2018 MLB Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions for Top Available Players

The dominoes of the Major League Baseball offseason started to fall last week with Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton landing in their respective destinations, but there are plenty more deals to be made, especially at the winter meetings. 

A plethora of big-name free agents are still on the market, and the interest of some teams in those stars has changed in the last week due to the deals that have already been done. 

J.D. Martinez and Eric Hosmer are among the sluggers available in addition to Jay Bruce, Mike Moustakas, Carlos Santana and Carlos Gonzalez. 

Jake Arrieta appears to be the current focus of the pitching market, but there are plenty of other hurlers out there, including Yu Darvish.

Here's a look at some of the top rumors from the last few days and a trio of predictions involving the biggest free agents on the market. 

 

J.D. Martinez

Martinez appears to be the big name to keep an eye on over the next few days. 

The 30-year-old outfielder is expected to meet with the Boston Red Sox among others when he arrives at the winter meetings in Orlando, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports: 

Martinez is seen as a hot commodity after he hit 45 home runs with the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017. 

Martinez has also hit over .300 in three of the last four seasons, and he's recorded 274 RBI in the last three campaigns. 

The Red Sox are meeting with Martinez in an attempt to provide their lineup with another quality bat. The chase of Martinez is also key for Boston after the rival New York Yankees bolstered their lineup with the trade for Stanton. 

Other teams may meet with Martinez at the winter meetings, but the Red Sox look like the team that needs the slugger the most right now. 

Prediction: Red Sox 

 

Jake Arrieta

Arrieta's name has been all over the rumor mill in the last few days, and he has his agent Scott Boras to thank for that. 

Boras sent a 75-page binder to MLB owners regarding Arrieta's past performances, according to Buster Olney of ESPN

The Washington Nationals appear to be in the mix for the right-handed pitcher, even though they already have a massive amount of money invested in starting pitching, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN: 

Another NL East team, the Philadelphia Phillies, are in the mix for Arrieta. Heyman noted it might not be an ideal fit, but it would be an ambitious get for the Phillies. 

The 31-year-old might not be on board with lasting through a rough 2018 with the Phillies while they work themselves back up to the top of the National League, but it would be a bold investment for the club to make and it would show other free agents that they are willing to spend to get better. 

Prediction: Phillies 

 

Eric Hosmer

One of the most intriguing players on the free agent market is Hosmer, who has thrived for the last seven seasons with the Kansas City Royals. 

Hosmer hit 127 home runs and recorded 566 RBI in his time with the Royals, hitting .284 and slugging .439. 

The noise around Hosmer is starting to get louder with the San Diego Padres starting to move in on the 28-year-old, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo: 

Of course with the current state of the AL East, the Red Sox would be wise to get in on the Hosmer sweepstakes as well. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe noted the Red Sox are talking to other big names but also waiting to see what happens with the market for Hosmer. 

The Padres might be the current favorite for Hosmer, especially since Wil Myers has approved a move to the outfield to make way for Hosmer, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

There's plenty left to unfold in the case of Hosmer, and there's a chance more teams could jump in as discussions heat up, but right now it looks like the Padres have opened up the right doors to make a deal happen.

Prediction: Padres

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All statistics via MLB.com

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Rule 5 Draft 2017: Date, Start Time, Format and Top Prospects

Each year when the Rule 5 Draft rolls around, a few of the teams in Major League Baseball look for a steal that could help their respective rosters for the next season. 

Although wading through the available prospects to find the hidden gems may be tough, there are plenty of teams who have found success during the Rule 5 Draft. 

Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana and Shane Victorino are just a few of the success stories to come out of the process.

When the selection process comes around in a week's time, teams will be hoping they can add their 2017 pick to the list of impact selections. 

        

Date: December 14

Start Time: 9 a.m. ET 

             

Format

The order for the Rule 5 Draft is the same used for the MLB Draft, with the team that has the worst record the previous year earning the No. 1 position, per MLB.com

 

Players who were signed at age 18 and have spent five years in professional baseball along with those who signed at age 19 and have been professionals for four years are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. 

Teams can only select players if they have a space on their 40-man roster, and selections are not mandatory. If a pick is made, the drafting team has to pay $100,000 to the team it chose the player from. 

Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft will be automatically added to the team's 25-man roster for the 2018 season. If the player clears waivers at any point in 2018, he is required to be offered back to his former team in exchange for $50,000. If the former team chooses not to reacquire the player, then he's allowed to be outrighted to the minor leagues.

          

Top Prospects

Mark Appel 

The name that stands out immediately on the list of available prospects is Mark Appel, who was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2013 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. 

The 26-year-old righthander has bounced around in the minor leagues, with his most recent stop coming at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the Philadelphia Phillies system.

Appel was designated for assignment after the 2017 season and no team decided to take a chance on him, which could lead to him not being chosen in the Rule 5 Draft as well. 

Regardless of what recently happened when the Phillies designated him for assignment, Appel is the most curious case of the available players since he is a former No. 1 overall pick. 

A team may take a flyer on the Stanford University product to see if he can reach his potential and make an impact in the major leagues. Sometimes it just takes the right general manager and coaching staff to get the best out of the player, or to see something a previous staff didn't.

There's no doubt Appel is the most intriguing player in the selection pool, but he could also be the riskiest given his 24-18 all-time record in the minor leagues and a career ERA of 5.06.

             

Kohl Stewart

The fourth overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft is also available for selection in the Rule 5 Draft,

Kohl Stewart, who has spent his whole career in the Minnesota Twins organization, primarily played for Double-A Chattanooga in 2017, where he posted a 5-6 record and a 4.09 ERA in 77 innings of work. 

Stewart does have a career ERA of 3.03, but he's been hurt by injuries, including a knee problem that put him on the disabled list twice in 2017.

One of the 23-year-old's biggest strengths is his sinker, and he could be an option for a team in search of a ground-ball pitcher. 

The recent injuries could scare prospective suitors away, but Stewart's also proved he can produce when healthy. In 2016, he went 12-8 with a 2.88 ERA for Chattanooga and Single-A Fort Myers. 

              

Max Pentecost

Injuries are a familiar story for the players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, and Max Pentecost is another high draft pick who has failed to stay healthy on his quest to make the majors. 

The No. 11 overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays has dealt with shoulder issues throughout his career, but he could be a low-risk, high-reward pick for a team looking for help at catcher and/or first base. 

For as intriguing as a prospect the 24-year-old is, though, he hasn't played more than 74 games in a season in his career. 

In 2016, Pentecost hit .302 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI in 74 games spread across Single-A Lansing and Single-A Dunedin. In 71 games in the Florida State League with Dunedin in 2017, the right-handed hitter belted nine home runs and drove in 54 runs. 

The production seems to be there when Pentecost is healthy, but the risk for teams would be taking a player who hasn't made it past Single-A with lingering shoulder issues. 

              

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

All statistics obtained from baseball-reference.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Astros Parade 2017: TV Schedule, Start Time and Live Stream for Celebration

The bundles of stress and sleepless nights that come with a seven-game World Series turned into pure elation on Wednesday night, when the Houston Astros captured their first World Series. 

Charlie Morton was the star of Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, as he tossed four spectacular innings in relief to silence the powerful Dodgers lineup. 

George Springer won the Most Valuable Player award for hitting five home runs in the series, the final one of which came in the form of a two-run shot to center in the second inning off Yu Darvish

The celebration is only beginning for the Astros. The parade in Houston is set for Friday afternoon. 

Astros Parade Info

Date and Start Time: Friday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m. ET

TV: MLB Network

Live Stream: MLB.com

(TV and live-stream info based on past parade coverage.)

If the celebration at Minute Maid Park during the Game 7 watch party is any indication of how the parade will be, Houston will be in for a party that lasts the whole weekend. The city's official Twitter account provided a look into the celebrations at the viewing party: 

The team felt the exact same emotion, with Dallas Keuchel putting it perfectly to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle: 

Jose Altuve has been with the organization since 2011 and experienced all the highs and lows possible along the way. The second baseman and AL MVP candidate will surely be front and center at Friday's party. He expressed his joy postgame to Tom Verducci of Fox: 

The parade itself will begin on Smith Street at Lamar Street in Houston and the surrounding area will be shut down an hour prior to the parade. The route swings through downtown Houston before a celebration at the end at City Hall, per ABC 13 in Houston

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Astros Parade 2017: TV Schedule, Start Time and Live Stream for Celebration

The bundles of stress and sleepless nights that come with a seven-game World Series turned into pure elation on Wednesday night, when the Houston Astros captured their first World Series. 

