World Series 2017: Full Schedule and Players Who Will Decide MLB Championship

After three weeks of thrilling postseason action, the World Series opens on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers, by virtue of earning the best regular-season record in baseball, will have home-field advantage against either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees. 

Just like in the division series and championship series, both teams in the Fall Classic will rely on their stars in clutch situations to be the true difference makers. 

The Dodgers proved they have plenty in their lineup throughout their NLCS conquest of the Chicago Cubs, and stars are emerging on both sides of the ALCS as it shifts back to Houston. There's a good chance some of those stars will be the names we're talking about throughout the World Series. 

                   

Schedule

Game 1: Yankees or Astros at Dodgers, Tuesday, October 24, Time TBD, Fox

Game 2: Yankees or Astros at Dodgers, Wednesday, October 25, Time TBD, Fox

Game 3: Dodgers at Yankees or Astros, Friday, October 27, Time TBD, Fox

Game 4: Dodgers at Yankees or Astros, Saturday, October 28, Time TBD, Fox

Game 5: Dodgers at Yankees or Astros, Sunday, October 29, Time TBD, Fox

Game 6: Yankees or Astros at Dodgers, Tuesday, October 31, Time TBD, Fox

Game 7: Yankees or Astros at Dodgers, Wednesday, November 1, Time TBD, Fox 

                 

Players to Watch 

Justin Turner

Justin Turner won NLCS co-MVP alongside Chris Taylor for his terrific series at the plate. The 32-year-old infielder has exceeded expectations by becoming the go-to guy in the heart of the Dodgers order. 

Turner is batting .387 this postseason with an on-base percentage of .500 to go along with three home runs and 12 RBIs. Not only has he flexed his power at the plate, Turner has also come through with his patience as he's earned six walks. 

The Dodgers will look to Turner to set the tone at home in Games 1 and 2 no matter if it's through an early home run, or just a strong at-bat that gets him on base to begin a rally.

Whichever team opposes Turner in the World Series will have a problem getting him out, and if his current form holds, he may be on track to win World Series MVP. 

           

Kenley Jansen 

A lot of focus will be on the Dodgers rotation entering the World Series, with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Yu Darvish expected to take the hill early in the series. 

However, the real game-changer for the Dodgers comes in the bullpen in the form of closer Kenley Jansen. The 30-year-old right-hander has been untouchable throughout the postseason, and he'll be relied upon possibly earlier than the ninth to set down the opponent's order. 

In seven appearances this postseason, Jansen has given up two hits and an unearned run while striking out 12. He's even shown that he can work multiple innings to earn a save as he did that in Game 2 of the NLDS and Game 1 of the NLCS

               

Gary Sanchez

If the Yankees finish off the Astros this weekend in Houston, they'll have Gary Sanchez to thank for getting them to the World Series as well as a few other stars. 

Sanchez came alive at Yankee Stadium during Games 3 through 5 of the ALCS with one home run and 5 RBI, including the game-winning double in Game 4. 

With a ton of focus from opposing staffs on shutting down Aaron Judge, Sanchez gives the Yankees a bat out of the cleanup spot that can either take advantage of the pitches Judge won't get, or add to the damage in a rally started by the other talented young slugger in the lineup. 

                

Luke Gregerson 

There are so many valuable players on the Houston Astros roster, but Luke Gregerson may prove to be the most important if they reach the Fall Classic. 

While most of the Astros bullpen has struggled during the ALCS, Gregerson has given up one hit in just under three innings of work. 

If Houston is able to get solid starts out of its staff led by Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, Gregerson will be called upon to bridge the gap between the starters and closer Ken Giles. At a point in the season where the margin for error is slim, Gregerson is a player A.J. Hinch can trust to get the job done in critical situations. 

                     

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from MLB.com

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World Series 2017: Full Schedule and Examining Potential Pitching Matchups

The World Series may seem like a long way away, but in reality it begins on Tuesday in the stadium of the team with the best record remaining. 

Although Game 1 of the Fall Classic is less than a week away, there's still plenty to be determined in the ALCS and NLCS between now and Sunday, when Game 7 of the NLCS is set to take place if needed. 

Until then, all we can do is dream about what potential showdowns we'll see throughout the World Series. 

                 

World Series Schedule

Game 1: Tuesday, October 24, Time TBD, Fox

Game 2: Wednesday, October 25, Time TBD, Fox

Game 3: Friday, October 27, Time TBD, Fox

Game 4: Saturday, October 28, Time TBD, Fox

Game 5: Sunday, October 29, Time TBD, Fox

Game 6: Tuesday, October 31, Time TBD, Fox

Game 7: Wednesday, November 1, Time TBD, Fox

              

Potential Pitching Matchups

Clayton Kershaw vs. Justin Verlander

There aren't many potential pitching matchups in the World Series that would stir up more hype than one featuring two of the premier arms of this generation.

Clayton Kershaw would be making his first career start in the World Series after suffering through years of postseason heartbreak in Los Angeles. Since entering the majors in 2008, Kershaw is 144-64 in the regular season but just 5-7 in the postseason. He's also recorded 200 or more strikeouts in seven of his last eight seasons. 

Justin Verlander, who moved to Houston from Detroit in August, carried plenty of World Series experience into 2017, but just because he's pitched in a Fall Classic doesn't mean he's had success. Verlander is 0-3 in three World Series starts. With that in mind, as well as helping Houston to a championship, he'd have plenty of motivation to thrive on the mound. 

Kershaw is starting on Thursday in NLCS Game 5 for the Dodgers, while Verlander will take the mound in Friday's ALCS Game 6 for the Astros. Although it might not be a Game 1 showdown, there's a decent chance these two could face later in the series. 

                

Jon Lester vs. C.C. Sabathia

Another potential clash of generational greats could come if the Yankees and Cubs both advance to the World Series. 

Jon Lester has the most postseason experience of any active pitcher with 148 innings over eight postseasons. The left-hander boasts an impressive 4-1 World Series record, which is the crown jewel of his 9-7 overall record in the postseason. 

Sabathia isn't far behind Lester in postseason innings, as he's tossed 123 to go along with his 10-5 postseason record over eight postseasons. However, Sabathia only has an 0-1 mark in a pair of World Series starts. 

The potential of this matchup is dependent on the next four days of postseason baseball. Sabathia could either come back to start Game 7 of the ALCS or play a role in relief, while Lester would have to make at least one more start in Los Angeles if the Cubs pull off a miraculous comeback. 

             

Dallas Keuchel vs. Yu Darvish 

If the Astros come back from their 3-2 deficit against the Yankees, they'll most likely send Dallas Keuchel to the mound in Game 1 of the World Series barring a potential appearance in relief on Friday and Saturday. 

Before Wednesday's ALCS Game 5 defeat, Keuchel was lights out in the postseason for the Astros. The left-hander would love nothing more than to rectify his poor performance on Wednesday at the start of one of the most meaningful series in franchise history. 

If Kershaw gets stretched to the max in Game 5, or if the Dodgers close the NLCS out in six games, there's a decent chance Yu Darvish would get the ball for Game 1 of the World Series on a full week of rest. Darvish joined the Dodgers specifically to win a championship, and he has plenty of familiarity with the Astros lineup from his time with the Texas Rangers. 

           

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from baseball-reference.com.

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MLB Playoffs 2017: TV Schedule, Top Player Comments, Highlights and Stats

Winning on the road in the postseason isn't easy in any sport, and the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs proved on Wednesday night they can create magic at home once again in October. 

The Yankees jumped ahead of the Houston Astros in the ALCS with a Game 5 victory at Yankee Stadium, while the Cubs live to fight another day after a Game 4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

While the ALCS shifts scenery again back to Houston, the Dodgers and Cubs are set for a fantastic Game 5 on Thursday. 

Here's all you need to know heading into the final four days of the league championship series.

            

TV Schedule

ALCS 

Game 6: Yankees at Astros; Friday, October 20, 8:08 p.m. ET, FS1

Game 7 (if necessary): Yankees at Astros; Saturday, October 21, 8:08 p.m. ET, FS1

NLCS

Game 5: Dodgers at Cubs; Thursday, October 19, 8:08 p.m. ET, TBS

Game 6 (if necessary): Cubs at Dodgers; Saturday, October 21, 4:08 p.m. ET, TBS

Game 7 (if necessary): Cubs at Dodgers; Sunday, October 22, 7:38 p.m. ET, TBS

                

Highlights and Stats

The Yankees are headed to Houston with all the momentum after winning three straight games at Yankee Stadium. 

