The marathon that is the major league baseball season has run its course.
Finally, after over 2,400 total games, the playoff teams are set.
The AL Wild Card game will be played Tuesday night in New York between the Yankees, who finished 91-71 and the Minnesota Twins (85-77).
Over in the NL, the Colorado Rockies (87-75) will pay a visit to Arizona to tangle with the 93-69 Diamondbacks on Wednesday night for a one-and-done.
The Los Angeles Dodgers finished first overall in baseball, winning the NL West with a record of 104-58, followed by NL East winning Washington (97-65) and defending champion and NL Central champion Chicago (92-70).
In the American League, the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians secured home field advantage for the AL playoffs with a 102-60 mark. Houston won the AL West at 101-60 and Boston the AL East at 93-69.
With all scenarios pretty much set, we give you our prognostication of what each team’s chances are of winning it all, in ascending order.
10. Minnesota Twins
The Twins have the unenviable task of trying to beat the Yankees in their home ballpark in the wild card on Tuesday night. The Yanks were 51-30 at home and had a 4-2 record against the Twins this year, including a sweep of them at home between Sept. 18-20. The Twins send ace Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28 ERA) to the hill to face Yanks rightie Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA, 230 K). Santana went 5.2 innings in a narrow 2-1 loss to New York on Sept. 18. The Twins do have a favorable match-up with Severino, in that six possible starters either bat left or are switch hitters, including 1B Joe Mauer (team leading .305 average), LF Eddie Rosario (27 HR), SS Jorge Polanco (30 doubles), 3B Eduardo Escobar (21 homers), RF Max Kepler (32 doubles, 19 HR) and C Jason Castro (32 extra base hits in 110 games). If the wind is blowing out to homer friendly right field, the Twins may have a shot at an upset. Otherwise, their chances of making it through the AL playoffs are slim.
9. Colorado Rockies
If the Rockies have any designs on moving on in the National League playoffs, they’ll have to find a way to get Diamondbacks ace Zack Greinke off his game Wednesday night in Arizona. Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA, 215K) has faced the rival Rockies five times this season, winning two games, losing one and having two no-decisions. Of the five games, three were at home. While he only gave up seven earned runs over 21 innings and struck out 23, Greinke did surrender four homers. Thus, the big bats of the Rockies will have to boom and third-year hurler Jon Gray (10-4) must replicate his last start against Arizona, where he struck out 10 and allowed just two earned runs in a 4-2 win in Arizona on Sept. 12. The Rockies ‘big 4’ will be Greinke’s focal point for Wednesday night’s tilt. CF Charlie Blackmon hit .331 and clubbed 37 homers (104 RBI) to put him in MVP conversation. Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu had another fine season, hitting .310 with eight homers and 64 RBI. Ditto mashers Nolan Arenado (.309, 37 HR, 130 RBI) and Mark Reynolds (30 HR, 97 RBI). Hitting will have to get them through, but don’t count on it.
8. New York Yankees
We think the Yanks can handle Minnesota in the wild card and move on to the ALDS against Cleveland. Unfortunately for the Bombers, they have very slim hopes against the AL’s hottest club. New York played all seven of its games against the Tribe in August going 2-2 in Cleveland early on, then dropping three straight to the Indians at home between Aug. 28-30. What will save the day for the Yankees, if their so-so starters can get them at least five good innings, is the bullpen. Aroldis Chapman has been the front man for a relief corps that Indians’ manager Terry Francona would kill for. It includes David Robertson (51 K in 35 innings after being re-acquired), Chad Green (.183 ERA, 103 K in 69 innings), Adam Warren (2.35 ERA, 11 holds) and Dellin Betances (100 K in 59.2 innings, 10 saves, 19 holds). Hitting wise, much will depend on the meat of the middle, where Aaron Judge will have to prove his record 52 homers and 114 RBI were no fluke. However, Indians pitching may have a field day against him, as he struck out eight times against them in five games and had just one homer. New York may be gone in three straight.
7. Washington Nationals
Yes, the Nats are NL East champs with a 97-65 record, but they have the horrid luck of facing the defending champion and NL Central champion Cubs in a five-game NLDS. Going for them is arguably the best starting pitching staff in the majors, headed by Max Scherzer (16-6, 268 K in 200.2 innings) and including Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52 ERA, 204 K in 175.1 IP), Gio Gonzalez (15-9, 2.96 ERA) and Tanner Roark (13-11, 4.67 ERA). The top of the batting order is solid, with Daniel Murphy (.322, 23 HR, 93 RBI), Bryce Harper (.319, 29 HR, 87 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (.303, 36 HR, 108 RBI) leading the charge. However, what clouds their aspirations is a mediocre record in the post-season. This is a team that despite three division crowns in the five previous seasons, they have won all of five games, winning no ALDS. That, and a determined Cubs team, is not a recipe for success.