Charlie Morton was the star of Game 7 at Dodger Stadium, as he tossed four spectacular innings in relief to silence the powerful Dodgers lineup. 

George Springer won the Most Valuable Player award for hitting five home runs in the series, the final one of which came in the form of a two-run shot to center in the second inning off Yu Darvish

The celebration is only beginning for the Astros. The parade in Houston is set for Friday afternoon. 

Astros Parade Info

Date and Start Time: Friday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m. ET

TV: MLB Network

Live Stream: MLB.com

(TV and live-stream info based on past parade coverage.)

If the celebration at Minute Maid Park during the Game 7 watch party is any indication of how the parade will be, Houston will be in for a party that lasts the whole weekend. The city's official Twitter account provided a look into the celebrations at the viewing party: 

The team felt the exact same emotion, with Dallas Keuchel putting it perfectly to Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle: 

Jose Altuve has been with the organization since 2011 and experienced all the highs and lows possible along the way. The second baseman and AL MVP candidate will surely be front and center at Friday's party. He expressed his joy postgame to Tom Verducci of Fox: 

The parade itself will begin on Smith Street at Lamar Street in Houston and the surrounding area will be shut down an hour prior to the parade. The route swings through downtown Houston before a celebration at the end at City Hall, per ABC 13 in Houston

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Astros vs. Dodgers: Game 7 Live Stream, TV Schedule and Latest Comments

The series that has provided every twist and turn possible receives its seemingly inevitable conclusion on Wednesday night as Dodger Stadium hosts its first-ever World Series Game 7. 

Tuesday's Game 6 between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros wasn't a marathon like Game 5, and it certainly didn't have an offensive explosion from either team, but it carried plenty of strategic drama, especially on the Dodgers end with Clayton Kershaw lurking in the bullpen. 

Anything goes on Wednesday night, which means almost every player on each 25-man roster will be available to play a role, and with the way this series is going, an appearance by Game 6 starters Justin Verlander and Rich Hill would only be fitting for the series that has pulled our emotions in every direction. 

TV Schedule

Time: 8:20 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go 

After being on call for most of Game 6, Lance McCullers will start on the mound for the Astros. McCullers is no stranger to the big stage, as he closed out Game 7 of the ALCS for the Astros in relief of Charlie Morton. The right-hander agreed that a Game 7 is the only fitting end for the series, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle:

McCullers isn't the issue for the Astros entering Wednesday night. The offense and the bullpen will be manager A.J. Hinch's biggest concerns in Game 7. Outside of a four-inning stretch at the end of Game 2, the Astros have not hit well at Dodger Stadium. 

The good news for the Astros is they did rough up Yu Darvish, who will start Game 7 for the Dodgers, in Game 3 and chased the right-hander in the second inning, a move that put even more wear and tear on the fatigued arms in the Dodgers bullpen. 

But the Dodgers bullpen will have extra reinforcements on Wednesday in the form of Alex Wood and Clayton Kershaw. As expected with a championship on the line, Kershaw said he'd be ready to throw as many innings as needed in Game 7, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times: 

Dave Roberts shouldn't have to worry about closer Kenley Jansen either, even though he tossed two shutout innings for the save in Game 6. Jansen threw 19 pitches on Tuesday, and with the championship on the line in Game 7, he'll be more than ready to go as long as Roberts needs. Jansen was one of two Dodgers to guarantee a Game 7, with the other unsurprisingly being Yasiel Puig, per Sportsnet LA's Alanna Rizzo: 

As for their offensive output, the Dodgers have been getting clutch hits from different parts of the order throughout the World Series. Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor had the big hits in Game 6, with Pederson's exuberant celebration during his home run trot grabbing the most eyeballs. Pederson's teammates were nothing but complimentary of the outpouring of emotion, per SBNation's Eric Stephen: 

We have no clue who will fit into the role of hero for Game 7, but based on how this series has gone, whoever comes up with the big hits on Wednesday will do so in the most dramatic of fashions. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

World Series 2017: Astros vs. Dodgers Game 2 TV Schedule, Prediction

Baseball fans were spoiled by Game 1 of the World Series, as a pitchers duel between Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel lasted two hours and 28 minutes. 

