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A Complete Guide to the AL and NLCS (with "Gamblin" Matt Mortensen)
[note: Matt has been delayed again it appears! Never fear, his section will definitely appear later today once it's up. Thought you'd all like to know!]
It’s time! It’s time! It’s League Championship Series predicting time! Yes, after several days off to focus on some other projects and watch a whole lot of baseball, I have returned to break down what should be a very exciting batch of LCS’ in the MLB Playoffs. And man, what a ride it’s been! We’ve had scandals, controversy, curtain calls, balls landing on scoreboards, near brawls, bat flips and Rangers reliever Sam Dyson revealing himself to be the worst individual in the history of the western hemisphere. Seriously, did you see this guys reaction to Jose Bautista’s epic bat flip after he all but won the Jays their series against Texas? We’ve met a man who has no idea what fun is, and his name is Sam Dyson. Congrats Sam; you’ve officially replaced sad sandwich eating Keanu Reeves as the greatest buzzkill of all time.
But enough about the Edge and Christian circa 2000 of baseball, more playoff talk. Both the AL and NLCS match ups look to be promising, featuring four teams that generally aren’t seen making it this deep in the postseason, all featuring likable traits and good fan bases. Somewhere, Roger Goodell is furious about this development. But enough worrying about him; let’s talk Royals, Jays, Mets and my beloved Cubs with “Gamblin” Matt Mortensen, whose feelings I may or may not have hurt by not doing a preview of Game 5 of the Mets-Dodgers series. An old friend came to visit me Matt, and you can tell the world about your glorious prediction skills in here! Dammit, we’re wasting time. ON WITH THE SHOW!
(1) Kansas City Royals vs. (2) Toronto Blue Jays
Major Storyline: The two best in the AL will collide! Hard to believe that a few days ago it looked like we were in for a battle between the two Texas teams. Alas, choke jobs, errors and an assist from karma (especially in the Blue Jays case) has led us to the match up that I think everyone outside of Texas wanted to see. Now we can find out who the best team in the AL really is; the slugging Blue Jays or the all around Royals. It should be fun.
Secondary Storyline: Can either offense be contained? One thing that was made very certain in the ALDS; these two teams can score runs, and they have a lot of trouble keeping opponents from scoring runs. Outside of Wade Davis (the closer) and Johnny Cueto’s Game 5, the Royals rotation was frighteningly mediocre. Thankfully for them, that’s an improvement over the Blue Jays, who seemed to have problems getting the Rangers out almost every inning (especially in Toronto). With the calculated offense Kansas City possesses and the powerful punch of the Blue Jays, this should be a high scoring series. Like I said, a lot of fun. You know, the thing Sam Dyson doesn’t know about! He's like the Yamcha of baseball players.
Royal with the Most to Prove: Davis, although I was tempted to pick Cueto or my boy Mike Moustakas for this part. There are not enough words to describe how much I like Wade Davis; I think he’s the best reliever in baseball, perhaps one of the best pitchers in baseball and a man that would look absolutely great in a Cubs uniform. He’s also the key to the Royals taking this series home. Certainly the rotation needs to at least hold the Blue Jays off, and the offense needs to keep up. But I have to believe the Royals will find themselves with a lead at least two times going into the late stages of the game, and it’ll be up to Davis to prove he’s as good as I think and keep the Royals in front. Do that, they’ve got a chance.
Blue Jay with the Most to Prove: Price, and it’s not even close. With Clayton Kershaw finally vanquishing his playoff demons Tuesday with his great performance in Game 4 (all for naught as it turned out), the “great pitcher who can’t seem to get it done in the postseason” spotlight falls to the Blue Jays ace. In two postseason games this year, Price is 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA for the Jays, his lone winning coming from a relief appearance in Game 4. It doesn’t get much better looking back over the years; including this postseason, Price has gone 0-6 with a 4.45 ERA in all six starts he’s had in the MLB Playoffs. That’s right; one of the best pitchers in baseball has never won a start in the playoffs (both his wins were relief appearances). If the Jays want to make it to the World Series, this sort of run can’t last. Kershaw shook his demons off; it’s time Price does as well to support his high octane offense.
“Gamblin” Matt and the Odds: Side note before I start. I just want to release my frustration at Cult. We had planned on previewing game 5 between the Mets and Dodgers. I wrote my part and predicted things to a t. Literally. Said Mets would win. Said they would win 3-2. Said Noah Syndergaard would come in in the 7th with the Mets leading. Predicted everything right and then he scraps the column! I'm frustrated cause it's the only time I played things safe with my predictions and got everything right. Usually I pick some out there prediction. So thanks for that, Cult!
