With a small number of fans in the stands and momentum from competitive division series, the league championship series brings a small return to normalcy. With the exception of the Astros, the Braves, Dodgers and Rays were pretty much projected as making it this far, though everything has been clicking for Houston lately and as a team with a lot of proving to do, they definitely could rise to the occasion.
Tampa Bay Rays (1) vs Houston Astros (6)
No one really expected the Astros to make it this far. Houston finished the season under .500, they were without their ace Justin Verlander and the offense never really produced, but the post season has awakened the team. Carlos Correa has been a hitting machine posting a .500 batting average, Alex Bregman has fell into a stride as the postseason progressed, and Houston easily defeated the Minnesota Twins and Oakland A’s. The advantage, however, still sits with the Rays.
Tampa Bay is not just good, they are the best team in the AL and arguably the best in the league. There is no break for batters in the Rays’ pitching. The bullpen is phenomenal, Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are great starters that any team would be happy to have as an ace, and the pitchers have all continuously performed throughout the postseason.
The offense is no joke either. Rookie Randy Arozarena is batting .421 with three homers, Ji-Man Choi and Kevin Kiermaier have rose to the occasion, and 32 runs have scored in 7 games. Houston could run away with the AL championship, but it would not be because they are the better team. The Rays are dominant with strength all over the field, and it is not crazy now -nor was it before the postseason- to pick Tampa to win the World Series.
Los Angeles Dodgers (1) vs Atlanta Braves (2)
Both the Dodgers and Braves have swiftly made their way to the NLCS going the entire postseason undefeated. Expect an all time high of competitiveness as the Dodgers bats go up against the Braves pitching.
It goes without saying that the Dodgers are deserving of a World Series and of any postseason team, are the best bet to win the World Series. The Dodgers have solid pitching but is it as good as the Braves? That’s a stretch, but L.A. is not losing sleep over pitching because there is no offense this year or in recent years that compares to this one. Mookie Betts, Cory Seager and Max Muncy are all batting well over .300, Betts and Cody Bellinger are sensational players, and Justin Turner, Kiké Hernández and Joc Pederson are extremely versatile players.
The Braves offense is extremely good too. Freddie Freeman is having a record season, Dansby Swanson is having a quiet breakout year, Marcell Ozuna is a solid hitter who has been mashing homers, and Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. have not been as good as last year but are still major threats.
For Atlanta to win, it is going to coming down to limiting L.A. run production. Luckily, Atlanta pitching is a real advantage with a 1.25 ERA this October among starters and a strong bullpen. They have been without their ace Mike Soroka, but Max Fried has filled the position well with a 2.25 ERA for the year, and Ian Anderson and Kyle Wright have provided great outings.
The Dodgers are a safe bet to take this series and there probably is not a team that wants a championship more, but the Braves do have a real shot. For the sake of originality and the fact that nothing ever seems to go as expected in baseball, the Braves may just be the NL team going to the World Series but expect a battle ending in game 7.