There's a good chance Wednesday's Game 2 won't be as efficient, but there's a lot we can learn from the 3-1 Dodgers win that we can use to predict the rest of the series. 

              

TV Schedule

Start Time: 8:09 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Pitching Matchup: Justin Verlander vs. Rich Hill

                

Justin Verlander and Rich Hill will get the ball for their respective teams for the second game of the best-of-seven series. The pressure will be on Verlander to perform and give the Astros a fighting chance against the dominant Dodgers pitching staff. 

All the Astros could muster against Clayton Kershaw and two relievers was a home run off the bat of Alex Bregman. Leadoff hitter George Springer particularly struggled as he became the first player since Mike Napoli in 2013 to strike out four times in a World Series game, per Baseball Reference: 

The good news, if there is any, for the Astros is they won't have to take on Kershaw, at least not until Game 4 or 5. But Hill is no slouch as he's only allowed six hits and three runs in his first two postseason starts. 

The one thing to watch in Game 2 is how long Hill stays on the mound. The southpaw tossed four innings in his NLDS start and five in his NLCS appearance. Usually this would open a window of opportunity for the opposing team, but the Dodgers bullpen has been lights out.

Closer Kenley Jansen isn't afraid to throw more than one inning if that situation pops up in Game 2. With the way the righthander is pitching in the postseason, he's drawing comparisons to Mariano Rivera. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman provided us with a reason why Jansen is like Rivera: 

On the other hand, the Dodgers lineup has little concerns. Justin Turner once again starred in the clutch with a two-run home run in the sixth and Corey Seager's return to the lineup was seamless as he went 2-for-3. 

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts may have a wealth of confidence in his bullpen, but Astros counterpart A.J. Hinch is trying to piece things together after relying on starter Lance McCullers to close out ALCS Game 7 in four innings of relief. 

Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski didn't give up a hit in 1 1/3 innings of work in relief of Keuchel. Hinch has to be hopeful that his relievers have turned a corner and they will reverse the course from their poor ALCS showing in which they gave up nine runs. 

But until the Astros can prove they can hit the Dodgers pitching, and that they have a reliable bullpen for more than one game, the Dodgers have to be considered the favorite to win Game 2. 

Prediction: Dodgers 4, Astros 2. 

            

All statistics obtained from MLB.com.

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

World Series Schedule: TV Info and Live Stream for Astros vs. Dodgers Game 1

The Los Angeles Dodgers and their 29-year World Series drought take on the Houston Astros, who are looking for their first title in franchise history, starting Tuesday in the 2017 World Series. 

Both Fall Classic participants have achieved success in different ways, but both have always had the ultimate goal of hoisting a trophy in mind. 

The final chapter in an extraordinary journey will be written for one of these stories, while the other team will experience the anguish of falling just short of the ultimate goal.

Game 1 TV and Live Stream Info

Start Time: 8:09 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Pitching Matchup: Dallas Keuchel (Houston) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles) 

The Astros and Dodgers are staying true to their respective postseason rotations by using their aces for Game 1. 

Dallas Keuchel enters Game 1 of the World Series with a 1.78 postseason ERA and the trust of manager A.J. Hinch that he can put in a good performance before the Astros toss Justin Verlander out on the mound for Game 2. 

The Houston southpaw will be facing most of the Dodgers lineup for the first time. Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle pointed out how little experience Keuchel has against his opponents: 

 

Kershaw's goal is clear in Game 1 and for the rest of the series when his name is called. The powerful lefthander, who many regard as one of the best pitchers of his generation, will try to create new memories for Dodgers fans. Kershaw talked about that with Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times: 

The biggest question for either team entering the best-of-seven series was the health of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the NLCS with a back injury. Seager confirmed with Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times that he's ready to go: 

Seager hit .295 with 22 home runs and 77 RBI in the regular season and added two RBI in the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Even if he doesn't produce in Game 1, the Dodgers have an extra bat in the lineup that Keuchel has to be cautious around. 