On to more important things and the series I'm actually looking forward to the most is the Royals vs Blue Jays. (Sorry, Cult. Actually, you know what? I'm not. Screw your buddy!) For those that don't know I have a soft spot in my heart for the Royals and was rooting for them last year after my mighty Yankees weren't around. It's who I'm rooting for now. (Sorry, Cul... Nah.) Maybe cause I need the Royals to win the World Series for a nice $1200 pay day is affecting my thoughts too.
I'm going to go out left field here for my player to watch for the Royals prediction. Might shock a fair few of you but it's Salvador Perez. I think he is the best catcher in the American League and if I could have any catcher for the foreseeable future it would be him without a doubt. He has great power. I'd be shocked if he doesn't hit a home run or drive in some runs a few times this series.
For the Blue Jays it was a tough choice but I ended up picking Donaldson. Dude is the AL MVP and it ain't even close. I was sorely tempted to pick Price as he needs to finally have a HUGE playoff pitching performance. But alas I think his choking in the playoffs will continue and he'll (not to me) surprisingly lose both games he starts in this series. If the Royals can stop Donaldson from putting his stamp on the game they go a long way to winning this series. Can they do it every game? No. But they need to for the majority.
Blue Jays are $1.83 favourites to win game 1 while the Royals are $2.02 outsiders. I'm liking the Royals and Volquez and the awesome rotation the have to do enough in game 1 and win a close game. I'm not feeling a high scoring game in this. A 4-2 Royals win is my thinking.
If the Blue Jays are to win this series it's going to have to go the distance for me. $6.50 they are to win 4-3. But alas I'm liking the Royals. What a surprise. I would not be shocked at all if the Royals won this comfortably 4-1 or even swept the Blue Jays. They have the talent for it. But I'm feeling a 4-2 win for the Cinderella's of last years playoffs. $7 looks great to me. The Cinderella's of last year to win and move on to face the Cinderella's of this years playoffs. Whoops. Guess that's a spoiler for what I'm thinking for the NLDS. Shouldn't I say spoiler alert or something, Cult?
Winner: Blue Jays in seven. Yup, just like the Cake song, this series is going the distance, and we’re all better off for it. In the end though, I like the Blue Jays offense a tad bit better than the Royals, I think they can keep Davis off the field enough going late into the game, and David Price will indeed have his first big postseason performance at some point in this series. That’ll be enough for Toronto to make it back to the World Series for the first time since Joe Carter won it for them in 1993. How much you want to bet Sam Dyson wishes Joe Carter had celebrated less after that home run because it was “disrespectful”? Behold the new Buzzkillington!
(2) New York Mets vs. (4) Chicago Cubs
Major Storyline: Pitching vs. hitting. I know, it’s a classic, but it applies here. The Mets pitching staff proved to be the driving force behind their victory over the Dodgers, a rotation that truly does go four, maybe even five deep. Meanwhile, the Cubs dethroned the Cardinals by mashing them to death; don’t believe me, go check atop the Cubs new right field scoreboard and see what Kyle Schwarber left there. Thus, the age old questions make sense for this battle; can the Mets rotation slow down the Cubs lineup enough for their own to produce? Will the Cubs hitting allow their non Jon Lester/Jake Arrieta pitchers to settle in? How many times will I get nervous in this series? Woops, thinking out loud there!
Secondary Storyline: Whose luck is finally about to change? Like I said earlier, it’s not like any of these four teams are known for postseason success in recent memory, but the Cubs and Mets are special cases. We all know the history of the Cubs by this point; 107 years since a World Series title, only two playoff series wins since then and a whole lot of black cats, goats and Steve Bartman reminders (by the way Bartman, if you’re reading this, come to one of the Wrigley games. You’re more than welcome to in the eyes of this Cubs fan). Meanwhile, the Mets have sort of become a much younger version of the Cubs, only with the tabloids, Yankees fans and talk show hosts reminding them how bad they are every single day of the year. Tough luck, I know. Unless Bud Selig is returning to call this a draw at some point, someone has to win this thing and turn their luck around. Get ready folks; either result here could bring about Armageddon, and not the kind that features Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck.
