It wasn’t easy, but it was a clean sweep for my Division Series predictions. Believe me, I was taking heat for picking Kansas City (down to their last six outs in Game 4) and Toronto (down 0-2 going to Texas). But as the late, great Yogi Berra would say: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” The Royals showed their postseason mettle in Game 4 and scored five runs in the top of the 8th to surge ahead 7-6, then tacked on two insurance runs to win 9-6 and force the 5th game in Kansas City. In KC, Johnny Cueto did the rest; pitching a gem and sending the Royals to their second consecutive ALCS. The Jays dropped the first two in Toronto, then their bats got hot and they rebounded to take the next two in Texas. After the Rangers took the lead in Game 5 on a freak play, Joey Batts went yard and turned SkyDome into an insane asylum (that’s right, I said SkyDome. No Rogers Centre crap in these predictions). The Cubs knocked off St. Louis and won just their second postseason series in the last 107 years, and the Mets rolled into Chavez Ravine and made Zack Greinke the tough luck loser in Game 5. The great thing about the next few weeks is that one of the remaining four teams, the Cubs (1908), Mets (1986), Royals (1985), or Blue Jays (1993), will be ending a long World Championship drought. Now here are your American League and National League Champs.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals
No disrespect to the Texas Rangers or the Houston Astros, but this is the series that I wanted to see. Who doesn’t want to see the Blue Bays take their hacks against Kansas City’s pitching staff? Both teams are coming off of impressive comebacks, and both come into this series rolling and confident. There’s good news and bad news for the Jays: the good news is that the bats have woken up. After being held to 7 runs on 14 hits (2 homers) in the first two games at home, the Jays bats got hot and scored 19 runs on 28 hits (6 homers) over the last three. The bad news for the Jays: David Price is coming as advertised, as he again is failing to come through in October. He pitched slightly better in his Game 4 relief appearance but if the Jays are going to win their first pennant in 22 years, he needs to show up- 8 earned runs in 10.0 IP (7.20 ERA) isn’t going to cut it. I don’t want to say that the Royals struggled offensively in their series against Houston because that wouldn’t be fair to Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel and how well those kids pitched. But their lineup wasn’t getting much going until the 8th inning in Game 4. After that, they never looked back, and were boosted with the kind of start from Johnny Cueto that they expected to get from him when they traded for him at the deadline (8 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 8 Ks, 0 walks). And I know that the Houston lineup has carving air down to a science at this point, but the KC pitching staff struck out 58 batters in five games. The way the Royals have played in the last 11 innings are how we’ve expected them to play all season. Suffice to say, they look to be peaking at the perfect time. Regardless of who wins this series, the World Series will be fun to watch- Toronto with their loaded lineup, Kansas City with their pitching, defense, base running and NL-style game. The Jays’ pitching is suspect, and in the MLB playoffs, the team that pitches better almost always wins (just look at what the Mets did to the Dodgers). The Royals have the better pitching staff, and I expect them to win back to back pennants and move to within four wins of their first World Championship since Marty McFly took his first ride in the DeLorean.
Prediction: Royals in 6.
Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets
Okay, unless you are a Mets fan (or a White Sox fan), if you’re rooting against the Cubs you should be ashamed of yourself. It’s true, I hate both the Mets and Dodgers with a passion so it was nice to see ONE of them lose, but what the Cubs are doing right now is remarkable and is easily the best story of the postseason. The Mets’ pitching staff is on auto pilot, led by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. When Matt Harvey is your #3, you’re never out of a series. The Cubbies ended decades of frustration and convincingly exorcised the franchise that has been the gold standard in the NL Central since the turn of the century, the St. Louis Cardinals. I know the regular season means jack in October, but the Cubs were 7-0 against the Amazins’ this year, outscoring them 27-11. I was way off this spring with my AL and NL predictions (do yourself a favor and don’t look), but even though I didn’t pick the Mets or Cubs to get here, I felt that the building blocks were there for future success for both teams.
Speaking about the Mets: “The good news is that Matt Harvey appears to be healthy and ready to go, and they are trending in the right direction.…. the Mets aren’t too far off from contending for the playoffs again.”
Speaking about the Cubs: “Not only are they better than they were a year ago, the Cubs are going to be a very good baseball team for years to come…..not ready to contend, but a promising future ahead. They’re still nowhere good enough to have serious aspirations of winning the division, but the farm system is among the best in the major leagues, just as Theo Epstein had planned.”
I was wrong, but so was everyone else. Nobody had the Cubs and Mets fighting for the National League flag, but this is easily the most interesting matchup. This is like a Disney movie unfolding as we speak. When you first watched the Mighty Ducks, you knew the whole time that they were going to win in the end, right? Exactly. That’s the Chicago Cubs right now. They are the National League’s answer for the 2004 Boston Red Sox, except this is probably even more monumental if they pull it off. The Mets starting pitching is going to make this one go the distance, but Chicago has been waiting 70 years for another crack at this thing. I cannot believe I’m about to say these words, but I am….the Chicago Cubs are going to the World Series.
Prediction- Cubs in 7.