league? Edge: Rays

Division Series: The battle of the league’s oldest managers, Chicago’s Tony La Russa and Houston’s Dusty Baker, creates its own story-line. Both teams have veteran talent but the Sox have been slumping. Baker, in his first title year with the Astros, may get to seek his first World Series win as a manager. Edge: Astros

League Championship Series: Teams rarely win consecutive pennants but the high-talent, low-budget Rays, baseball’s most innovative ballclub, might be an exception. Too many Astros, including Carlos Correa, will be thinking about the riches they’ll find as free agents. Edge: Rays

World Series

In a repeat of last year’s Fall Classic, the Little Engine That Could will finally prevail, giving Tampa its first world title. The Rays may be the most anonymous team in the majors but score enough runs to win, keep the ball in the park, and are determined to obliterate the hex that has prevented them from prevailing in the past. Edge: Rays

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is never known to make accurate predictions. But he’s better than the typical TV weatherman. E.mail him at ballauthor@gmail.com.

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