In a one game Wild-Card format, there’s nothing like a dominant starting pitcher. Last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates were hit by the Madison Bumgarner steamroller. This year, they had the misfortune of facing Jake Arrieta. Rookie Kyle Schwarber provided all the offensive support needed with an RBI single and a two-run home run, while Arrieta tossed a shutout. Similarly, Dallas Keuchel ended the Yankees season with a shutout of his own.
So now the Divisional Series matchups are set. First, the American League, where the Houston Astros go on to face the Kansas City Royals. The Astros are a young team and as Keuchel demonstrated, they have good pitching. The offense is led by Carlos Correa and it is all or nothing; they hit a lot of home runs, but they strikeout a lot. It’s a formula that can work well in the playoffs, where it’s difficult to mount rallies against good pitching. Good pitchers don’t make many mistakes, but if they make one bad pitch and you can convert it into runs with one swing…The Royals are also a young team that had an amazing run in last year’s playoffs and this year they look like an even stronger team. They picked up Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline and he’s not even starting the first game. Despite the loss of closer Greg Holland, they have a solid bullpen. The lineup is solid from 1 through 9. They might not be superstars, but no one is an easy out and that can wear out opposing pitchers. I like the Royals to advance again.
Proving that a trade deadline acquisition can make a difference, the Toronto Blue Jays went all-in to pick up David Price and Troy Tulowitsky, while the Texas Rangers traded their farm system for Cole Hamels. It’ll be interesting to see who made a better investment. Both teams have powerhouse offenses that no one would want to face. The Blue Jays have Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista while the Rangers have Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Shin-Soo Choo. So if you like offense, this could be the series to watch. However, the difference will be the pitching, and I think the Blue Jays have more depth there.