MLB Playoffs: Divisional Series Preview


The Division Series is here and heating up. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The first round of the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs concluded on Sunday, with the Cleveland Guardians, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres surviving the Wild Card round and advancing to the Division Series. The first three were able to take care of business in just two games with a sweep, while the latter came down to a decisive game three which ended with the Padres defeating the Mets. Next up on the docket is the Division Series, with four intriguing matchups scheduled to commence on Tuesday. 

There is history between these two teams, as it is a rematch of the 2020 Wild Card round and 2017 American League Division Series (ALDS). The Guardians ended up losing both of those series, including the last five games after blowing a 2-0 lead in 2017 and getting swept 2-0 in 2020. 

It’s a whole new team in Cleveland now after trading away their star of those teams, Francisco Lindor, to the Mets. They are a hungry and young team led by one of the best all around players in the league in Jose Ramirez. Cleveland will look to their pitching strength against the Yanks, as their top three starters Shane Bieber, Tristan McKenzie and Cal Quantrill all had a sub 3.50 ERA for the 2022 season. This, along with timely hitting, will hope to propel them into the American League Championship Series (ALCS). 

The postseason is a regular occurrence for the Bronx Bombers, as Aaron Boone’s club has made it to the dance in each season since 2017. However, it has been 13 years since the Yanks have made it to the World Series and their fans are getting restless. After winning the juggernaut that is the AL East, the Yankees were one of the favorites throughout the season to get back to the Fall Classic. Led by Aaron Judge and his record breaking 62 home runs, the best offense in the American League and a pitching staff that only allowed three runs per game, the Yankees hope that this is enough to secure championship number 28. 

Two division rivals will duke it out in the other ALDS series: The young Seattle Mariners trying to prove they belong against the defending American League champion Houston Astros, who are still trying to right the wrong for their cheating scandal that propelled them to the 2017 World Series title. 

The Mariners are back in the postseason for the first time in 21 years since the team’s record-breaking 116 win group made it back in 2001. This time led by a potential future face of baseball in 21 year old center fielder Julio Rodriguez, the M’s will look to accomplish what no Seattle baseball team has ever done, hoist a World Series trophy. After a promising 2021 season that saw them in the race till the very end, they were able to be a consistent contender for a postseason spot in 2022. They will look to Rodriguez, a hungry young pitching staff led by deadline addition Luis Castillo and a lights out bullpen to push them over the edge. 

Along with the Yankees, it is beginning to become routine for the Astros to be in the postseason as they too have made it every year since 2017. After losing key pieces in George Springer, Carlos Correa and Gerrit Cole over the last few years, one would think it would have a lasting impact. All it has done is drove them to a 106 win season this year, the best in the AL. Although key pieces have left, it is the main core of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Justin Verlander that have kept the Astros as the team to beat in the AL. After Tommy John Surgery sidelined Verlander for all of 2021, he was able to dip into the fountain of youth and provide his best year since winning the triple crown in 2011. The ’Stros hope that this, along with their veteran leaders, can carry them to their second title in franchise history. 

Two more division rivals will face off in the National League Division Series (NLDS). The Philadelphia Phillies, in their first postseason appearance since 2011, will square off against defending world champion Atlanta Braves who snatched the NL East away from the New York Mets right at the very end. 

The Phillies won the Bryce Harper sweepstakes during the 2019 offseason, but it hasn’t led to much before this season. They’ve witnessed two rivals in the Washington Nationals (2019) and the Braves (2021) become World Series champions. The Phillies will hope that their name will be the next NL East team to don that title. After limping into the postseason with an abysmal September, they were able to fight off the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card round. The Phils will hope that the two headed pitching monster of Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola, along with reigning NL MVP in Harper and NL home run leader Kye Schwarber will be enough to topple Atlanta.

The Braves look to become the first team to win back-to-back championships since the Yankees three peat from 1998-2000. With the majority of their young core signed to long-term deals, this is a real possibility, as well as creating a dynasty for years to come. After replacing Freddie Freeman with Matt Olson, bringing up young talent such as right hander Spencer Strider and center fielder Michael Harris II, along with the star power of Ronald Acuña Jr., the Braves have more than enough to make a repeat a reality. The pitching staff is as deadly as it was for the 1990’s Braves teams that made five World Series appearances, and the lineup is as balanced and deadly as ever. All this makes the Bravos a sure fire favorite to make it to another National League Championship Series (NLCS).

The San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers will face off at least three more times this year after the Dodgers took 15 out 19 regular season meetings between the two, en route to winning the NL West by a whopping 22 games. 

The Padres came into 2022 without their star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who later got suspended for the rest of the year for the use of performance enhancing drugs. However, this did not stop them from making a big splash at the deadline, as the Padres swooped up Juan Soto from the Nationals. With Soto, MVP candidate Manny Machado and a dominant pitching staff, the Padres will look to push past the big brother in Los Angeles and prove that the postseason is all that matters. In order for this to happen, they will need closer Josh Hader to regain his dominance that made him the best in the league in Milwaukee, as well as their high-end talent on offense to push them into the NLCS. 

Last but certainly not least are the Dodgers, who won a franchise record 111 games in the regular season. WIth a lineup that is composed of three former MVP’s, an all-around elite player in Trea Turner and depth that other teams could only dream of, their offense is what is going to need to show up for them. The pitching was dominant all year, but injuries as well as a lack of right-handed starter depth could become a problem in an extended series. All the Dodgers have to show for in their incredible success over the last ten years is a COVID-19 season World Series ring In 2020. The clear World Series favorites will try to put past the narrative that they cannot get the job done in a full season by lifting the trophy again in 2022.