With one more victory, they will become the first team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in the first two rounds of the postseason since the 1985 Kansas City Royals, per Jayson Stark on Twitter: 

A major reason for the success of the Yankees is the awakening of the bats in the middle of the order. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have come up with a few clutch hits over the last three days. 

Over in the other dugout, the Astros' key players have seen their hot streaks dry up at the worst time. WFAN's Sweeny Murti displayed the disparity between the stars in each lineup: 

Now the focus shifts back to Minute Maid Park for Friday. Justin Verlander will start for the Astros, while Luis Severino will take the mound for the Yankees.

Severino talked to YES Network about having the chance to clinch a World Series berth: 

Clayton Kershaw will be in the same position as Severino in Game 5 of the NLCS on Thursday, as he looks to keep the series from going back to Dodger Stadium. 

The Cubs stayed alive on Wednesday night thanks to three solo home runs, two of which came off the bat of Javier Baez. MLB's official Twitter account gave us a look at both of his homers: 

Although Baez broke out in a major way on Wednesday, there's still one bat in the Cubs order that hasn't gotten going in the postseason. If the Cubs send the series back to California, they'll need a contribution from Anthony Rizzo, who is 1-for-13 in the NLCS

Another concern for the Cubs is the usage of closer Wade Davis, who threw two innings to finish off the Game 4 victory.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale highlighted how overworked Davis has been so far in the NLCS

Despite losing Game 4, the Dodgers still have faith Kershaw will get the job done on Thursday night. However, he'll have to reverse his record in the NLCS. The southpaw is 1-4 all time in NLCS starts and 5-7 overall in the postseason. 

No matter what the numbers say, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is still confident in his team, per 670 The Score: 

Regardless of how both series end up, there's certain to be plenty of postseason drama over the next four days. 

                 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from baseball-reference.com.

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Updated LCS Bracket Results, Highlights and Reaction

Two completely different series are unfolding in the MLB postseason. 

The New York Yankees used the awakening of their bats to level the ALCS with the Houston Astros at two games apiece on Tuesday. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the Dodgers continued their dominance in the NLCS by going into Wrigley Field and taking Game 3 from the Chicago Cubs. 

The Astros and Yankees are poised to provide all the drama in the next few days, while the Dodgers are one step away from their first World Series since 1988. 

               

Results

ALCS

Game 1: Astros 2, Yankees 1

Game 2: Astros 2, Yankees 1

Game 3: Yankees 8, Astros 1

Game 4: Yankees 6, Astros 4

                   

NLCS

Game 1: Dodgers 5, Cubs 2

Game 2: Dodgers 4, Cubs 1

Game 3: Dodgers 6, Cubs 1

                     

Highlights and Reaction

The Yankees got contributions from the heart of their order in clutch situations on Tuesday night, as Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez doubles at the bottom of the eighth leveled the series. 

Judge tied Game 4 at four runs apiece before Sanchez delivered the game-winning hit two batters later. MLB's official Twitter account provided us with a look at the game-winning two-base knock: 

The Yankees were able to get to that point in the game thanks to a tremendous two-inning relief outing from Chad Green. Aroldis Chapman then closed out the game with the lead to ignite the crowd at Yankee Stadium. The postseason environment and finish at Yankee Stadium reminded former Yankee Paul O'Neill of past postseasons in the Bronx: 

However, the series is far from over as three games remain on the ALCS schedule, starting with Wednesday's Game 5 in the Bronx. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was quick to remind everyone there's still plenty to play for, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand: 

Game 5 features a rematch of the Game 1 pitching matchup between Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka. Keuchel tossed seven scoreless innings on the mound in Game 1, while Tanaka gave up two runs in six innings of work. 

Over in Chicago on Tuesday night, the Dodgers took some risks in the latter innings of Game 3, and they paid off. 

After a home run from Andre Ethier and a home run and RBI triple from Chris Taylor, the Dodgers got their fourth run in bizarre fashion. After using Curtis Granderson as a decoy in the on-deck circle, Dave Roberts sent Yu Darvish out to hit. Darvish was walked on four pitches by Carl Edwards. MLB.com's Andrew Simon noted it was the first time a pitcher drew a bases-loaded walk in the postseason in 40 years: 

Ryan Fagan of Sporting News summed up everyone's feelings on Darvish's sixth-inning plate appearance: 

The contrast of bullpen success in the NLCS continues to be striking as well, as the Dodgers relievers have only given up two hits in four games. ESPN's Buster Olney noted how historic Chicago's 0-for-29 start against the Dodgers bullpen was: 

 

Meanwhile, the Cubs bullpen continued to struggle with four more walks to add to their postseason total of 23. In addition, Mike Montgomery gave up two runs in the eighth to make the offense's task even more insurmountable. 

With so many things going against them, the Cubs have a better chance to return to the golf course than they do Dodger Stadium, but this is postseason baseball and stranger things have happened, just ask Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. 

                   

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Latest Results, Updated Schedule and Predictions

The first change of scenery in the championship series portion of the MLB playoffs benefited the New York Yankees, who took Game 3 of the ALCS from the Houston Astros on Monday night. 

The Chicago Cubs will hope to do the same thing Tuesday at Wrigley Field against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Given the quality of the teams and what's at stake, the next few days of playoff baseball should be intriguing. 

     

Latest Results

ALCS (Astros lead series 2-1) 

Game 1: Astros 2, Yankees 1

Game 2: Astros 2, Yankees 1

Game 3: Yankees 8, Astros 1

NLCS (Dodgers lead series 2-0) 

Game 1: Dodgers 5, Cubs 2

Game 2: Dodgers 4, Cubs 1

     

Schedule

ALCS

Game 4: Astros at Yankees, Tuesday, October 17, 5:08 p.m. ET

Game 5: Astros at Yankees, Wednesday, October 18, 5:08 p.m. ET

Game 6 (if necessary): Yankees at Astros, Friday, October 20, 8:08 p.m. ET

Game 7 (if necessary): Yankees at Astros, Saturday, October 21, 8:08 p.m. ET

NLCS

Game 3: Dodgers at Cubs, Tuesday, October 17, 9:08 p.m. ET

Game 4: Dodgers at Cubs, Wednesday, October 18, 9:08 p.m. ET

Game 5 (if necessary): Dodgers at Cubs, Thursday, October 19, 8:08 p.m. ET

Game 6 (f necessary): Cubs at Dodgers, Saturday, October 21, 4:08 p.m. ET

Game 7 (if necessary): Cubs at Dodgers, Sunday, October 22, 7:38 p.m. ET

     

Predictions

Powered by Aaron Judge, Todd Frazier and CC Sabathia, the Yankees flipped the momentum in the ALCS with an 8-1 Game 3 victory Monday. 

The win was significant in a few phases of the game for New York. Judge finally broke out of his postseason slump with a three-run home run, Sabathia continued to prove he can be a reliable starter despite his age, and Chad Green, David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman got an extra day of rest. 

The one hiccup in Game 3 was Dellin Betances' relief appearance, as the right-hander walked two batters and gave up the only Astros run in the top of the ninth before being pulled for Tommy Kahnle. With Green, Robertson and Chapman fresh, we might not see much of Betances for the rest of the series. 

Houston's offense sputtered for the first time in the ALCS in Game 3. Most of the Astros' hits came from the first four batters in the order, while the rest went 1-for-15. If the production at the top of the order dries up, it could be a long few days for A.J. Hinch's men. 

Hinch provided the simplest of answers as to why he's trusting Lance McCullers with the Game 4 start, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand: 

However, McCullers enters Game 4 with a season road ERA of 5.14, and he hasn't won a start since June. Sonny Gray's ALDS start didn't inspire anyone either, though, as he lasted 3.2 innings, and he only has a 3.72 ERA since the All-Star break. Based off these splits, Game 4 will most likely be decided by the bullpens, and the Yankees have the upper hand with fresh arms. 

Game 4 Prediction: Yankees 5, Astros 2


 

The Cubs are still reeling from Game 2—specifically, from Justin Turner's walk-off three-run home run against John Lackey. 

Joe Maddon was crucified for his decision to not bring in Wade Davis in the tie game, but he further explained his rationale on Monday, per MLB.com's Carrie Muskat: 

Maddon also offered up that there might be changes to the lineup, but he also added, per Muskat, that he has confidence in the guys on his roster: 

Tuesday's pitching matchup at Wrigley Field will be a delight, with Yu Darvish squaring off against Kyle Hendricks. Just like in Game 2, there will be a slim margin for error on both sides; one mistake could cost either team the game. 

Hendricks had success in Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS against the Dodgers, as he twirled 7.1 scoreless innings, while Darvish is still new to some Cubs batters since he pitched in the AL for the Texas Rangers before being dealt to the Dodgers in July. 

