Ahhhh, what a season. Can you feel it? Can you smell it? Can you hear it? The wind whistling through the autumn foliage. The crunch of the fallen leaves underfoot. The snap of crisp apples. The warm, nostalgic aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg. The over-saturation of pumpkin flavored food items. It’s playoff baseball SZN, and I couldn’t be happier. Well, happy might not be the right word. I don’t think baseball will give me any lasting happiness until the Red Sox win the World Series. Watching playoff baseball when your team is involved is like getting a thousand tiny needles jammed into you every second. Each pitch could be the one that breaks your back or finally gives you some release on the tension that’s been building inside of you for four hours. If you can, I recommend setting up a TV or streaming the game in the bathroom, because when the starting pitcher loads the bases with no outs in the third inning and gets pulled, your nerves are probably going to be running pretty high and your sphincter pretty tight. You can try to calm yourself by drinking or eating a bunch of pizza or wings or something, but personally I get too nervous to ingest anything. I’d say a playoff baseball game is pretty much an extended version of the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Oh, what’s that? 90% don’t know what it’s like to have your team play in and win multiple Super Bowls? Wow. Bad analogy, then. Anyway, playoff baseball is a terrible ordeal to go through, but I wouldn’t change anything about it. Because if your team pulls through in a 2-1 grind or wins a series or somehow wins the World Series, there’s no better feeling in the world. With that setup, it’s time to get to the preview. Now, I make fun of Hockey Guys for saying this exact thing during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but since this is baseball and I’m a Baseball Guy, it’s okay when I say it: literally anything can happen in the playoffs. Individual baseball games are the least consequential pieces of data in sports, and even in a seven game series, let alone the five game Division series, the best team doesn’t really always win. So much of what determines the results of playoff baseball games is all luck or chance: a random error by a usually sure-handed fielder, an 8th inning home run by the backup catcher with a career .583 OPS, a Cy Young-caliber pitcher starts walking a bunch of guys and giving up homers. It’s such an easy and unquantifiable thing to say, but the game really does come down to mental toughness and “cluchness,” which means that no one knows what’s going to happen and it’s virtually impossible to say who’s going to win. That’s never stopped me from trying, though.
Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros
The last time I wrote about the Red Sox, I was saying they might be able to make a deep run because they were so under-the-radar. Well, that was all based on the clearly absurd notion that the Red Sox would actually finish the season playing well. How foolish of me. Much like a child who doesn’t want to eat their vegetables, the Sox had to be forced to win the division or risk going to bed early without dessert. They begrudgingly took care of business, but they’ll be damned if they give any more effort than is absolutely necessary to play a baseball game. It’s stupid to say a ten game stretch was enough to get me off the Red Sox bandwagon that I’ve been on since the say I was born, but this year’s team was so weird and I don’t trust them at all. If Chris Sale can’t win today, it’ll be a sweep. I appreciate the early start time this afternoon, because it’ll free me up to watch one of my teams that actually is going to win the championship this year (btw, I looooooooooooooooooooooove Pats -6. You may never hear from me again I’ll be so rich after tonight). Astros are good but not in an intimidating way, so if things go 100% right the Sox will still win, I just know they won’t. Still, I won’t be on the wrong side of history should things go in my favor.
Red Sox in 4
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians
Nothing would make me happier than an Indians curb stomp, but I think we all know that’s probably not going to happen. As you might have heard, the Yankees are Back, despite this being a rebuilding year. What that means is that Yankee fans are in perfect position to be the ultimate versions of themselves. If they go on a run and possibly win it all, they get to tell everyone to kiss the rings (that they won when there were 4 teams and no black players) and remind everyone that they weren’t even supposed to be good this year, so who knows how many consecutive championships they’ll win. If the Indians beat them, they can still call for wholesale change, forgetting their favorite line all year, “we weren’t even supposed to be good this year.” It’s a can’t lose situation for the typical obnoxious Yankee fan, so, in that regard, we’ve all already lost. On the field, they’re actually pretty similar teams, with deep, explosive lineups and great bullpens. However, whatever it really means in today’s game, the Indians have more good starting pitching. Severino might as well just not show up anymore, leaving the Yanks with whatever version of Tanaka they get, Sonny Gray, and the reanimated corpse of CC Sabathia. Not great. All realistic signs point to the Indians, which means only one thing.
Yankees in 5
Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals
Love the Cubs this year. All the historical angst is gone, and, for some unfathomable reason, there’s absolutely no pressure on the defending champ in a massive market. Literally no one is talking about them, and they’re just as great as last year. I’ll die before I predict playoff success for a D.C. team.
Cubs in 4
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Too bad the Rockies didn’t win to break up this run of red and blue teams. I’m super conflicted about this series, because on one hand, I would love to see Kershaw finally start dominating the playoffs and blowing fools away. If he won a World Series while pitching at his historic level and shoved it in all the h8rz faces, I’d be so happy. But on the other hand, this DBacks team is awesome. I’m all in on the Great J.D. Martinez Contract Hunt of 2017, and I’ve got a feeling Goldschmidt is going to make me regret dismissing his MVP chances. Their pitching is good on paper but not good enough to keep any game from getting interesting late, meaning all of these games are going to last 6 hours. Everyone else will bail and complain about how long they are, but I bask in the glow of pitching changes, bad defensive plays, home runs, and mental breakdowns (as long as it’s not the Red Sox). I’m actually excited to watch both National League series, something I can’t say about the American League, and this one promises to be the most exciting. Or a Dodgers sweep. But, since I think I want the DBacks to win because it’d be more fun, I’m thinking the latter.
Dodgers in 4
The Division Series round seems like it last two seconds. If you’re not 100% plugged in, you can easily miss games, developments, big moments, and meltdowns. But luckily for you, I don’t miss anything, so I’ll be here to break down everything. Every mistake, every clutch home run, every time someone Earns Their Pinstripes, everything. Nothing quite like playoff baseball, folks.