By Lauren Grimaldi
October has become synonymous with pumpkin spice and cooler weather. But the true greatness of this month lies on the baseball field. With both American League Division Series and National League Division Series well under way, we’re in store for one of the best postseasons yet.
Though the Chicago Cubs finally reached glory last season, they are the underdogs headed into their clash with Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals. One of the bigger questions going into the NLDS and the playoffs more broadly is pitcher Jake Arrieta’s health. The righthander skipped his final start of the season to give him ample time to rest his injured hamstring. He is scheduled to start in a potential Game 4 of the series and said he is ready to go when needed.
This postseason will more than likely be the last hurrah for Arrieta in a Cubs uniform. He’ll likely sign a large contract with a new team this winter. His performance over roughly the past four seasons has solidified him as one of the Cubs all-time greats. It is impossible to imagine the North Siders winning the World Series last year without key performances from Arrieta. While he heads into the postseason as a question mark, his bittersweet final starts with Chicago will certainly be important should they wish to advance past the Nationals.
The Arizona Diamondbacks triumphed over the challenging Colorado Rockies in the National League Wild Card game. Though the D-Backs kept the lead for the entire game, the Rockies did not make it easy. This impressive victory should give Arizona confidence going forward, but then again their NLDS opponent is the pesky Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won 104 games this season, while the D-Backs garnered a still impressive 93 wins. Los Angeles is by far the favorite in the series, but it will be challenging. Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is quite truly made for the postseason. If anyone is going to be a game changer, it will be start with him. He cracked a major three-run home run in the NL Wild Card game within the first inning to get his team going. The career .299 batter is the heart and soul of Arizona’s team and without further major production out of him the team will struggle to make it out of this series alive.
Conversely, the Los Angeles Dodgers are not without their own struggles. Clayton Kershaw, arguably the most prolific pitcher currently in the league, has struggled mightily in the postseason posting a dismal 4.55 earned run average. Many experts have chosen the Dodgers to win the World Series, but they simply cannot get there if Kershaw is not at his best. He could pitch twice against the D-Backs should the series make it that far. He will need to show some of his regular season prowess to find success this postseason.
Switching over to the American League, the Cleveland Indians seem destined to return to the Fall Classic once more. They’re a better team now and their depleted 2016 pitching staff is no more. And Andrew Miller, of course, cannot be forgotten. The reliever’s performance last postseason was historically impressive and he looks poised to continue that trend this October. It almost seems that no one could beat Cleveland. However, their path to the World Series will have to go through the New York Yankees first. Rookie Aaron Judge will provide a challenge, but the Indians seem ready to take on anything that comes their way.
The Houston Astros likely pose the biggest threat to Cleveland this postseason. Jose Altuve is one of the best players in the league and doesn’t get nearly enough praise for his talent. The Astros are currently facing a challenge of their own in the Boston Red Sox, but an ALCS between the Houston and Cleveland would be highly competitive.