The stage is set for Hendricks to steal the stage once again, but the only way the Cubs come out on top Tuesday is if their bats get going early and tack on a late insurance run or two against the stingy Dodgers bullpen.

Game 3 Prediction: Cubs 3, Dodgers 2

     

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

All statistics obtained from MLB.com. 

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Game Times, TV Coverage and Bracket Picks

The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers put themselves in terrific position entering the scenery changes in the ALCS and NLCS by building 2-0 series leads over the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, respectively. 

Houston benefited from terrific starting pitching, while the Dodgers used a lights-out bullpen and walk-off magic from Justin Turner to open up a gap over the Cubs.

By no means is either series over, especially as the Yankees and Cubs use the off day to their advantage and rest up tired bodies for Games 3 through 5 of their respective series. 

      

Game Times and TV Coverage

ALCS 

Game 3: Astros at Yankees, Monday, October 16, 8:08 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Game 4: Astros at Yankees, Tuesday, October 17, 5:08 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Game 5 (if necessary): Astros at Yankees, Wednesday, October 18, 5:08 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Game 6 (if necessary) Yankees at Astros, Friday, October 20, 8:08 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

Game 7 (if necessary) Yankees at Astros, Saturday, October 21, 8:08 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

NLCS

Game 3: Dodgers at Cubs, Tuesday, October 17, 9:08 p.m. ET, TBS

Game 4: Dodgers at Cubs, Wednesday, October 18. 9:08 p.m. ET, TBS

Game 5 (if necessary): Dodgers at Cubs, Thursday, October 19, 8:08 p.m. ET, TBS

Game 6 (if necessary): Cubs at Dodgers, Saturday, October 21, 4:08 p.m. ET, TBS

Game 7 (if necessary) Cubs at Dodgers, Sunday, October 22, 7:38 p.m. ET, TBS 

         

Picks

ALCS

The Astros flexed their muscle on the mound with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander at Minute Maid Park, but their offense was only able to produce four runs.

The hits Houston was able to get primarily came from the heart of the order. Jose Altuve extended his impressive ALDS into Friday and Saturday with five hits in eight at-bats. Carlos Correa followed Altuve with three hits of his own in the first two games of the series, including a walk-off double in Game 2. 

New York's hits have been more scattered across the order than Houston's, as eight different players recorded a hit in Houston. Aaron Judge also started to put the ball in play following a disastrous strikeout-filled ALDS against the Cleveland Indians. 

But the Yankees are at a disadvantage when it comes to bullpen usage. Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson all pitched two innings in Houston, while Aroldis Chapman was tagged for the game-winning hit in Game 2. Conversely, Houston's bullpen only worked two innings, with Ken Giles recording five outs in Game 1 for a save. 

If CC Sabathia can push into the sixth or seventh inning in Game 3 on Monday, the Yankees will be in much better shape with their arms, but one bad start at home could force Joe Girardi into all-hands-on-deck mode. 

Pick: Astros in 6

     

NLCS 

The Dodgers have all the momentum in the NLCS after winning on Turner's walk-off home run in Game 2. Turner won the game off John Lackey, who was a surprise entrant in the ninth inning with Wade Davis still in the bullpen.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon explained why he counted on Lackey in that situation, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand: 

Based off the length of the starts in Games 1 and 2, Maddon will have plenty more bullpen decisions to make. Jose Quintana only went five innings in Game 1, and Jon Lester didn't make it out of the fifth in Game 2. 

The Dodgers have experienced the same with their starters, but the big difference in the series so far is their bullpen is getting the job done. The Dodgers bullpen has not given up a hit or walked a batter in the first two games of the NLCS. 

It isn't a good sign for the Cubs that two of their seven hits at Dodger Stadium on Saturday and Sunday came off the bats of Quintana and Lester. Luckily for the Cubs, they've hit two home runs, but that's about all they can brag about at the plate. 

On the other hand, the Dodgers have 13 hits, with six of them coming from Turner and Cody Bellinger in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the order. Yasiel Puig has also been a vital asset for Dave Roberts' team in the NLCS. Puig was 2-for-4 in Game 1, and he reached base on three walks in Game 2. 

In order to even have a chance against the Dodgers in front of their home crowd, the Cubs have to reverse quite a few trends. It's certainly possible, and a day of rest will do wonders, but change has to start showing in Tuesday's Game 3. 

Pick: Dodgers in 6. 

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from MLB.com

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Live-Stream Schedule and Championship Bracket Predictions

Major League Baseball couldn't have asked for a better start to the postseason.

The American and National League Division Series provided a ton of drama with a Game 5 in each league, and there's plenty of intrigue building up to the championship series in each league, starting with the ALCS Friday night. 

The four teams remaining in the postseason all bring unique qualities to the table, but one thing is for sure, the amount of excitement created by the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers heading into the next week of play is immense. 

                  

Live-Stream Schedule

ALCS (All games can be streamed on Fox Sports Go)

Game 1: Yankees at Astros (Friday, October 13, 8:08 p.m. ET) 

Game 2: Yankees at Astros (Saturday, October 14, 4:08 p.m. ET)

Game 3: Astros at Yankees (Monday, October 16, 8:08 p.m. ET)

Game 4: Astros at Yankees (Tuesday, October 17, TBD) 

Game 5 (if necessary): Astros at Yankees (Wednesday, October 18, TBD)

Game 6 (if necessary): Yankees at Astros (Friday, October 20, TBD) 

Game 7 (if necessary): Yankees at Astros (Saturday, October 21, TBD)

                

NLCS (All games can be streamed on the TBS app)

Game 1: Cubs at Dodgers (Saturday, October 14, 8:08 p.m. ET)

Game 2: Cubs at Dodgers (Sunday, October 15, 7:38 p.m. ET) 

Game 3: Dodgers at Cubs (Tuesday, October 17, TBD) 

Game 4: Dodgers at Cubs (Wednesday, October 18, TBD)

Game 5: Dodgers at Cubs (Thursday, October 19, TBD) 

Game 6: Cubs at Dodgers (Saturday, October 21, TBD) 

Game 7: Cubs at Dodgers (Sunday, October 22, TBD) 

                   

Predictions

Both the Astros and Dodgers come into the championship series on more rest than their counterparts, and it will be key to take advantage of that in their home ballparks.

The Astros' Game 1 starter, Dallas Keuchel, has been using Game 2 starter Justin Verlander as a resource to prepare for his big start at home, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com: 

Astros manager A.J. Hinch is also excited for the series to begin, and he noted that Minute Maid Park will have an electric crowd Friday night, per McTaggart

As for the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw will be taking the mound for Game 1 Saturday at Dodger Stadium against the Cubs. According to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will manage Kershaw accordingly with his historic seven-inning struggles in mind: 

The Yankees enter the ALCS in better shape than the Cubs do the NLCS even though both teams won thrilling five-game series on Wednesday and Thursday. New York got a terrific start out of CC Sabathia and was able to set its rotation through Game 4 for the ALCS, while Chicago used every man possible in Washington, D.C., on Thursday and now has to fly across the country for Saturday's Game 1. 

Despite those circumstances, both teams will be playing with less pressure than their opponents. The Yankees weren't expected to reach the postseason in 2017 and they've already recorded a big scalp by knocking off the Indians.

The Cubs lifted all the pressure off their shoulders in 2016 by winning the World Series, and with the Dodgers under pressure of their own to get to the World Series for the first time since 1988, the defending champions will be able to bank on their experience in big situations to get them out of a few extra jams, just like they did Thursday. 

Regardless of what occurs over the next week, we're certainly in for some terrific baseball between four of the best teams on the diamond this season. 

Predictions: Astros over Yankees in 6; Dodgers over Cubs in 6. 

                   

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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ALCS Schedule 2017: Coverage Info, Odds Guide and Series Predictions

Not even 48 hours after the New York Yankees completed their American League Division Series comeback against the Cleveland Indians, they'll be on the field to take on the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series. 

It's a grind for any team, but by the time they arrived in Houston, the ALDS was behind the Yankees. As for the Astros, they come into Friday's Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on plenty of rest after winning their series against the Boston Red Sox on Monday in four games. 

It may seem like a major difference, but anything is possible in postseason baseball, and as long as you're prepared for the seven-game series from the start, you're in good shape to advance to the World Series. 