Met with the Most to Prove: Lucas Duda. I could easily put David Wright in this spot here as well, but seeing as Wright is past his prime at this point, it makes more sense to put the onus on the still revved up power machine that is the Mets first basemen. Well, at least he was a power machine; Duda postseason has been a no show in the postseason, batting only .111 with no RBIs and 11 strikeouts in 18 at bats. 2014 Javier Baez is in awe at how much Duda has struggled. Some of that is frustration and poor luck, but it doesn’t really matter what the cause. If Duda can’t get out of his own head and turn into the guy who launched 27 home runs in the regular season, the Mets will be in huge trouble. I don’t care how good Yones Cespedis has been or the sudden emergence of Daniel Murphy’s Roy Hobbs impression; the Mets bats aren’t good enough to make the World Series if Duda isn’t on his A game.
Cub with the Most to Prove: Miguel Montero. I’ve already mentioned that the Cubs lineup did heavy damage against the Cardinals last round. What I didn’t mention is that the only guy to really struggle (the whole series at least) was Montero, the Cubs veteran backstop. The man Cubs fans affectionately call Miggy (actually, pretty sure everyone calls him that) did get on base and was solid calling the shots behind the plate, but his bat remains the most valuable weapon for this team. The Cubs need him to get back on track and fast. The more complete the lineup, the better the chances are of moving on.
“Gamblin” Matt and the Odds: Steve Bartman, where you at homes? I want you at this series. As my friend Cult will know from our love hate relationship during last years NHL playoffs, I can't get behind a "Cinderella" team and I like seeing them lose. Hey, Cult, remember those Anaheim comebacks and how quiet the crowds were? Awesome. I'm looking at you Winnipeg! I'll be cheering you guys on to lose again if you make the playoffs this season! That's why it probably is surprising to Cult that I'm rooting for his Cubs.
I can't remember their record off the top of my head but the Cubs had the best record on the road this season I believe. Might have been 45-36 by memory. I think that's going to come into play this series. Plus this team sorts destiny feel around them don't they?
The Mets player to watch for me is Cespedes. He has been a huge difference maker for the Mets ever since they traded for him. It's in the same boat as Donaldson. The Cubs won't be able to stop him every game but I feel they definitely will in games 1 and 2 and they'll be able to ride a wave of momentum after that.
The Cubs player to watch is my boy Jake Arrieta. That's right, he's my boy, Cult, back off! Doesn't he just have a glorious beard? Man I wish I could grow something like that. He'll be winning game 2 for the Cubs. Believe that. And he'll be the hero for them in game 6 if they need him to be to win them the series, but spoiler alert, they won't need him to. Hey look at that Cult, I'm learning!
The Mets are $1.82 to win game 1 while the Cubs are $2.03. Strange both games are only 1cent difference. And I'm shocked Royals aren't favourites at home now I really think about it. Anyway... This is going to be another low scoring game. The Mets are going to find it incredibly challenging to score enough runs throughout this series. Under 6.5 runs at $1.84 is a certainty for mine. Cubs win this 3-0. 3-1. Something like that.
The Mets aren't winning this series. Period. They lost the regular season series to the Cubs 7-0. I get playoff baseball is different to regular season baseball but nothing I see is going to change that. But for the sake of you Mets fans (better not be many of you. Go for the mighty Yankees instead!) if the Mets DO win it'll be in 7. $4.85 for that. That's too short even for my liking. If you couldn't tell I think, well know, the Cubs are winning this. Cult you know what time it is right? It's been a while. It's been collecting cobwebs sitting in the corner. But it's time to dust of the broom. Bring on the sweep babyyyy! That's right, Cubs in 4. $8.70 is quite nice. But if they don't win in 4 it'll be in 6. My boy Arrieta will be the hero. $7.20 too is nice odds. Might have a little on both personally. Never fear though peeps, my regular hating will resume come the World Series. Cult knows I'll be going for any team against the Cubs... And that I hope Bartman comes out of hiding... And is in the exact same seat... And touches the ball again. Man imagine that. Don't hate me when it happens Cult! Go Cubs!! (I feel dirty).
Winner: Cubs in five. I know, I know, I’m a Cubs fan and that seems like a homer answer if there ever was one. But truthfully taking my fandom out of the equation, the Cubs are just better than the Mets. The two headed monster of Arrieta and Lester is good enough to win four games by themselves, and I just don’t see how the Mets are going to score runs. Plus, Joe Maddon vs. Terry Collins isn’t exactly a fair manager bout. Get ready sports fans; the Cubs will be going to the World Series. Nail down your doors, bring some bats to practice bat flips down in the basement, and for the love of all things, DON’T LET SAM DYSON IN!
That’ll do it girls and boys. Special thanks to “Gamblin” Matt once more for the odds, and for not being too hard on me for the Game 5 preview debacle. I’ll be back soon; how soon, I don’t know. Till then, bat flips. Bat flips everywhere to annoy Sam Dyson!