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It’s Time for October Baseball!

Daniel Toll, Sports Editor

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The 2017 MLB baseball season has been nothing short of historic. Several records have been tied, broken and are being chased in what has emerged to be one of the most eventful seasons in baseball history. As we prepare for our first glimpses of autumn, major league teams are preparing mentally, physically and emotionally for the most important month in their careers. On Sunday, Oct. 1, 20 teams will be faced with elimination from playoff contention and will be ineligible for postseason play. The remaining 10 will be put to the test and battle their way to a potential World Series Championship. To see the latest baseball news and playoff updates, click here. Below is an in-depth analysis of each team and what they will need from their players to reach, and ultimately win, the World Series.

 Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West Champion)

The Los Angeles Dodgers have put up one of the best seasons by any team ever, despite a recent slump for roughly two weeks. With a very dense and talented roster, there are no reasons to believe that the Dodgers are not legitimate forces to be reckoned with this postseason. What has propelled them to compete at such a high level has been their pitching, their strongest of many weapons. Throughout the season, they have compiled 102 wins, which tops any other team, and a 3.39 earned run average (ERA). Only behind the Cleveland Indians in this category, they lead all of baseball in a few other pitching statistics. They boast a .227 opposing team batting average, as well as 1.15 WHIP rating, or walks and hits per innings pitched. The key to the Dodgers’ success, however, lies in their offense and the hopeful dominance of Clayton Kershaw on the mound this October. Their offense is nowhere near as remarkable as their pitching, despite having elite hitters in Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger. Clayton Kershaw, arguably being the best pitcher in the world, has had minimal success in the playoffs and has not been able to perform at his highest level. If he can maintain his composure and pitch like himself, along with some offensive support, the Dodgers will be destined for success in October.

“I think that the Dodgers are going to win because they produce a lot of runs and their pitching has been good too. They’ve been on fire all year,” freshman Hector Perez said.

Washington Nationals (NL East Champion)

The Washington Nationals, although plagued with injuries to many key players (Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Treat Turner and Max Scherzer), have taken advantage of the relatively easy competition in their division and have taken a substantial lead over the second-place Miami Marlins. The Nats are one of the most complete teams in baseball, excelling on the mound and at the plate. They are statistically ranked as a top 10 team in nearly every offensive and pitching category possible and have proven they are capable of defying the odds even with a limited roster. With the return of 2015 MVP right fielder, Bryce Harper, the Nationals have gratefully taken back one of their most dynamic and competitive players. Although they took a hit with the loss of ace Max Scherzer on Sept.30 due to an injury, the Nationals remain confident with the rest of their pitching rotation, as Stephen Strasburg and Miami native, Gio Gonzalez have emerged as aces themselves in 2017. If the Nats were to finally make a push to the World Series, the biggest factor that would play into that is activity on the basepaths and keeping things in motion. With their potent lineup of hitters and deep pitching, the Nationals have the potential for an impressive team this October.

Chicago Cubs (NL Central Champion)

Getty Images
The Chicago Cubs win their first title in over 100 years.

The Cubs plan on repeating the storybook ending to their season last year, in which they broke the 108 year “curse” and won their first trophy since 1908. Although they aren’t as mighty and threatening as last year, the Cubbies have made an incredible run in the second half of the regular season and look to take their momentum into the playoffs. Under the leadership of Anthony Rizzo and former MVP Kris Bryant, the Cubs take on October with a slightly altered 2016 team. If the Cubs were to repeat, their best chances of doing so would be to have electric starting pitching performances. With the late emergence of the offense this year, the Cubs are taking their powerful bats into the playoffs with confidence. However, their pitching staff, being of older age, has been on the decline, being less successful with the passing years.

National League Wildcard Matchup 

The wildcard matchup this year will host two teams from the National League West: the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The wildcard game is one-game elimination and the winner will face the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with the best overall record in the National League. The Colorado Rockies have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 season and have been entirely carried by the offensive juggernaut that is their lineup, not to mention the very favorable hitting conditions of the elevation in Denver. On the other hand, the D-Backs are more of a complete 5-tool team, boasting players with pitching, arm strength, hitting power, defense and speed. Prior to the trade deadline they already had a strong foundation of a team with all-star Paul Goldschmidt and ace Zack Greinke. During the second half of the season, they acquired outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Detroit Tigers and have not lost many games since then. Known as “Just Dingers” by baseball fans, Martinez has provided power, run support and a talented bat to the lineup to give Paul Goldschmidt some protection. The Rockies, however, have an impressive lineup of their own, featuring stars Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, who both hit over the incredible .300 batting average mark and are having MVP-caliber seasons. Despite a slight advantage in lineup potential, the Diamondbacks have a major advantage in their pitching staff that the Rockies lack. If the Rockies were to make it past Arizona, it isn’t believed they will get through the Dodgers with their inexperienced pitchers.