                

Coverage Info

Game 1: Yankees at Astros (Friday, October 13, 8:08 p.m. ET, FS1) 

Game 2: Yankees at Astros (Saturday, October 14, 4:08 p.m. ET, FOX) 

Game 3: Astros at Yankees (Monday, October 16, 8:08 p.m. ET, FS1) 

Game 4: Astros at Yankees (Tuesday, October 17, Time TBD, FOX/FS1) 

Game 5 (if necessary): Astros at Yankees (Wednesday, October 18, Time TBD, FOX/FS1)

Game 6 (if necessary): Yankees at Astros (Friday, October 20, Time TBD, FOX/FS1) 

Game 7 (if necessary): Yankees at Astros (Saturday, October 21, Time TBD, FOX. FS1) 

                   

Odds Guide (via OddsShark)

Game 1 Odds: Astros -175, Yankees +165

                   

Analysis

 

Houston seems to have the upper hand entering Game 1 with Dallas Keuchel leading the charge on the mound. The southpaw has a 0.96 ERA in three postseason starts in Houston, and he put together a strong outing of 5.2 innings in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Red Sox. 

Masahiro Tanaka, who shined in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Indians, will oppose Keuchel. Tanaka isn't necessarily the best option for the Yankees, especially with his struggles on the road this season, but with the other starters in the rotation working back to full rest, he's the go-to guy for Game 1.

The Yankees have already lined up their starters through Game 4, with Luis Severino, CC Sabathia and Sonny Gray following Tanaka, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. 

Houston hasn't made that many decisions yet, but it has chosen Justin Verlander to pitch in Game 2 at home against Severino. Verlander has been impeccable on the mound since joining the Astros from the Tigers at the end of August, and he tossed six strong innings in Game 1 of the ALDS against Boston. 

The focus on the offenses will shine brightly on the MVP candidates in both dugouts who had contrasting ALDS performances. Jose Altuve hit for a .346 average in four games against the Red Sox with three home runs and four RBI. On the other hand, Aaron Judge struck out in 16 of his 20 at-bats versus the Indians.

Of course, the series won't just be decided by the stars on each roster. Look for experienced leadoff man Brett Gardner to set the tone in multiple games by putting together tough at-bats against the Houston pitching staff. In the bullpen, Chad Green could be the X-factor as he bridges the gap to David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, or fills in for one of the relievers in a critical spot. 

With all of the attention on Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, look for someone like Marwin Gonzalez to step up in the ALCS for the Astros. Gonzalez only hit .200 in the ALDS, but he'll get more pitches to hit than those further up the lineup and a clutch hit or two could turn the tide of the series. 

The ALCS is going to be close, but if the Astros can start strong behind Keuchel and Verlander, they could be able to take one game from Yankee Stadium and come home with a chance to clinch a World Series berth in Game 6. 

Prediction: Astros in 6.

               

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from Baseball Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

World Series 2017: Updated Bracket, Predictions Following ALDS

Only five contenders remain for the World Series entering Thursday's playoff baseball schedule.

The Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks have seen their respective seasons end in the last week, and one more team will join them on the golf course following Game 5 of the NLDS between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. 

With five contenders for the championship left following the New York Yankees' 5-2 win in Game 5 of the ALDS over the Indians, the margin for error is slimmer, but the chances of adding hardware to the trophy case have increased. 

       

Updated Bracket

NLDS

Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals (Game 5 on Thursday, series tied 2-2) 

ALCS

New York Yankees at Houston Astros (Best-of-7 series begins on Friday) 

NLCS 

Cubs or Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers (Best-of-7 series begins on Saturday)

      

Predictions

NLDS

While the Dodgers enjoy another off day out in California, the Cubs and Nationals will square off for the right to fly out west for Saturday's Game 1 of the NLCS.

The Nationals leveled the NLDS with a 5-0 victory at Wrigley Field on Wednesday that was powered by a late grand slam off the bat of Michael A. Taylor. 

Kyle Hendricks will take the mound at Nationals Park for the Cubs, while the Nationals are still undecided on who will oppose him. Dusty Baker told reporters he'll call on either Tanner Roark or Gio Gonzalez, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. 

Gonzalez put together a solid five-inning outing in Game 2 before the game was won in the eighth inning. If the lefthander is sent to the bump by Baker, the Cubs will most likely shift toward a heavy right-handed lineup. If Roark is the Game 5 starter, expect more lefties in the Chicago lineup. 

If Game 5 comes down to the bullpens, you could give a slight edge to the Nationals and their crew building up to closer Sean Doolittle. Not only are they in their home ballpark, but the Nats also roughed up Cubs closer Wade Davis in the eighth inning of Game 4. Confidence and momentum can certainly play a role in deciding a postseason contest and the Nationals have plenty of that. 

Prediction: Nationals over Cubs

        

ALCS

The Yankees pulled off a remarkable comeback in the ALDS to knock out the defending AL champion Indians, but an even tougher task awaits in the ALCS against the Astros. 

Although there were plenty of impressive performances turned in by the players in pinstripes during the ALDS, one superstar struggled. Aaron Judge struck out a record 16 times in 19 at-bats against the Indians.

According to baseball statistician Ryan Spaeder on Twitter, Judge shattered the previous record of 13 strikeouts in a playoff series: 

The good news for the Yankees entering the ALCS is their bullpen comes in with a ton of confidence. Although he had to wait close to 30 minutes to complete his two-inning save, Aroldis Chapman got the job done and showed manager Joe Girardi he's capable of achieving the feat again if called upon. David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and Dellin Betances give Girardi plenty of options if his starters falter early in games. 

Carlos Correa is the player to watch in the Astros lineup. The shortstop hit .500 in his seven regular-season meetings with the Yankees, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com: 

Correa was one of seven Astros to record four or more hits in the ALDS versus the Red Sox. Yulieski Gurriel was the most successful batter with nine hits. 

Much like their ALCS counterpart, the Astros will rely heavily on their bullpen earlier than usual if they have to, but some of the arms in the pen have to improve. Chris Devenski struggled in his 2 1/3 innings of work by giving up three earned runs, while Ken Giles was tagged for two earned runs in three innings on the mound.

On paper, it is hard to figure out who will take the next step and advance to the World Series. Both teams have lineups capable of putting up crooked numbers in each frame, but both also have the capability of winning a pitcher's duel. 

Prediction: Astros over Yankees in 7.

        

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

World Series 2017: Updated Bracket, Predictions Following ALDS

Only five contenders remain for the World Series entering Thursday's playoff baseball schedule.

The Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks have seen their respective seasons end in the last week, and one more team will join them on the golf course following Game 5 of the NLDS between the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. 

With five contenders for the championship left following the New York Yankees' 5-2 win in Game 5 of the ALDS over the Indians, the margin for error is slimmer, but the chances of adding hardware to the trophy case have increased. 

       

Updated Bracket

NLDS

Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals (Game 5 on Thursday, series tied 2-2) 

ALCS

New York Yankees at Houston Astros (Best-of-7 series begins on Friday) 

NLCS 

Cubs or Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers (Best-of-7 series begins on Saturday)

      

Predictions

NLDS

While the Dodgers enjoy another off day out in California, the Cubs and Nationals will square off for the right to fly out west for Saturday's Game 1 of the NLCS.

The Nationals leveled the NLDS with a 5-0 victory at Wrigley Field on Wednesday that was powered by a late grand slam off the bat of Michael A. Taylor. 

Kyle Hendricks will take the mound at Nationals Park for the Cubs, while the Nationals are still undecided on who will oppose him. Dusty Baker told reporters he'll call on either Tanner Roark or Gio Gonzalez, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. 

Gonzalez put together a solid five-inning outing in Game 2 before the game was won in the eighth inning. If the lefthander is sent to the bump by Baker, the Cubs will most likely shift toward a heavy right-handed lineup. If Roark is the Game 5 starter, expect more lefties in the Chicago lineup. 

If Game 5 comes down to the bullpens, you could give a slight edge to the Nationals and their crew building up to closer Sean Doolittle. Not only are they in their home ballpark, but the Nats also roughed up Cubs closer Wade Davis in the eighth inning of Game 4. Confidence and momentum can certainly play a role in deciding a postseason contest and the Nationals have plenty of that. 

Prediction: Nationals over Cubs

        

ALCS

The Yankees pulled off a remarkable comeback in the ALDS to knock out the defending AL champion Indians, but an even tougher task awaits in the ALCS against the Astros. 

Although there were plenty of impressive performances turned in by the players in pinstripes during the ALDS, one superstar struggled. Aaron Judge struck out a record 16 times in 19 at-bats against the Indians.

According to baseball statistician Ryan Spaeder on Twitter, Judge shattered the previous record of 13 strikeouts in a playoff series: 

The good news for the Yankees entering the ALCS is their bullpen comes in with a ton of confidence. Although he had to wait close to 30 minutes to complete his two-inning save, Aroldis Chapman got the job done and showed manager Joe Girardi he's capable of achieving the feat again if called upon. David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and Dellin Betances give Girardi plenty of options if his starters falter early in games. 

