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MLB Playoffs Continue With League Championships

by Ryan Contino

Midway through October, Major League Baseball’s (MLB) 2020 post has been a fun one. Just last week, 16 teams began their journeys into the postseason. A week later, only four teams remain alive with hopes of bringing home the trophy.

The MLB scheduled the postseason to be played with no off days. This led to the best of five series being played in consecutive days. Previous postseasons had set schedules where off days were included for travel, giving players a day or two to rest in between performances.

Since the 2020 postseason is being played at four neutral sites, travel days have purposely been excluded from the schedule, as they are not needed. This change has impacted each team’s managerial strategies, especially with pitching use and how they are setting their lineups for each game. After a week of nonstop baseball the league finally has conference championships set up.

In the National League Championship Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers met the Atlanta Braves, with the Dodgers coming in at the number one seed and the Braves at number two. This series is going to have lots of excitement, offense and emotions. Both teams sit atop the league’s statistics for most RBIs, home runs and highest on base percentages throughout the 2020 regular season. Currently, the Braves lead the series 2-1.

Given that both teams possess lineups that are stacked with big-time batters, the offensive side of the game should prove to be an interesting storyline throughout the series.

The advantage for Los Angeles is their pitching rotation that had the lowest ERA in the league this season. With pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Dustin May taking the mound, the Dodgers have what it takes to advance to the World Series. With Kershaw’s game two start being pushed back because of back spasms, this could hinder Los Angeles’ rotation, having to dig into their bullpen earlier than expected.

Even with the Dodgers’ intimidating pitching rotation, the Braves make up for it with big plays and excitement on the diamond. Players like first baseman Freddie Freeman, outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. and second baseman Oscar Albies can change the outlook of a game with one swing of the bat.

After games one and two, the Braves have shown just how capable they are of holding their ground against the mighty Dodgers.

The series will ultimately come down to the Dodgers pitching staff and how they manage to handle the Braves’ lineup. Will Los Angeles’ rotation come up big? Will Atlanta’s pitchers be able to handle the Dodgers’ deep lineup? Either way, this series will be a great one.

In the American League Championship Series, the number one seed Tampa Bay Rays are facing off against the Houston Astros. Tampa Bay is coming off of a stellar regular season, led by their exceptional pitching rotation. They were able to beat one of the top offensive teams in the American League, the New York Yankees, to advance to the current series. This performance shows how strong their staff has been from their starters, all the way through their bullpen.

The Astros entered the series as the only non-division winner to survive to a championship series during this postseason. With their previous offseason filled with ridicule and guilt over their cheating scandals, the Astros have silenced some of their critics by proving that they are capable of winning ballgames without cheating.

The storyline throughout this series is the Rays’ pitching and Houston’s hitting. Tampa Bay took the first three games, before losing the fourth. Now the Rays are looking for one more win to get back into the World Series for the first time since 2008, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies.

On the other hand, the Astros are looking to continue their bounce back with their powerful offense, behind shortstop Carlos Correa, outfielder George Springer and second baseman José Altuve to carry them to the World Series for the third time since 2017. Their pitching staff has taken blows through offseason free agency and injuries, so Houston will rely on different players this time around to get the job done.

Tampa Bay will go as their pitching rotation goes; if the game is kept close with a low amount of runs being scored, the Rays should have the edge. The Astros have the history and recent memories of big-time moments to help them stay focused and not flustered. This series will be interesting, especially if it goes past five games. Will Tampa Bay finally get back to the World Series or will the Astros once again prove their critics wrong?

Any of these teams should make for an interesting World Series, but before that can happen we will have to see what this week brings for baseball fans across the world.

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