Column: The hunt for October … again

So, here we are again folks! It’s almost mid-September, which means that it’s about to be time for playoff baseball! As you may know, I am a bit of a baseball fan thus making this my favorite time of year for any professional sport.

In this “little” column here, I am going to provide a look ahead to the postseason and also, the moment that you’ve all been waiting for, give my playoff predictions.

Let’s start off with a few nuggets of information about this season. I shall reiterate, the statements made and opinions in this column are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any other staff here at the Galion Inquirer.

Biggest letdown so far this season: The Los Angeles Dodgers. As of September 7, the Dodgers are sitting on a record of 92-47, which makes it difficult to believe that I would call them a letdown but hear me out. At the all-star break, some experts and some fans (such as myself) figured the Dodgers to continue on their epic winning pace to become the winningest team in Major League Baseball history. 61-29 after 90 games in 2017! That meant that, in order to break the record for most wins ever (held by the 2001 Seattle Mariners in a 162-game season), Los Angeles had to go 56-16 in their final 72 games. With the way that they were winning, it was a stretch but overall, still possible. Therein lies the disappointment…After putting together multiple, lengthy winning streaks, the Dodgers have lost nine of their last 10 games and with just 23 regular season games remaining, have no chance of winning the elusive 117 games. But, on a positive note, this team is not to be slept on. If all goes well, the Dodgers will still be a threat to take it all in 2017.

Biggest surprise: Yeah, I’ll say it…the Cleveland Indians. Listen, we knew this team was good. I mean, they did make it all the way to the World Series last year just to blow the lead and lose to the Chicago Cubs. But 2017 is a new year and unless you’ve been living under a rock, the Tribe are making all the right noise at all the right time! Cleveland has pulled away from the Minnesota Twins (yeah, you read that correctly) to control the American League Central by 11 games. Oh yeah, and the Indians have won a remarkable 14 games in a row! 14 games and currently are only three games back of the Houston Astros for the best record in the AL. Will this be the year for the Cleveland Indians?

Okay, okay enough of the small talk…here’s how the playoff picture currently looks, broken down by league and division for your reading pleasure.

American League (all records and figures are accurate as of 09/07 at 10:30 a.m.)

East: THE Boston Red Sox (79-61) are currently in first place in the AL East and for that I am thankful. However, and it pains me to say this, don’t sleep on the New York Yankees (74-64). With the pitching staff that Boston has and the talent around the diamond, this division should’ve been a runaway. That would be true if consistency, health and the Yankees were not a factor. You see, the Yankees also have that same dynamic, the talent and the rotation, although both teams are questionable at times. Boston leads the Yankees by just four games with the Sox having 22 games left and the Bronx Bombers, 24 remaining. New York currently owns a spot in the wild card with the Minnesota Twins but both teams have six teams behind them fighting for a postseason chance. My prediction: THE Boston Red Sox will win the East by one game and the Yankees will take the top wild card spot.

Central: As previously mentioned, the Cleveland Indians (83-56) own the AL Central. The Twins (72-67) have no chance of catching the Tribe and Cleveland has all but sealed up the division crown. My prediction: Minnesota will fall apart, be bumped from wild card contention and the Indians will, wait for it, win the American League pennant (unfortunately).

West: Much like the AL Central, the AL West has been all but officially clinched. The Houston Astros (86-53) currently have the best record in the AL and second best in baseball behind the Dodgers. They score more runs than anyone else and are a very, very dangerous team. My prediction: Houston holds a 14.5 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (or whatever they’re called these days; 72-68) and will, most likely play the Indians for an AL title. However, a high-powered offense won’t be enough and the ‘Stros will have to wait until next season, just like the Indians…

National League ( all records and figures are accurate as of 09/07 at 10:30 a.m.)