Carlos Correa is the player to watch in the Astros lineup. The shortstop hit .500 in his seven regular-season meetings with the Yankees, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com: 

Correa was one of seven Astros to record four or more hits in the ALDS versus the Red Sox. Yulieski Gurriel was the most successful batter with nine hits. 

Much like their ALCS counterpart, the Astros will rely heavily on their bullpen earlier than usual if they have to, but some of the arms in the pen have to improve. Chris Devenski struggled in his 2 1/3 innings of work by giving up three earned runs, while Ken Giles was tagged for two earned runs in three innings on the mound.

On paper, it is hard to figure out who will take the next step and advance to the World Series. Both teams have lineups capable of putting up crooked numbers in each frame, but both also have the capability of winning a pitcher's duel. 

Prediction: Astros over Yankees in 7.

        

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from baseball-reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Playoffs 2017: Odds, TV Schedule, Predictions for Sunday’s ALDS

Two of the most storied franchises in baseball won't have a chance to add to their trophy cases unless they put together a strong Game 3 in the American League Divisional Series on Sunday. 

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox both return home facing a 2-0 deficit to the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros, respectively. 

Boston suffered a pair of 8-2 defeats down in Texas on Thursday and Friday, while the Yankees suffered heartbreak in Game 2 in Cleveland to fall into a deep hole against the defending American League champion.

     

Odds (via OddsShark

Astros (-130) at Red Sox (+120)

Indians (-108) at Yankees (-102)

     

TV Schedule

Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox (2:38 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees (7:38 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)

     

Astros at Red Sox

 

Jose Altuve was the star for the Astros in Game 1 and the entire top of the order shone in Game 2 on Friday. The early postseason success of the Houston bats means Doug Fister has quite the task on his hands to keep the Red Sox in the postseason. 

The 33-year-old righthander will be making his first postseason start since 2014, when he was a member of the Washington Nationals. In eight career postseason starts for the Nationals and Detroit Tigers, Fister is 4-2 with 2.60 ERA in 55 1/3 innings of work. In his last three playoff appearances, Fister has gone at least six innings and conceded no more than three earned runs. 

Not only will Boston need a strong outing from its starter, the top of its order has to attempt to match the production Houston is getting from its leadoff men. In Games 1 and 2, the top four batters in the Boston lineup went a combined 7-for-32. Cleanup hitter Mookie Betts has three hits in the series, and Hanley Ramirez, who replaced Eduardo Nunez in the two hole in Game 1, has two of those hits. 

In contrast, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman have set the tone for the Astros in the series. Altuve stole the spotlight in Game 1 with his three home runs, but Bregman also had a solid day as he went 2-for-4. 

Springer and Correa got in on the fun in Game 2 as the top four Astros hitters combined to go 7-for-16 with Bregman being the only member of the quartet not to record two or more hits. 

Astros Game 3 starter Brad Peacock earned some valuable experience at Fenway Park as he pitched against the Red Sox on September 28 and allowed two runs in five innings. 

With the way the stars in the Houston order are hitting the ball, it's hard to pick against them, but the Red Sox do have an experienced arm ready to shut them down. 

Prediction: Red Sox 3, Astros 2

     

Indians at Yankees

Carlos Carrasco appears to be the perfect man to shut the door on the Yankees and give the Indians some needed days off before the start of the ALCS. The 30-year-old posted an 11-2 record on the road in the regular season, and he only gave 31 earned runs in his 17 road starts. 

The righthander hurler also went 5-0 in September with a 1.48 ERA, which was a nice step forward after recording a 4.50 ERA in August with a 3-2 record. However, Carrasco has never made a postseason appearance.

Carrasco doesn't appear to be afraid of the magnitude of the moment as he voiced to Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com:

 "You know what? I love to pitch everywhere - home, Yankee Stadium, other stadiums. This is the postseason. There's going to be a lot of people here. This is my first time in the postseason, but as I always say, it's the same baseball."

If the Yankees can take any positives away from the disastrous Game 2, it is their ability to tag Indians starting pitchers from the start and force Terry Francona to stretch his bullpen. New York chased Corey Kluber from Game 2 after putting up six earned runs on the Indians ace in 2 2/3 innings. 

Of the hitters third through seventh in the Yankees order for Game 2, only one failed to record multiple hits. That will do wonders for the confidence of Gary Sanchez and others as they return home to keep the season alive.

Yankees Game 3 starter Masahiro Tanaka pitched much better at home than on the road in 2017 with a 9-5 record and 3.22 ERA at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka's lone MLB postseason start came in the 2015 Wild Card Game, where he went five innings and gave up two earned runs on four hits. 

If Tanaka can start well and manage the game for five or six innings, the Yankees will be able to use their bullpen that thrived at home in the AL Wild Card Game to get them to the ALDS five days ago. 

Prediction: Yankees 5, Indians 3

      

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from MLB.com.

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Odds, TV Schedule, Predictions for Saturday’s NLDS

The first games of the National League Division Series on Friday gave us two different types of baseball games. 

The Chicago Cubs downed the Washington Nationals 3-0 behind lights-out pitching from Kyle Hendricks and some timely hitting in the late innings. 

Justin Turner and the Los Angeles Dodgers tagged the Arizona Diamondbacks for four runs in the first inning and continued to pile on to that advantage in a 9-5 win at Dodger Stadium. 

Both the Cubs and Dodgers have a good chance to extend their leads to two games ahead of the off day on Sunday, but there are a few trends that could point in favor of the Nationals and Diamondbacks as well.

 

TV Schedule

Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals (5:38 p.m. ET, TBS)

Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers (9:08 p.m. ET, TBS)

         

Cubs at Nationals

Odds (via OddsShark): Cubs +103 (bet $100 to win $103), Nationals -113 (bet $113 to win $100)

The Cubs couldn't have asked for a better start to their title defense as they defeated the Nationals 3-0 on the road in Friday's Game 1. 

Kyle Hendricks was solid throughout his outing on the mound as he gave up two hits and struck out six in seven innings. 

The heart of the Cubs order came through in the sixth and eighth innings to provide the necessary advantage to secure an early lead in the series. Anthony Rizzo drove in a pair, while Kris Bryant earned the other Cubs RBI of the game. 

Joe Maddon's team will turn to Jon Lester for Game 2 to try to slam the door shut on the Nationals before a pitch is thrown at Wrigley Field. Both of the left-hander's starts against Washington in the regular season resulted in no-decisions. Lester has a 9-7 postseason record in his career, and he was 3-1 for the Cubs last season in October. 

Lester's opponent on the mound will be Gio Gonzalez, who hasn't earned a decision in four career postseason starts. Gonzalez hasn't been terrible in his time with the Nationals in the postseason, as he's conceded just eight earned runs in 18  innings. That's hopefully a good sign for the Nationals as they try to level the series at one game apiece. 

The Nationals got a good outing from Stephen Strasburg in Game 1, but the offense was non-existent as it only got two hits off the Cubs pitching and only put two runners in scoring position. 

If the Nationals are able to find a way to get to Lester early, they may stand a chance in Game 2, but history suggests it might be a tough task pulling out a win against the experienced Lester. 

Prediction: Cubs 6-4

     

Diamondbacks at Dodgers

Odds (via OddsShark): Diamondbacks +126, Dodgers -137

The Dodgers didn't cruise to a Game 1 victory like the Cubs did on Friday night, but they were able to comfortably seal the win in the closing stages of the contest. 

Clayton Kershaw conceded four solo home runs to a Diamondbacks lineup that hit four triples in the NL Wild Card Game win over the Colorado Rockies. The lefty ace gave the Dodgers 6  innings of solid work on the mound as he gave up one hit that wasn't a solo dinger. 

Rich Hill, who went 1-1 in the postseason for the Dodgers last year, gets the call for Game 2. In 14 home starts at Dodger Stadium in 2017, Hill went 7-5 with a 2.77 ERA. The southpaw also finished the regular season strong, as he went 3-2 in September while conceding six earned runs. 

The good news for the Diamondbacks is that unlike the Nationals, they produced some offense in a Game 1 defeat on Friday. However, they will need to string more hits together against Hill than they did against Kershaw. 

Robbie Ray will make his first career postseason start for the Diamondbacks in Game 2. Ray had an impeccable close to the regular season with a 6-0 mark in August and September in seven starts. 

One of the biggest keys for Ray will be containing Justin Turner, who erupted for five RBI in Game 1. Turner has a .208 average in 24 at-bats over the last five seasons against Ray. It's a small sample size, and the postseason can change any trend, but it's a positive sign at least for the Diamondbacks to have an attempt to recover in Game 2. 