“I have confidence the Rockies will pull through against the D-Backs. I don’t think the opposing pitching will be able to overcome such a strong lineup of hitters,” sophomore Eric Valdes said.

Houston Astros (AL West)

The 2017 Houston Astros have had a marvelous season from beginning to end, and have been one of the most, if not the most, consistent teams in all of baseball. They lead the majors with a cumulative .282 team batting average, runs batted in (RBI) at 850, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and hits. Not to mention, they are ranked second in home runs with 238. The Astros will most certainly prove to be a fierce competitor in the American League Division Series with their dominant star-studded lineup centered around Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer. Houston’s best bet for a ticket to the World Series this year is none other than the “Little Giant” himself, Jose Altuve. With a beyond amazing batting average of .347, Jose Altuve is the offensive spark plug for the Astros. Known for his speed just as much as his bat, Altuve is a base-running threat and will have plenty of backup behind him in the powerful bats of Correa and Springer, who both have over 20 home runs.

Boston Red Sox (AL East)

The Red Sox this year have proven that they are a dynamic and solid young team that is capable of pushing their limits. Following the retirement of long-time Red Sock David Ortiz, it was uncertain whether the Red Sox would be able to repeat their success from 2016. That is, until right fielder Andrew Benintendi put his talents on display. The rookie has greatly impressed Boston with his remarkable defense and ability to drive in runs, which is a common component of the Red Sox’s offense. The Red Sox will need an entire team effort to go the distance this year, as they do not have any stand-out players unlike last year, where Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and David Ortiz all shined throughout the regular season. What makes the Red Sox unique, however, is their outstanding defense. Their outfield especially has been all over the highlight reels with home run robberies, outfield assists and diving catches. For the Red Sox to win it all this October, their main focus should be playing “small ball” and manufacturing runs as best they can. If there’s anything the Red Sox excel in, it’s hitting doubles. As long as they can keep runners on the bases and find ways to bring them home, the Red Sox could find themselves going pretty far this postseason.

Cleveland Indians (AL Central)

Getty Images
Francisco Lindor of the Indians celebrates a home run.

 The Cleveland Indians in 2016 had a World Series trophy in their grasps. They had a 3-1 lead against the Chicago Cubs and it seemed like victory was theirs. But an incredible run by the Cubbies led to the demise of the Indians in a forgettable Game 7, in which they lost 7-6 in 10 frames. In baseball, there’s always next year, and this year might just be it for the Indians. Following their loss to the Cubs, the Indians have only bolstered and revamped their team with major acquisitions of sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce. Although the first half of the season was a bit of a bumpy ride, the second half has been smooth sailing as they rode a record 22-game win streak, skyrocketing them to the top team in the American League. With the rebirth of the bat of star shortstop, Francisco Lindor, and the Cy Young Award-caliber pitching of Corey Kluber, the Indians are destined for greatness this October. Now that the Cubs’ “curse” has been broken, the Indians are the team with the longest championship drought, dating back to 1948. It’s only a matter of time before they end their drought, and, at least for now, they are showing no signs of slowing down.

American League Wildcard Matchup

The American League Wildcard game will feature the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees, the most crowned team in history, will be making their 19th playoff appearance in 23 years. The Twins also made some history of their own by making it to the playoffs, being the only team in history to do so following an 100 loss season. The Yankees, having more of an offensive lineup than the Twins, show off two young stars. Aaron Judge, the favorite for the Rookie of the Year award, recently became the first rookie in history to hit 50 home runs. Bright and young catcher, Gary Sanchez, has marveled the Bronx with his arm and powerful bat. The Twins, although having great seasons from Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario, don’t have the offensive depth and bulk that the Yankees possess. However, they have proven themselves to be a solid overall team, excelling in many categories and being the “sleeper team” of the 2017 campaign.

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It’s Time for October Baseball!