6. Boston Red Sox
Everything anyone might need to know about the Red Sox chances against the Astros in the ALDS, starting Thursday in Houston, could be gleaned from a season-ending series against them. The Bosox hosted the NL West champs in a four-game set and promptly dropped three of them, by scores of 12-2, 3-2 and 4-3. Sure, they rested some starters, but so did Houston. The Red Sox didn’t hit a whole lot and their bullpen took it on the chin from everyone up and down the Astros order. What they do have going for them, should the series extend beyond three games, is probable Cy Young winner Chris Sale starting game 1 and maybe another. Sale, 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a major league leading 308 strikeouts, didn’t pitch in that series and will be fresh. Yet, since Aug. 1, Sale has been rocked in four of his eight losses on the year, including a five inning stint in his final start against Toronto where he surrendered four homers. Much of the offence will have to come from Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew Benintendi (20 HR, 90 RBI) and Mookie Betts (24 HR, 102 RBI) if Boston is to be successful. Don’t put money on it.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
We believe the D-Backs will dispose of Colorado in the NL Wild Card game at home, then go on to face archnemesis Los Angeles in the NLDS. Not a Herculean task, but formidable, as their sluggers will have to try and solve a Dodgers pitching staff that posted a 3.38 ERA, second only to Cleveland. And they will have to win one of two early games in L.A. without Zack Greinke, who is pitching in the Wild Card game on Wednesday. On the flip side, Arizona’s pitching has been superb, too, recording a 3.66 ERA (third best in MLB) and they did win the season series with the Dodgers, 11-8. That record included a sweep in Dodger Stadium in early September, preceded by a sweep of the Dodgers at home in late August. The team will have to tackle a hungry Dodgers squad with many post-season rookies who, while they had great regular seasons, haven’t felt the knot in the stomach that playoffs can bring. Premier sluggers Paul Goldschmidt (36 HR, 120 RBI) and Jake Lamb (30 HR, 105 RBI) haven’t been there, as have a few others. Leadership will have to come from veteran J.D. Martinez (45 homers total), who has been in just three playoff games, with Detroit in 2014.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
If the Dodgers don’t crap the bed in the NLDS, which they’ve done twice in the last four years (2014 and 2015), they have to get over the NLCS hump, which they didn’t do in 2013 and 2016. Even with a 104-win season, they head into the NLDS, likely against Arizona, with many doubting Thomases not liking their chances. They could start Clayton Kershaw in the Game 1 of the NLDS, as he last pitched Saturday and was limited to four innings. He is a pedestrian 4-7, lifetime in the post-season, but was his best last year, when he went 2-1 with a save in five games. The Dodgers do have great starting pitching and and a lights out closer in Kenley Jansen, so figure on opponents having a tough time at the plate. Offensively, they weren’t a juggernaut — other than Cody Bellinger and his 39 homers — but they did spread it around, with six players hitting 20 or more homers. Defensively, they enter the playoffs with the fourth best fielding percentage among entrants at .985 (tied with Washington).
3. Houston Astros
We like the ‘Stros chances, should they be able to rough up Boston ace Chris Sale in the ALDS. What they need to do before first pitch on Thursday at Minute Maid is watch the game film from his last start, when the playoff rookie was lit up for four bombs by Toronto in a 9-4 loss. Then, they should re-live the 2015 ALDS, when they came oh so close to beating eventual champ Kansas City, coughing up a 6-2 lead in Game 4 and then losing again in Game 5 after an early lead. Houston will be led into the ALDS against Boston by 2015 vets Jose Altuve (batting champion this year with a .346 average) and Carlos Correa (.315 average, 84 RBI). They will be ably augmented by a mashing line-up that got double digit homers from 11 different players. The starting pitching, fronted by Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90 ERA) is fairly good and the relief corps topped by set-up man Chris Devenski (four saves, 24 holds) and Ken Giles (2.30 ERA, 34 saves).
2. Chicago Cubs
There will be no stopping the Cubs in the NL playoffs, in our estimation. After the defending champions floundered around for much of the first half of the season, they entered the all-star break with a weak 43-45 record and all but written off for post-season play. But, they went on a tear after, going 13-3 for the rest of July and 49-25 overall the rest of the way to claim the NL Central crown. They have taken a page out of the Cleveland Indians playbook, pitching wise, having a quartet of relievers mop up well behind decent, but not great, starting pitching. Wade Davis had 32 saves, and was preceded by Brian Duensing (68 games, 13 holds, 2.74 ERA), Pedro Strop (69 games, 21 holds, 2.83 ERA) and Carl Edwards Jr. (73 games, 25 holds, 2.98 ERA). Offensively, the Cubs were not a juggernaut this season, finishing fourth in runs scored with 822 and ninth in homers at 223. They are, though, more well rounded, featuring six players with 20 or more home runs. They will be fun to watch, starting Friday in Washington.
1. Cleveland Indians
The Cubs laid to rest that horrible 108-year championship drought last year by finally winning a World Series. This year, we have a feeling the Tribe will end their personal bugaboo by winning it all for the first time since 1948. Owners of the second best record in baseball at 102-60, the Indians are solid from top to bottom, offensively and defensively. Since Aug. 24, when they embarked on a record 22-game winning streak, the Indians were a ridiculous 33-4. Just like last year, Cleveland has achieved greatness this season with pitching, pitching and more pitching. The staff had the lowest ERA in the major leagues (3.30) and they shut out the opposition on 19 occasions (also a major league high). The starters are more than formidable, starting with Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA, 265 K) and including Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 226 K, 3.29 ERA) and Trevor Bauer (17-9, 196 K, 4.19 ERA). Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw have been near unbeatable in set up and Cody Allen is a great fireman. The acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion can’t be under-stated enough. He smoked a team high 38 homers and drove in 107 and is the kind of big-game slugger they lacked last year. Look out.