Of the current Diamondbacks, J.D. Martinez, Jake Lamb and A.J. Pollock have all hit home runs off Hill, while Paul Goldschmidt holds a .300 average in his last 10 at-bats against the Dodgers Game 2 starter. 

Prediction: Dodgers 5-3

             

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from MLB.com.

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NLDS Schedule 2017: TV Coverage, Early Odds and Series Predictions

It's going to be hard to top the first playoff game involving National League teams, but with four quality teams competing in the National League Divisional Series, there will be plenty of excitement. 

The Arizona Diamondbacks survived a 19-run thriller at Chase Field to advance to the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have home-field advantage in the NL. The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals have been locked in to play each other for a week, and now we only have to wait until Saturday for the hype to switch to excitement on the diamond. 

The Dodgers appear to be the favorites to make it all the way to the World Series, but they're also playing with a ton of pressure and expectation on their shoulders, as are the Nationals. That could let the defending World Series champion Cubs or the wild-card Diamondbacks to ruin their respective seasons. 

 

 

Odds to make World Series (via Oddsshark

Los Angeles Dodgers: +333

Washington Nationals: +700

Chicago Cubs: +800

Arizona Diamondbacks: +1400

       

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals

The series that opens in Washington, D.C. on Friday pits the defending champions against a team looking to finally live up to expectations in the postseason. 

The Chicago Cubs, who ended their 108-year curse a year ago with a magical postseason run, come into the NLDS with less pressure than 2016. They'll hope Kyle Hendricks gets them off to a great start at Nationals Park.

The Cubs released their starting rotation up to Game 4 via their official Twitter account: 

On the other hand, the Nationals have not named their rotation for the entire series.

Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported that general manager Mike Rizzo expects the team to name the Game 1 starter at the least by Thursday, with Stephen Strasburg expected to get the ball for Friday's opener: 

One of the biggest spotlights in the series will be focused on the bullpen, an area of the roster the Nationals improved immensely throughout the season with the additions of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. The Cubs have a strong relief unit of their own led by closer Wade Davis. 

If either offense is going to get anything going at the plate, it will most likely occur during the first five or six innings before the bullpens enter to shut down the games. While it may seem like every game in this series will be a pitching duel, that was not the case during the regular-season meetings between the two teams. 

During the most recent three-game series at Wrigley Field, the Cubs and Nationals combined for 30 runs, and the four-game series at the end of June at Nationals Park featured a combined 37 runs. Both teams have improved since their last regular-season meeting, but it feels like whoever has the lead entering the seventh inning should be able to close out the game. 

Series Prediction: Cubs over Nationals in 5.  

         

Series Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers appear to be set up for a deep run in the postseason thanks to the moves they made at the trade deadline and the development of their farm system over the last few years. It comes as no surprise that Clayton Kershaw will start Game 1, while Rich Hill and Yu Darvish are set for Games 2 and 3, per Dodger Insider on Twitter: 

With plenty of rest in hand and a tremendous rotation, the Dodgers could easily take the first two games of the NLDS from the Diamondbacks, but their divisional foe enters Friday with a boatload of momentum.

The Diamondbacks used their speed and the gaps in the outfield at Chase Field to hit four triples in their 11-8 win over the Colorado Rockies. They became the third team in postseason history to achieve the feat, per ESPN Stats and Info on Twitter: 

One of the biggest concerns for the Diamondbacks will the stability of the bullpen, with the shaky-at-times Fernando Rodney in the closer role and the unknown status of Zack Greinke, who might be used earlier than expected after a short outing on Wednesday night. 

The Diamondbacks certainly have the bats to keep pace with the Dodgers with a lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt, but holding a lead or playing catch up against the Dodgers pitching staff will be a tough task. 

Series Prediction: Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 4.

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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NLDS Schedule 2017: TV Coverage, Early Odds and Series Predictions

It's going to be hard to top the first playoff game involving National League teams, but with four quality teams competing in the National League Divisional Series, there will be plenty of excitement. 

The Arizona Diamondbacks survived a 19-run thriller at Chase Field to advance to the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have home-field advantage in the NL. The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals have been locked in to play each other for a week, and now we only have to wait until Saturday for the hype to switch to excitement on the diamond. 

The Dodgers appear to be the favorites to make it all the way to the World Series, but they're also playing with a ton of pressure and expectation on their shoulders, as are the Nationals. That could let the defending World Series champion Cubs or the wild-card Diamondbacks to ruin their respective seasons. 

 

 

Odds to make World Series (via Oddsshark

Los Angeles Dodgers: +333

Washington Nationals: +700

Chicago Cubs: +800

Arizona Diamondbacks: +1400

       

Series Preview: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals

The series that opens in Washington, D.C. on Friday pits the defending champions against a team looking to finally live up to expectations in the postseason. 

The Chicago Cubs, who ended their 108-year curse a year ago with a magical postseason run, come into the NLDS with less pressure than 2016. They'll hope Kyle Hendricks gets them off to a great start at Nationals Park.

The Cubs released their starting rotation up to Game 4 via their official Twitter account: 

On the other hand, the Nationals have not named their rotation for the entire series.

Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reported that general manager Mike Rizzo expects the team to name the Game 1 starter at the least by Thursday, with Stephen Strasburg expected to get the ball for Friday's opener: 

One of the biggest spotlights in the series will be focused on the bullpen, an area of the roster the Nationals improved immensely throughout the season with the additions of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. The Cubs have a strong relief unit of their own led by closer Wade Davis. 

If either offense is going to get anything going at the plate, it will most likely occur during the first five or six innings before the bullpens enter to shut down the games. While it may seem like every game in this series will be a pitching duel, that was not the case during the regular-season meetings between the two teams. 

During the most recent three-game series at Wrigley Field, the Cubs and Nationals combined for 30 runs, and the four-game series at the end of June at Nationals Park featured a combined 37 runs. Both teams have improved since their last regular-season meeting, but it feels like whoever has the lead entering the seventh inning should be able to close out the game. 

Series Prediction: Cubs over Nationals in 5.  

         

Series Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers appear to be set up for a deep run in the postseason thanks to the moves they made at the trade deadline and the development of their farm system over the last few years. It comes as no surprise that Clayton Kershaw will start Game 1, while Rich Hill and Yu Darvish are set for Games 2 and 3, per Dodger Insider on Twitter: 

With plenty of rest in hand and a tremendous rotation, the Dodgers could easily take the first two games of the NLDS from the Diamondbacks, but their divisional foe enters Friday with a boatload of momentum.

The Diamondbacks used their speed and the gaps in the outfield at Chase Field to hit four triples in their 11-8 win over the Colorado Rockies. They became the third team in postseason history to achieve the feat, per ESPN Stats and Info on Twitter: 

One of the biggest concerns for the Diamondbacks will the stability of the bullpen, with the shaky-at-times Fernando Rodney in the closer role and the unknown status of Zack Greinke, who might be used earlier than expected after a short outing on Wednesday night. 

The Diamondbacks certainly have the bats to keep pace with the Dodgers with a lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt, but holding a lead or playing catch up against the Dodgers pitching staff will be a tough task. 

Series Prediction: Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 4.

       

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Breaking Down the Updated World Series Bracket

If the two wild-card games are any indication of the drama the 2017 Major League Baseball playoffs will have, we're set for one wild ride over the next month. 

The New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks outlasted the Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies, respectively, with their bats and standout performances from their bullpens. 

Now the focus turns toward the ALDS and NLDS, where all of the heavy hitters begin their respective postseason campaigns in search of the, in some cases, elusive World Series trophy. 

 

The Yankees and Diamondbacks enter their respective series with a ton of momentum, and with some concerns in certain areas after facing odd situations in the wild-card games. 

The Yankees come into the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians with a bullpen that was forced to pitch over eight innings after Luis Severino's shortcomings as a starter. Getting every key reliever except for Dellin Betances into the game should help Joe Girardi's team in the long run since their postseason jitters have been quelled. 

The bats came alive for the Yankees as well, and Aaron Judge showed no sign of slowing down as he belted a home run in the victory over the Twins. 