Houston's order won't be easy to stop for Kershaw as it comes in on the heels of two dramatic wins at home to clinch the American League pennant. Jose Altuve will grab most of the attention from the casual fans, and there's a decent chance he does well in Game 1 since he hit .353 against lefthanders in the regular season. 

Carlos Correa hit .391 in the regular season against lefties in 92 at-bats, while George Springer recorded a .301 average versus southpaws in 133 regular-season at-bats. 

If the game comes down to the bullpen, the Dodgers have the advantage based on postseason success. The Dodgers bullpen led by closer Kenley Jansen was dominant in the 4-1 NLCS win over the Chicago Cubs. The relievers walked one player and gave up four hits against 58 batters, per MLB Stat of the Day on Twitter: 

Houston's bullpen didn't have the same success against the New York Yankees, as Luke Gregerson and Francisco Liriano were the only Astros pitchers to not give up a run. If Keuchel pitches with the lead and gets into the seventh or eighth, Gregerson will be the man to set up for closer Ken Giles. However, Giles isn't as much of a lock to secure a victory as Jansen, as he gave up three earned runs on five hits in the ALCS. 

 

All statistics obtained from MLB.com.

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

World Series Schedule: TV Info and Live Stream for Astros vs. Dodgers Game 1

The Los Angeles Dodgers and their 29-year World Series drought take on the Houston Astros, who are looking for their first title in franchise history, starting Tuesday in the 2017 World Series. 

Both Fall Classic participants have achieved success in different ways, but both have always had the ultimate goal of hoisting a trophy in mind. 

The final chapter in an extraordinary journey will be written for one of these stories, while the other team will experience the anguish of falling just short of the ultimate goal.

Game 1 TV and Live Stream Info

Start Time: 8:09 p.m. ET

TV: Fox

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Pitching Matchup: Dallas Keuchel (Houston) vs. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles) 

The Astros and Dodgers are staying true to their respective postseason rotations by using their aces for Game 1. 

Dallas Keuchel enters Game 1 of the World Series with a 1.78 postseason ERA and the trust of manager A.J. Hinch that he can put in a good performance before the Astros toss Justin Verlander out on the mound for Game 2. 

The Houston southpaw will be facing most of the Dodgers lineup for the first time. Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle pointed out how little experience Keuchel has against his opponents: 

 

Kershaw's goal is clear in Game 1 and for the rest of the series when his name is called. The powerful lefthander, who many regard as one of the best pitchers of his generation, will try to create new memories for Dodgers fans. Kershaw talked about that with Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times: 

The biggest question for either team entering the best-of-seven series was the health of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who missed the NLCS with a back injury. Seager confirmed with Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times that he's ready to go: 

Seager hit .295 with 22 home runs and 77 RBI in the regular season and added two RBI in the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Even if he doesn't produce in Game 1, the Dodgers have an extra bat in the lineup that Keuchel has to be cautious around. 

Houston's order won't be easy to stop for Kershaw as it comes in on the heels of two dramatic wins at home to clinch the American League pennant. Jose Altuve will grab most of the attention from the casual fans, and there's a decent chance he does well in Game 1 since he hit .353 against lefthanders in the regular season. 

Carlos Correa hit .391 in the regular season against lefties in 92 at-bats, while George Springer recorded a .301 average versus southpaws in 133 regular-season at-bats. 

If the game comes down to the bullpen, the Dodgers have the advantage based on postseason success. The Dodgers bullpen led by closer Kenley Jansen was dominant in the 4-1 NLCS win over the Chicago Cubs. The relievers walked one player and gave up four hits against 58 batters, per MLB Stat of the Day on Twitter: 

Houston's bullpen didn't have the same success against the New York Yankees, as Luke Gregerson and Francisco Liriano were the only Astros pitchers to not give up a run. If Keuchel pitches with the lead and gets into the seventh or eighth, Gregerson will be the man to set up for closer Ken Giles. However, Giles isn't as much of a lock to secure a victory as Jansen, as he gave up three earned runs on five hits in the ALCS. 

 

All statistics obtained from MLB.com.

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com