McGuinness: Previewing the 2020 ALCS and NLCS
Andrew McGuinness | Monday, October 12, 2020
While this may be the longest postseason ever in terms of games played, the time has flown by since the MLB postseason began two weeks ago. We’ve made our way from sixteen teams, six more than any postseason field ever, down to the final four, with those teams just four wins away from earning the right to compete for baseball’s ultimate prize. There will even be a limited number of fans to cheer them on, marking the first baseball games with non-cardboard fans in 2020. Who are the contenders to advance to this year’s Fall Classic?
NLCS: No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17) vs. No. 2 Atlanta Braves (35-25)
The Road Here: The Dodgers are a perfect 5-0 in this postseason, outscoring the dead in the water Brewers 7-2 and the young gun Padres 23-9 in two- and three-game sweeps, respectively. Atlanta also enters this series undefeated, not allowing a single run in the Wild Card round against the Reds and giving the Marlins the standard “learning experience” in the NLDS.
The matchup: This series will likely come down to pitching. Both teams have outstanding bats: for Atlanta, Ronald Acuña, Freddie Freeman and Ozzie Albies; and for the Dodgers, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Mookie Betts and more should all rake.
Atlanta’s biggest weakness on paper and in the regular season was their starting pitching, but it’s been all but dynamite all Postseason. They’ll need that to hold strong, especially with there being no off-days in this series, making long starts even more important than ever. Los Angeles’ pitching staff looks dominant on paper… All they need to do is avoid another patented Clayton Kershaw Postseason collapse, and they should be set.
The Pick: Like the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, it feels like the Dodgers are destined to gain revenge from last year’s embarrassing round one defeat and snatch the championship that they’ve been all around for almost a decade. Dodgers in 5.
ALCS: No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays (40-20) vs. No. 6 Houston Astros (29-31)
The Road Here: Tampa Bay may be the No. 1-seed in the American League, but they’re just now starting to get the respect they deserve. The Rays are the only team in either league championship series with multiple losses to their name, but after winning a dramatic Game 5 for the ages against the Yankees in the ALDS, they enter this series with a ton of momentum. For Houston, it’s the same “us against the world” mentality they’ve had all season after the trash can scandal, handling the Twins and A’s with relative ease in the first two rounds.
The Matchup: Though many of Houston’s key hitters like Carlos Correra, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman had somewhat underwhelming regular seasons, almost all of them have bounced back in the Postseason. Correa in particular has been a monster in this postseason, batting .500 with 3 home runs. George Springer has been a monster at the plate all season, leading the team in home runs during the regular season, and hasn’t missed a beat since. They will need more out of Zach Greinke, who hasn’t made it out of the 5th inning in either of his two Postseason starts.
As for the Rays, Randy Arozarena was among several revelations for Tampa Bay this year, slugging seven homers in just 76 regular season plate appearances, and he’s already launched three in the Postseason. Tampa Bay has a very balanced hitting core; you never know who’s going to come through for them on any given night (case in point: Game 5 hero Mike Brosseau signed with the Rays as an undrafted free agent and has less than 300 MLB at-bats in). Their bullpen is absolutely loaded, however, and the rotation isn’t too shabby itself.
The Pick: This Rays team feels eerily similar to the 2008 club that everyone doubted despite them being the No. 1 seed that beat the defending AL champions in seven games in the ALCS to advance to their only World Series appearance. Well, their only World Series appearance until after this series ends, at least in my world. The baseball world will be rooting for you, Tampa. Rays in 7.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.