The Indians know they'll face a difficult opponent in the resurgent Yankees, who are looking to win a playoff series for the first time since the 2012 ALDS. Cleveland has set itself up in good position to thrive at home, as Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber will start the first two games. The process of choosing starters for Games 1 and 2 wasn't an easy one, but MLB.com's Jordan Bastian pointed out how it went down through Kluber's words: 

The other ALDS matchup starts with a thrilling pitching matchup between Boston's Chris Sale and Houston's Justin Verlander. Verlander sounded off on the showdown, via Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle: 

Sale is thrilled for Game 1, and for the rest of the series as well. He laid out on Wednesday that he'd be willing to pitch at any time in the series for the Red Sox, including on only three days rest, according to NBC Sports Boston's Evan Drellich

All eyes will be on the starting pitchers, but there's plenty more layers to this series. The young core of the Astros led by Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer is looking to lead the team to the promised land after going through the rebuilding process. The Red Sox have a young group as well with Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts leading the charge, but they have a wily veteran in the middle of the lineup in Hanley Ramirez. 

Over in the NL, the Cubs-Nationals series is one worthy of a World Series if it were possible. The Nationals have been waiting to get over the NLDS hump for quite some time, but there's no guarantee they'll do so against the Cubs. 

There was concern that Max Scherzer would not be able to pitch in the NLDS for the Nationals, but he's in good shape and will pitch at some point in the series, as Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post: 

The Cubs are coming into the postseason with plenty of confidence after winning it all last season. Pitcher Jon Lester admitted the club has nothing to lose, per ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers: 

The looseness the Cubs will play with throughout the postseason may end up helping them, especially as they run into a Nationals team with the weight of the world on their shoulders. The same can be said about the Dodgers, who are looking to cash in on a great season with their first World Series since 1988.

L.A. open play on Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although the team comes into the playoffs with the league's best record, that mark is irrelevant once the postseason starts. Anything can happen to the Dodgers, but they're still the favorites to win the series, especially with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Yu Darvish starting in the first three games.

The Diamondbacks are still in the process of figuring out their rotation after Zack Greinke's poor start and Robbie Ray's relief appearance in the win over the Rockies. Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said one of three pitchers could start Game 1, and Greinke and Ray could be candidates for Game 2, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times: 

With a rotation in a bit of disarray at the moment, the Diamondbacks might not be able to match up with the Dodgers even though they have familiarity from being in the same division. 

          

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2017: AL, NL Wild Card TV, Live-Stream Info and Picks

Two of the most drama-filled nights in the baseball calendar are in front of us on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Bronx and Phoenix. 

The American League and National League Wild Card Games will determine the fourth participants in both league's divisional series that begin in the AL on Thursday and NL on Friday. 

Joe Girardi's New York Yankees host the surprising Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, while a pair of NL West foes, the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks, await us on Wednesday night. 

            

TV and Live-Stream Info

Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees

Date: Tuesday, October 3

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN

Stream: ESPN app

        

Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

Date: Wednesday, October 4

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: TBS

Stream: TBS.com or the TBS app

        

Game Information and Picks 

Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees

The Yankees and Twins most recently squared off at Yankee Stadium in September, and Tuesday's starter Luis Severino took the mound for the September 20 clash. 

During his three innings on the mound against the Twins, Severino conceded five hits and three earned runs over 71 pitches before he was replaced by Chasen Shreve. Brian Dozier, Joe Mauer and Jorge Polanco all played key roles in a third-inning rally that produced three runs. The Twins should be able to take the scouting report from September 20 to help them earn an edge on Tuesday. 

Ervin Santana, who will oppose Severino on Tuesday, pitched 5.2 innings in the September 18 meeting between the two teams. Santana didn't have a bad outing that day, but he was done in by a high pitch count of 96. Santana has a good amount of postseason experience from his stint with the Los Angeles Angels. He has a 2-2 record in eight postseason appearances, but he's never lasted more than 5.1 innings, per Baseball Reference.

Joe Mauer may seem like the player to watch in the Twins lineup, and he is, but for a different reason than you may think. In nine postseason games, Mauer has a .286 average and just one RBI. All of those games have been losses, with six coming at the hands of the Yankees in 2009 and 2010. 

There's plenty of postseason experience up and down the Yankees lineup, but most eyes will be on the big-swinging Aaron Judge and what impact he can make in a big game. Judge ended the regular season with 52 home runs and 114 RBI while hitting .270. 

Pick: Yankees 4-2

        

Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

After 19 meetings in the regular season, the Rockies and Diamondbacks are set to face off for a 20th time in 2017 on Wednesday at Chase Field. After recording his second straight 10-win season, Jon Gray will take the bump for the Rockies, while veteran Zack Greinke will oppose him. 

Gray posted a 2-1 record in three starts against Arizona. The 25-year-old right-handed hurler struck out 10 batters in each of his victorious starts vs. the Diamondbacks. He went six innings for the win on June 30 and seven for the victory on September 12. Gray has not made a postseason appearance in his career. 

Throughout his 13-year career, Greinke has made nine postseason appearances with the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers. In each of his last six playoff starts, Greinke has lasted at least six innings. In all five of his regular-season starts vs. the Rockies in 2017, the experienced right-hander lasted seven innings all but once. 

Although there's plenty of hope for the Diamondbacks with Greinke on the mound, there are some concerns about Paul Goldschmidt's bat, as the slugger didn't record a hit in his final five games of the regular season. He was only 3-for-17 in the last series against the Rockies from September 11-14.

The Rockies have plenty of power in their lineup, with three 30-plus home run hitters in Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and Mark Reynolds. Blackmon set the MLB record for RBI by a leadoff hitter with 104, and he'll be key as a tone-setter at the top of the lineup on Wednesday. 

Pick: Diamondbacks 6-5

        

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics obtained from baseball-reference.com.

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MLB Playoff Predictions 2017: Early Projections for World Series Bracket

Be honest: You've been waiting for October to finally get interested in baseball again. 

The 162-game slog of the regular season is too long for you, but you love the drama and intrigue involved in every pitch of the postseason.

The next month of baseball is expected to be must-watch television, starting with the Wild Card Games on Tuesday and Wednesday at Yankee Stadium and Chase Field. 

If you've put baseball on the back burner since you watched Aaron Judge clobber a bunch of baseballs at Marlins Park in July, let us catch you up on who the favorites to advance to the World Series and eventually win it all actually are. 

 

 

 Wild Card Games

Right off the bat, you would think the home teams have the ultimate edge in the winners-take-all contests on Tuesday and Wednesday. But that would be your first mistake in choosing a winner.

Since Major League Baseball introduced the wild-card game to the postseason format, seven road teams have come out victorious, including the San Francisco Giants a year ago. The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates, 2014 Kansas City Royals and 2016 Toronto Blue Jays are the only home teams to win a wild-card game. 

The Minnesota Twins have absolutely nothing to lose on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, and the New York Yankees have everything to lose with the pressure on their shoulders from the home crowd. The Twins are the feel-good story, and Ervin Santana is a postseason veteran, but we'll take the Yankees and their lineup here.

Over in the National League on Wednesday night, a pair of divisional foes face off in the Wild Card for the fourth time since 2012. The Colorado Rockies enter Wednesday's game 10 years after Matt Holliday famously scored the game-winning run in a tiebreaker playoff against the San Diego Padres. However, the Rockies will see an uphill climb against Zack Greinke and an Arizona Diamondbacks team that went 52-29 at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks appear to be the easy pick to win and advance to play the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

   

Divisional Series

It won't be hard to get pumped to watch all four divisional series in 2017. All eight teams have the capability to win the World Series, and you could argue the No. 2 seed vs. No. 3 seed series could have been the championship series in each league. 

The ALDS begins on Thursday, with the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros facing off and the Cleveland Indians hosting the winner—who we think will be the Yankees. Boston and Houston will throw the heavyweights of the pitching game on the mound throughout the series, which means offense could come at a premium. The series could come down to which young bat takes advantage of the situation and wins it for his team. George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are just three of the options for the Astros, and one or more from that core should be able to squeeze out the series. 

Regardless of how the AL Wild Card game ends up, the Indians will be seen as the favorite to advance back to the ALCS. The 22-game winning streak sparked Cleveland at the perfect time, and Terry Francona's bunch is more than hungry to get back to the World Series and end the team's championship drought. Cleveland has three 17-plus winners in its rotation in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, and they'll be hard to beat in a five-game series. 

The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals will be involved in a heavyweight battle to advance to the NLCS. If you use recent history to support your pick, the Cubs are the easy selection, especially since the Nats haven't advanced past the NLDS in their history. However, the Nats have improved most aspects of their roster, and this series could easily go five games. We'll give the Cubs the slightest of edges due to their big-game pedigree from a year ago.

Will the Dodgers finally get over the hump and win a World Series with their roster? That's the question everyone has entering October. Even though dispensing of a divisional foe will be tough in five games, the Dodgers should take care of business behind their young core in the lineup and their tremendous rotation led by Clayton Kershaw.

   

Championship Series

Each of our predicted championship series pits a team that was in the World Series a year ago against a welcome challenger.

