BY BROOKS HOLTON – SPORTS EDITOR
It’s officially fall. Breath in the crisp air. Watch the leaves transform into magical shades of yellow, red, and orange. Go buy Pumpkin Spice everything. All that cliché stuff. For fans of Major League Baseball (MLB), there’s only one thing at the top of your October to-do list: park yourself in front of the television and watch as much playoff baseball as humanly possible.
What makes the MLB Postseason great is that anything can and will happen. For a sport whose 162 game regular season is a testament to the endurance of teams over a long period of time, the month-long march to the World Series Championship boils down to one question: who can win on the big stage? Take everything that’s happened to the eight teams lucky enough to still be standing after the dog days of August and September and throw it out the window. Heroes can come from the most unlikely of players, moments etched into baseball’s storied history forever. Stadiums of thousands hanging on every pitch. You can’t beat it.
Now that I’ve gotten off my soapbox of baseball clichés—you have your Pumpkin Spice, I have America’s Pastime—let’s talk 2015 Postseason. As has been the case for the past couple of years, the field is a mix of fresh faces and well-established championship contenders. Still, the word “parity” has been thrown around a lot when discussing the current state of the MLB, with a large majority of the World Series titles heading back to big-market towns like St. Louis, San Francisco, or Boston. But 2015 could be the year that shakes everything up—and in a big way. Let’s look at where everything stands.
American League Divisional Series – Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals: Series tied 2-2.
From 70-92 last season to winning a huge Wild Card play-in game at Yankee Stadium last week, Houston may be the underdogs of 2015 in principle; but the way they’ve held their own against the 2014 World Series runners-up has shown the world that the ‘Stros are for real. With the decisive Game Five set for Wednesday night in Kansas City, expect all the pressure to be on with Royals, who turn to key midseason transaction Johnny Cueto for a winning performance on the mound after an underwhelming end to the regular season and a no-decision in Game Two.
American League Divisional Series – Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Series tied 2-2.
The last four games between this pair of division winners have made for easily one of the most grueling Divisional Series in recent memory. Texas stole two huge wins on the road to start the series, including a fourteen-inning marathon in Game Two, only to have the Blue Jays come into Arlington and force a Gave Five back on their home turf across the border. There’ll be no shortage of offensive in Wednesday afternoon’s final game, and look for sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to power the Toronto offense in what will be the franchise’s biggest game since their last playoff appearance – a World Series Championship in 1993.
National League Divisional Series – Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals: Cubs lead 2-1.
It’s been 107 years since the Chicago Cubs won a World Series. Just to get that out of the way now. After some rough years at the bottom of the National League Central Division, the Cubbies have a chance to dethrone archrival and 2015 Division Champs St. Louis and make their triumphant return to the National League Championship for the first time since 2003 on Tuesday afternoon. Wrigley Field will be rocking, and young stars Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber will be ready to keep the good times rolling after two crucial wins at St. Louis. The only problem? The Cardinals have the most postseason experience out of any team in the 2015 field. They’ve been in this situation before and, more often than not, have found ways to win.
National League Divisional Series – New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Mets lead 2-1.
The Mets are in a very similar situation to the Cubs. They’re making their first playoff appearance since their last National League East title in 2006, and look to young faces of the franchise to take down a pretty well established Los Angeles team and clinch a spot in the NLCS on Tuesday night. They’ll have to get through Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to do so, but he’s been known to struggle in the postseason – the Mets handed him a loss in Game One in California – so it’ll be crucial for New York to hit the Cy Young winner early and often if they want to keep the home crowd energized and advance rather than risk having the series slip through their grasps and make a trip back out west for a Game Five.
So there you go. Things are looking pretty exciting in the world of Major League Baseball right now. All you have to do now is sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.