The march to the Fall Classic begins on Tuesday with the AL Wild Card. Although regular season races were mostly lacking, that’s a blessing for fans come October. Every possible matchup in the coming weeks features dynamic teams that fired on all cylinders for most of the season. In the case of this pick ’em article, it also pits man against the all-knowing predictions of MLB The Show.

Kownack Picks

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Bracket courtesy of MLBPlayoffsTV.com

Wild Card

In the American League, the Yankees should break the hearts of Minnesota fans after the Twins’ miraculous turnaround from a 103-loss season. This storyline should feel familiar. The Twins have fallen to the Evil Empire in four of their last five postseason appearances. New York holds a 4-2 record over Minnesota in 2017, including a three-game sweep just a week and a half ago.

The National League Wild Card is an all-NL West affair. Everything points to the Diamondbacks in this winner-take-all showdown. They hold an 11-8 record against Colorado this season, and Arizona has played far better baseball during the closing months. It also helps to start an experienced pitcher like Zack Greinke, whereas Jon Gray will be logging his first postseason start.

ALDS

The Cleveland Indians have had New York’s number this season. The Yankees closed out August by dropping three straight against them in the Bronx. They were outscored 7-17. That trend could likely continue, as runs always prove harder to come by in the playoffs. If the young Yankees bats go quiet at the hands of Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, it won’t matter how intimidating the New York bullpen looks. CLE 3 – NYY 1

The Houston Astros were the AL’s best team for the bulk of the season until injuries and slumps took their toll. Now mostly healthy, they are poised to move on and set up a juggernaut battle of 100-win teams in the ALCS. Houston and Boston finished the season with a three-game series, so they are simply taking a few days off and switching venues. Although Boston won’t be swept out of the postseason like 2016, they don’t have the firepower to keep up with Houston and should fall in a tense series that goes the distance. HOU 3 – BOS 2

NLDS

Believe it or not, this is the series that resulted in the most back and forth. The Dodgers are simultaneously baseball’s best team and also the owners of the season’s longest losing streak, which broke the Los Angeles franchise record at 11 games. They posted a .500 or better record against every opponent not named the Diamondbacks or Rockies. In fact, Arizona has won the last six head-to-head matchups. Does any of this convince you the Dodgers should win? No, but anyone paying attention knows that this club has made absolutely no sense in recent Octobers. LAD 3 – ARI 1

The Cubs-Nationals series is a baseball fan’s dream and will hopefully go five games. From young stars to stellar pitching matchups, there’s something for everyone. The defending champions righted the ship during a stellar second half and had to fight for their playoff birth. Meanwhile, the Nationals coasted in a division that hasn’t been close since the opening week of the season. Flipping a switch isn’t always so simple. Add in that Max Scherzer is dealing with a tweaked hamstring, and the tides are tilting in Chicago’s favor. For the first time in over a century, the Cubs know how to win a World Series, and their opponent doesn’t. CHI 3 – WAS 2

ALCS

The Championship Series in my playoff bracket have three teams returning from 2016 and one newcomer, the Houston Astros. Unfortunately for Houston, the baseball season is marathon-distance roller coaster that doesn’t always end at the right time. The Astros appeared to be a no brainer World Series picks for most of the season, and they did end the last month with a dominant 22-8 stretch. However, the Indians went 26-4 in their last 30 games and dropped jaws with a 22-game winning streak that ended in mid-September. Cleveland took the season series against Houston 5-1. Although the Astros will have the best field player in the series (Jose Altuve), the Indians have a fearsome lineup of their own and 53 combined wins between Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer. When in doubt, go with the pitching. CLE 4 – HOU 2

NLCS

The Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers will face off in an NLCS rematch. Although this Cubs season obviously lacks the magic from a year before, don’t expect the result to be different. Los Angeles added Yu Darvish at the trade deadline to take postseason pressure off Clayton Kershaw, but he hasn’t excelled in October either (0-2, 5.40 ERA, 4 Home Runs Allowed).  The team doesn’t have plans to use Kershaw on short rest in the NLDS. It could be a lose-lose situation regardless of if they switch it up in the playoffs’ penultimate round. Kershaw has been historically mediocre when pitching on short rest, but he was also the team’s only hope to win games this year during late-season rough patches. It’s entirely possible he either pushes himself and lacks his A+ stuff when LA absolutely needs it, or he rests and doesn’t see the mound enough to sway the series in the team’s favor. The Dodgers will need to find a middle ground to emerge victorious. If they don’t, their wacky season was all for not. CHI 4 – LAD 1