The Indians won five of their six regular-season meetings with the Astros, but all of those matchups came before June. The result of this predicted ALCS could come down to usage of the bullpens. Francona meticulously used his last postseason, and he has a strong group led by closer Cody Allen. Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson and the rest of the Astros bullpen—none of them are slouches either. But will they be able to record the key outs against the experienced Cleveland lineup. Until we're proven wrong, we have to pick the Indians.

If you think we're going to be vanilla and pick a World Series rematch, think again. Although Cubs-Indians II would be great, we think this is finally the year for the Dodgers to contend for a World Series and win it all. Facing Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Rich Hill and a dominant closer in Kenley Jansen would be difficult for any team. The Dodgers also have an incredible young core led by Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson that has been waiting to shine on the big stage for quite some time. 

   

World Series

If our predictions play out to perfection—and they rarely do in October—one team will be ending a decades-long World Series drought. The Dodgers last won the title in 1988, and the Indians have been waiting since 1948 to hoist another trophy. 

The teams are evenly matched, and the thought of a Kershaw vs. Kluber Game 1 pitching showdown can only get you excited for the World Series. The pitching matchups for each game will be heavyweight bouts, which means small ball and matching up relievers with certain batters will take center stage. 

The Dodgers finished with the best record in baseball, so they would have home-field advantage in this potential series with the Indians. Dave Roberts' ballclub won two games of a three-game set in Ohio back in the middle of June, but the Indians were able to tag Rich Hill for seven earned runs in four innings in a 12-5 win to close the series. 

Either team would be a great selection for World Series champion, but the Dodgers have loaded up their rotation and have young prospects peaking at the perfect time to make a run to a championship. Sorry, Cleveland fans, but your baseball misery will have to extend to four losses in a row in the World Series. 

Prediction: Dodgers over Indians in 6.

   

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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NLDS Schedule 2017: Dates, TV Schedule for Cubs vs. Nationals Series

The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals have each experienced success in the regular season in recent years, but they've fared completely different when October rolls around. 

Joe Maddon's Cubs finally ended the 108-year curse in 2016 with a dramatic Game 7 win over the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. The Cubs suffered a bit of a hangover at the start of 2017, but they righted the ship and secured the National League Central title. 

On the other hand, the Nationals haven't made it out of the NLDS in three attempts since 2012, with a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers last year being their most recent heartbreak. 

The best-of-five NLDS between the Cubs and Nationals will begin on Friday night at Nationals Park. Washington had the better regular-season record of the two teams at 97-65. The Cubs ended at 92-70. 

 

 

Getting off to a fast start is imperative for the Nationals, who fell into an 0-1 hole at the same stage last season against the Dodgers. Although they were able to bounce back in Game 2, the Nationals gave the Dodgers a nice boost of confidence in Game 1 and they used that to help them win the deciding Game 5 back in the nation's capital six days later. 

The Nationals should use 2016's lack of success at home in the NLDS as motivation to start strong and put the Cubs in an uncomfortable position heading back to Wrigley Field on Monday. Winning on the road wasn't an issue last year in the playoffs, as the Nats took Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.

The Cubs produced an ideal start to the NLDS last season with two consecutive victories at home over the San Francisco Giants. A Game 4 win on the road sealed advancement to the NLCS. Joe Maddon's ballclub ended up winning six road games during their run to the World Series trophy in 2016. If the 2017 edition of the Cubs can produce the same results, a repeat might be in the cards. 

In their two regular-season series meetings, the Nationals and Cubs were as close to even as you can get. The teams split a four-game series at Nationals Park from June 26-29, and the Nationals took two out of three against the Cubs at Wrigley Field from August 4-6. If those seven games are any indication of the postseason series, offense is expected to be seen at a decent volume. The winning team in each of those seven games scored four or more runs. 

          

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

NLDS Schedule 2017: Dates, TV Schedule for Cubs vs. Nationals Series

The Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals have each experienced success in the regular season in recent years, but they've fared completely different when October rolls around. 

Joe Maddon's Cubs finally ended the 108-year curse in 2016 with a dramatic Game 7 win over the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. The Cubs suffered a bit of a hangover at the start of 2017, but they righted the ship and secured the National League Central title. 

On the other hand, the Nationals haven't made it out of the NLDS in three attempts since 2012, with a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers last year being their most recent heartbreak. 

The best-of-five NLDS between the Cubs and Nationals will begin on Friday night at Nationals Park. Washington had the better regular-season record of the two teams at 97-65. The Cubs ended at 92-70. 

 

 

Getting off to a fast start is imperative for the Nationals, who fell into an 0-1 hole at the same stage last season against the Dodgers. Although they were able to bounce back in Game 2, the Nationals gave the Dodgers a nice boost of confidence in Game 1 and they used that to help them win the deciding Game 5 back in the nation's capital six days later. 

The Nationals should use 2016's lack of success at home in the NLDS as motivation to start strong and put the Cubs in an uncomfortable position heading back to Wrigley Field on Monday. Winning on the road wasn't an issue last year in the playoffs, as the Nats took Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.

The Cubs produced an ideal start to the NLDS last season with two consecutive victories at home over the San Francisco Giants. A Game 4 win on the road sealed advancement to the NLCS. Joe Maddon's ballclub ended up winning six road games during their run to the World Series trophy in 2016. If the 2017 edition of the Cubs can produce the same results, a repeat might be in the cards. 

In their two regular-season series meetings, the Nationals and Cubs were as close to even as you can get. The teams split a four-game series at Nationals Park from June 26-29, and the Nationals took two out of three against the Cubs at Wrigley Field from August 4-6. If those seven games are any indication of the postseason series, offense is expected to be seen at a decent volume. The winning team in each of those seven games scored four or more runs. 

          

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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MLB Playoffs 2017: Explaining Wild Card Format, Divisional Series and More

After the marathon of the MLB regular season, the sprint to the World Series begins on Tuesday night with the American League Wild Card Game between the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins.

Wednesday night sees the National League Wild Card Game, which pits the Colorado Rockies against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Tuesday and Wednesday's Wild Card games will provide plenty of drama and intrigue, even for the fans who didn't pay attention to all of the 162-game regular season.

For the baseball purists who are looking for more drama after most divisional and wild-card races were locked up in advance of the final weekend of the regular season, the winner-takes-all showdowns to start the playoffs should provide them with excitement as well.

           

Wild-Card Format

Both the American and National Leagues had five teams qualify for the postseason. Three division winners automatically advanced to the ALDS and NLDS, respectively. The two wild-card teams in each league will play on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the fourth position in the divisional series in both leagues on the line.

The AL and NL Wild Card Games winners will play in the divisional series against the teams with the best records from their respective leagues. The winner of the Yankees-Twins wild-card game will take on the AL Central champion Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field, as Bleacher Report MLB noted on Twitter: 

 

For the one-off contest in the American League, the Yankees will start Luis Severino, while the Twins will pitch Ervin Santana, per Phil Miller of the Star Tribune:

 

Colorado and Arizona will take the stage on Wednesday night at Chase Field with the opportunity to face Los Angeles Dodgers on the line. The first game of that series will take place on Friday at Dodger Stadium, as Bleacher Report MLB noted via Twitter: 

              

Divisional Series Format

The divisional series in both leagues are best-of-five affairs, with the top seed in each series hosting Games 1, 2 and 5, while the team with the worst record of the two participants hosting Games 3 and 4.

The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros are set to start in their series on Thursday at Minute Maid Park. The Red Sox won the AL East, and the the Astros captured first in the AL West. In a scheduling oddity, the two teams played each other to close out the regular season, with the Astros taking three of four from the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

After their tremendous 22-game winning streak, the Indians took the top seed in AL Central and home-field advantage. They will have to wait for their opponent to be determined by the AL Wild Card Game. The Indians are carrying an impressive pitching staff into the postseason, per MLB.com's Jordan Bastian: 

Over in the National League, NL Central winners the Chicago Cubs and NL East winners the Washington Nationals are facing off, with the first game taking place at Nationals Park on Friday.

After struggling during the first half of the season, the Cubs enter the postseason with some terrific post-All-Star break marks, per their official Twitter account: 

 

Thanks to a 103-58 record in the regular season, the Dodgers earned the top seed in the NL. They await the winner of Wednesday's NL Wild Card Game on Friday night.

The Dodgers are guaranteed to face an NL West foe in the NLDS. The Dodgers went 41-35 against the NL West in 2017, while the Diamondbacks went 45-31 and the Rockies were 42-34. Two divisional opponents did not face off in the 2016 Divisional Series, but the St. Louis Cardinals and Cubs squared off in 2015.  

        

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

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