Wild Card: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays will host the Baltimore Orioles to kick off the 2016 postseason. Unlike their opponent, the Blue Jays doesn’t have a shut down bullpen, so look for their explosive lineup that features the likes of Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion to back up a struggling bullpen. As for the Orioles, a team with the best closer in the game this year and an offense that ranks first in home runs, will be sending 16-game winner Chris Tillman to the mound in the Wild Card game. The Orioles have a big three of their own in Chris Davis, Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo to ignite the offense. This much anticipated showdown of two AL East teams won’t have a shortage of fireworks. Having home field advantage is always important, especially in the playoffs where everything is at stake. Expect the Blue Jays to rally behind, not only their city, but the whole country Tuesday night.
Prediction: The Blue Jays pull off anther late-inning postseason comeback behind MVP candidate Donaldson to get back to the ALDS and send Canada to bed happy.
Division Series: Boston Red Sox vs Cleveland Indians
A rematch of the 2007 ALCS, the Indians will hope to redeem themselves after failing to eliminate the Red Sox that year. With important players doubtful for the series due to injuries, the ailing Indians won’t enter the playoffs at full strength. Despite a strong bullpen and home field advantage, the Indians will miss starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar greatly in this series. David Ortiz already said goodbye to his final regular season game but he and the Red Sox are expected to produce one more magical postseason run before its all said and done. The Red Sox will send out their two aces Rick Porcello and David Price in the first two games of the series. With the luxury of a lineup that has no weak spot from top to bottom, look for the Red Sox to bat around the Indians with MVP candidates Mookie Betts and Ortiz taking charge. The series starts Thursday in Cleveland.
Prediction: Red Sox win it in four. The Indians (or any team) will not have an answer for the Red Sox’s unstoppable offense.
Wild Card: San Francisco Giants at New York Mets
The Giants barely made it to the Wild Card by the slimmest margin possible and will face off against the defending National League champion, the New York Mets. If there is one thing we learned about the Giants in the past decade, it’s that you never bet against them during an even year, and never against pitcher Madison Bumgarner in the postseason. Never. Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard of the Mets will get the tall task of matching zeroes against the 2014 World Series MVP. Desptie several injureis to key players, the Mets are hoping to make one more postseason push before possibly losing All-Star Yoenis Cespedes to free agency this offseason. With a star-studded rotation that features Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, the Giants are once again a favorite to reach to World Series if they can get past the Mets in the National League Wild Card.
Prediction: The Giants continue their even-year magic behind Bumgarner who throws a complete game.
Division Series: Los Angeles Dodgers vs Washington Nationals
Another case of a team that has excelled all season but will not perform up to its full potential due to injury are the Washington Nationals. With All-Star catcher Abraham Ramos, 2015 NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy and ace Stephen Strasburg on the shelf for at least the NLDS, the Nationals will be the underdog, despite having home field advantage in the series. The Dodgers, on the other hand, are on the other end of the luck spectrum when they get Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig back. Unless 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper returns to his mighty form and carries the Nationals on his back, the Dodgers should have no problem dispatching a hobbled Washington club.
Prediction: Dodgers in five. Kershaw tosses two great outings to get rid of his playoff demons and send the Dodgers to the NLCS.