World Series

The Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs will meet in the first World Series rematch since 1978. It would also mark the first time a World Series champion returned to the game’s biggest stage since the 2009 Phillies. Much like that Phillies team, Chicago will fail to capture a consecutive title. We could talk about pitching matchups, such as how the Cubs’ starting rotation and bullpen is less imposing than last season, but it really all boils down to a feeling. The Kansas City Royals ignited a trend in 2014. The Royals, so long a laughing stock of baseball, lost the World Series in heartbreaking fashion before returning in 2015 to break a 30-year drought. The Cubs fell short in that 2015 NLCS and became an unstoppable team of destiny in 2016, extending Cleveland’s World Series drought to 68 years by ending their own 107-year famine. It’s now Cleveland’s turn to mend hearts and exorcise demons. It feels right to take place against the Cubs. CLE 4 – CHI 3

The Show Picks

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Bracket courtesy of MLBPlayoffsTV.com

Wild Card

NYY 2 – MIN 1: The Twins and Yankees traded a run each through the first three innings of a low scoring affair. Gary Sanchez notched an RBI single in the first, and Starlin Castro put New York over the top with a eighth inning homer. Both Ervin Santana and Luis Severino went seven innings. Severino doubled Santana’s strikeout total by fanning 12.

COL 9 – ARI 4: The National League put on a completely different show than the previous night’s game, combining for 13 runs. Nolan Arenado hit two home runs. Charlie Blackmon went 2 for 4, added a homer of his own, and finished with four RBIs. Zack Greinke lasted a mere 3 1/3 innings.

ALDS

The Houston-Boston series is the only one that The Show agrees with, even down to the fifth game drama. The biggest duds for Boston included Chris Sale going 0-1 with a 5.84 ERA and Hanley Ramirez continuing a down year by hitting .167 with 0 RBIs. Jose Altuve only had four hits in the five-game series, but he came through for the Astros with all three RBIs in the 3-2 game five victory. Dallas Keuchel went 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA. He was the only Houston starting pitcher to earn a decision. Every single game was decided by two or fewer runs. HOU 3 – BOS 2

The Baby Bombers are all grown up as far as the video game world is concerned. After falling into a 2-1 hole, the Yankees won two games in a row to extend their postseason life. Every single batter in New York’s staring lineup recorded a hit in an 8-3 game five victory. Greg Bird erased memories of his early season frustrations by going 3 for 4 with three RBIs in that deciding game. Gary Sanchez hit three home runs in the series. NYY 3 – CLE 2

NLDS

Puig

In 2007, the Colorado Rockies won a thrilling, 13-inning tiebreaker game to reach the postseason. The momentum gained from their win propelled them to an unexpected World Series birth. A decade removed from that historic team, the video game Rockies appear to be mirroring the approach by building off a Wild Card victory. They ran through the Dodgers in convincing fashion. Following a close opening game loss, Colorado won 16-6, 3-0, and 5-1. Nolan Arenado led all players with a .409 average. The Rockies’ pitchers shut down Los Angeles’ dangerous offense. No one on the Dodgers had more than four hits. Clayton Kershaw did his part with a 0.00 ERA, but he went home early in another disappointing October. COL 3 – LAD 1

The series between the Nationals and Cubs wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Perhaps there is a reason Washington ran away with their division. Max Scherzer lost the opening game, but a balanced approach on offense and standout pitching performances from Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark allowed Washington to outscore Chicago 16-7 in the final three games. WAS 3 – CHI 1

ALCS

The Yankees once again looked out of their depth by falling behind 3-1. After gutting out a one-run victory in game five, New York won its first pennant since 2009 by scoring 12 runs consecutive games. Aaron Judge was anemic to begin the series. He had just one hit in 17 at-bats through the first four games. The budding star turned it around with three home runs and six RBIs during the Yankees’ season saving three-game win streak. The most consistent field players remained Starlin Castro and Greg Bird. Luis Severino struggled in both of his starts, but Sonny Gray made GM Brian Cashman look like a genius by winning twice. NYY 4 – HOU 3

NLCS

After winning the first game 5-4, the Colorado Rockies promptly lied down and died. The Nationals finally broke the string of embarrassing postseason exits by reaching their first World Series in franchise history. This time, Max Scherzer joined his three fellow pitchers to log a win in the series. The video game obviously struggles at simulating issues like recuperating from knee injuries, but Bryce Harper looked fully healed with seven RBIs and a .413 average. WAS 4 – COL 1

World Series

The New York Yankees raised their 28th World Series Trophy in a result that would be sure to exasperate many in the baseball world. If the club wasn’t supposed to compete for several years, how good can they become in the near future? Max Scherzer outdueled Luis Severino in game one. It was all Yankees’ pitching after that. The team did not allow more than three runs in a game while winning four straight, outscoring Washington 22-5 in that time. Aaron Judge hit a home run in three consecutive games before going 0-9 while his teammates finished the job. Matt Holliday had a pinch hit RBI in the twelfth inning of game five to capture the title in walk off fashion. NYY 4 – WAS 1

 

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