East: Surprise, surprise…the NL East is once again (in my opinion of course) the weakest division in MLB. Not to take away from the Washington Nationals (85-54) that again own the division. Washington currently holds an 18-game lead over the second place Miami Marlins (67-72) and have sign, sealed and delivered another division title to the Capital (unofficially). My prediction: The Nationals will advance all the way to the National League Championship Series against either the Dodgers or the Arizona Diamondbacks (sorry, no spoilers). Oh yeah and the Philadelphia Phillies (53-86) will finish with the worst record in baseball.

Central: The NL Central is a tight race this season. Defending World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs (76-63) are up just four games on the St. Louis Cardinals (72-67), who are, in turn, up just a half-game on the Milwaukee Brewers (72-68). Crazy thing about the NL Central, only one team will get into the playoffs (see below). My prediction: The Cubs will win the Central and advance to play the Nationals. The Nationals will go on to beat the Cubs and another title drought will begin (sorry Zack Holden!)

West: How the West was won…well, as previously mentioned, the L.A. Dodgers had this division on lock (or so it seemed). Well, that was before the Arizona Diamondbacks (82-58) became the hottest team in baseball. Sure, the Indians have won 13 straight which is beyond impressive, but the D’backs have now won 14 games in a row! However, Arizona is still 10.5 games back of the Dodgers for the division title. Another interesting tidbit for ya, the Colorado Rockies (74-65) are also playing darn good baseball but trail the Dodgers by 18 and the Diamondbacks by 7.5 games. My prediction: The Dodgers will hold on to win the NL West. Arizona and Colorado will play each other in the wild card play-in game, despite the Cards and the Brew Crew nipping at their collective heels. Arizona will win and then have to play the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. Read that as, what a reward for all of your hard work!

Well, there’s that…now, here’s this.

American League

Division Series: Number 1 seed Astros vs Number 4 seed Yankees (wild card play-in winner over the Angels); I say Houston’s offense will be too much and they take the best-of-five series in four games and advance to the ALCS.

Number 2 seed Indians vs Number 3 seed Red Sox; As much as it pains me to say this, I don’t think that Boston can compete with the Tribe. Cleveland in four games as well, advancing to play the Astros.

Championship Series: Astros vs Indians; In this best-of-seven playoff scenario, the world will be treated to some of the best baseball imaginable! The Indians, with their stellar pitching fitted against the Astros with their high-powered, run-producing machine of an offense. This series goes all seven games with the Indians winning their second-straight American League pennant and advancing to the 2017 World Series.

National League

Division Series: Number 1 seed Dodgers vs Number 4 seed Diamondbacks (wild card play-in winner over the Rockies); This postseason will provide all sorts of great match-ups but none better than this showdown. I see this potential series going all five games with the Dodgers edging the D’backs to advance to the NLCS.

Nationals vs Cubs; The Nationals and Cubs have formed quite the rivalry and this should be an interesting series (granted it happens this way) to watch. I don’t foresee the Cubs taking down the Nats and the Washington squad will meet the Dodgers in the NLCS after getting past Chicago in three games.

Championship Series: Dodgers vs Nationals; What a marquee series this shall be! If the Dodgers are healthy and turn things around, a series with the Nats, alongside the ALCS predicted above, could provide baseball fans with two of the best championship series ever! Unlike the ALCS, this series doesn’t go seven games but it will go six. The winner could be anyone’s guess but I am saying the Dodgers move on to play the Tribe in the World Series.

The 2017 World Series

Dodgers vs Indians…wow! Let’s make a long story short here as I am surprised that you are even still reading my long-winded rambles about this all. This WILL be the year that the Cleveland Indians win the whole thing (ugh, I still loathe thinking and typing that)! Cleveland will defeat Los Angeles in six games to win their first World Series title since 1948. Side note: The Indians drought is the longest current drought in baseball and fifth-longest in baseball history.

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By Chad Clinger

Follow Chad on Twitter @GalionSportsGuy

Reach Chad at 419-468-1117 x2048