This is by far the most interesting matchup of the first (real) round of the MLB playoffs. The Rangers had the Blue Jays backed into a corner with a 2-0 lead in the ALDS last year, only for the Blue Jays to win 3 in a row to take the series. Since then, there’s been a lot of talk about José Bautista‘s batflip, and later, the punch to the face he received from Rougned Odor. As far as actual baseball goes, these teams seem pretty evenly matched. The Rangers ended up with 95 wins this year, and the Blue Jays ended up with 89, but keep in mind, the Jays were in a division with the Orioles, Yankees, and Red Sox, all of which had a chance to make it to the post-season (only the Red Sox made it to the ALDS, the Orioles lost to the Jays in the Wild Card game). The Blue Jays won the regular season matchup 4-3. I think the Blue Jays win this series again.
Prediction: Blue Jays in 5
Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox
I would love to see the Indians win this series, but I do not have much faith. The Indians have lost two of their great starting pitchers, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar and their ace, Corey Kluber, is likely to start in Game 2, but has recently been dealing with a quad strain. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have been getting incredible results from soon-to-retire David Ortiz, usually injured Hanley Ramirez, and breakout star, Mookie Betts. One thing the Indians can hope for is a pitching meltdown from David Price, who is usually a fantastic pitcher, but is prone to post-season meltdowns, with a 0-8 record in post-season starts (his teams are 4-10 in his post-season appearances).
Prediction: Red Sox in 4
Chicago Cubs vs. San Francisco Giants
Even if we throw superstition, curses, and “even-year magic” out, it seems the Giants have a pretty good chance of winning this series. Matching the 103-win Cubs against the 87-win Giants might be setting the series up for a Cubs sweep. But, historically, 100+ win MLB teams have had post-season struggles. Not to mention, the Giants have the ultimate series insurance policy in the playoff superhuman, Madison Bumgarner. I don’t believe in the even year thing, and I don’t really believe in curses (look at the Cleveland Cavaliers), but I don’t think the Cubs have a chance.
Prediction: Giants in 4
Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers haven’t won a playoff series since 2009, the Nationals haven’t won one as the Nationals yet (since 2005). Both teams have new managers, Dusty Baker as the Nationals, manager, and Dave Roberts as the Dodgers’ manager. Both teams have incredible starting pitching staffs, but no one on either staff has a great post-season record. In the case of Dodgers’ ace, Clayton Kershaw, that may be mostly that he gets left in too long because the Dodgers’ bullpen hasn’t been great in the past. But, the combination of Dodgers’ improved 2016 bullpen, and Bryce Harper‘s recent injuries, seem to spell a victory for the Dodgers in this round. Though, I would not be surprised if the Nationals (who have home-field advantage this series) end up with the win either.