Dodgers-Braves, Rays-Astros headline MLB Championship Series
The final four in Major League Baseball features four teams with vastly different storylines and all with a different type of history at stake.
It includes two teams that played for a World Series crown in 2017, a team in search of its second World Series appearance in franchise history and a team looking to get back to the big stage for the first time since 1999.
In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers will battle the Atlanta Braves while in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays face off against the Houston Astros.
Los Angeles Dodgers
This star-studded lineup has Most Valuable Players to go around, led by outfielders Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger.
Betts is a 2018 MVP with the Boston Red Sox, winning the World Series that same year.
Boston beat Los Angeles in five games.
This season, he is batted .292 with 16 home runs and 39 runs batted in.
His boost to the Dodgers has increased team morale on and off the field.
Bellinger won the MVP award the following season after finishing ninth in 2017.
He has also been a part of two World Series appearances for the Dodgers.
This season, he batted a career-low .239 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI.
The man affectionately known as, “Belli,” is also a Gold Glove winner as well.
He showed a glimpse of that when he robbed San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in game two of the divisional series.
Betts has also won the award four times.
Shortstop Corey Seager is a former Rookie of the Year in 2016, finishing third in the MVP voting that same year.
This year he batted .307, his highest since that season.
He also added 15 home runs and 41 RBI leading the team with 65 hits.
Seager missed most of the 2018 season, including the World Series against the Red Sox, with an elbow injury.
He was a member of Los Angeles’ 2017 team that reached the World Series.
In addition, the Dodgers have starting pitchers they believe are poised for the big moment and they aren’t named Clayton Kershaw.
Walker Buehler and Dustin May are expected to fill a big role for Los Angeles after providing glimpses of what the team hopes to be superstardom.
In the bullpen, many expect big innings from pitchers like Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen and Adam Kolarek.
For the first time in quite some time, the Dodgers are not expected to rely heavily on Kershaw and former closer for the team, Kenley Jansen.
Kershaw has been with the franchise since 2008, Jansen since 2010.
Manager Dave Roberts is in search for his third World Series berth in four seasons but he is also still looking for his first win as a manager.
The Atlanta Braves are in search of their first World Series appearance since 1999.
Over the last two seasons, the team has been bounced in the NLDS.
Center fielder Ronald Acuna won the Rookie of the Year in 2018 and has continued his upward trend.
He posted a career-best .406 on-base percentage and .581 slugging percentage.
Shortstop Ozzie Albeis has been with the club since 2017 and posted a .271 average this season with six home runs and 19 RBI.
He only played in 29 games for the Braves.
The shortstop is also a former all-star and silver slugger.
Manager Brian Snitker was named manager in 2016 so he has been able to watch the growth process for Acuna and Albeis.
He also served as a Braves coach on three separate occasions, most recently from 2007-2013.
Thirty year old Freddie Freeman serves in the elder statesman role as an 11-year pro.
Over his career, he has finished in the top-10 in MVP voting four times and has also been named an all-star four times.
He is also a former gold glover and silver slugger.
This season, he led the majors with 51 runs and 23 doubles finishing with a career-high in batting average (.341) and on-base percentage (.462).
The team also trots out a trio of rookie starters in Ian Anderson (1.95 earned run average), Kyle Wright (5.21 earned run average and Bryse Wilson (4.02 earned run average).
In two starts this postseason, Anderson has tallied 17 strikeouts to just three walks in 11 ⅔ innings of work giving up five hits along the way.
Wright went six innings allowing three hits, striking out seven and walking two.
Both pitchers gave up zero earned runs.
Wilson has yet to start a game this postseason.
The bullpen is headed by 12-year veteran Mark Melancon.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays have taken a “no risk, no reward” kind of approach and so far it’s been working.
Implementing the idea of using “openers” instead of “starters,” has created a buzz especially given their recent success.
Tampa Bay has six pitchers with at least 32 innings pitched including three with at least 50 (Blake Snell, Ryan Yarbrough and Tyler Glasnow).
Snell sports an ERA of 3.24 which leads the team. Yarbrough has one of 3.56 while Glasnow has a 4.08 ERA.
Glasnow ranks first in strikeouts with 91 followed by Snell’s 63 and Yarbrough’s 44.
The Rays also have the best bullpen in the AL as it features arms like Aaron Loup, Peter Fairbanks and Diego Castillo.
Manager Kevin Cash has used his arms to his advantage in a multitude of ways.
Outfielder Randy Arozarena had 84 at-bats in 42 games in his career coming into this postseason.
Since entering, he’s posted a .444 average with three home runs, four RBI and eight runs.
He has 25 total bases, all of which he accumulated through his first five career playoff games.
Additional bats like Manuel Margot, Yandy Diaz and Michael Brosseau to go along with gloves like Kevin Kiermaier, Joey Wendle and Willy Adames, Cash and his Rays feel their chances are strong.
The Houston Astros won the title in 2017 but has since been marred by a cheating scandal that doesn’t seem to be going away for quite some time.
It was the team’s first championship in franchise history but the scandal and punishments only to the team’s front office and managerial team, have left many feeling the punishment wasn’t “felt.”
The Astros were one of two teams to make the postseason with sub .500 records.
Outfielder George Springer posted a .265 batting average with 32 RBI, leading the team with 14 home runs.
Second baseman Jose Altuve posted his worst batting average since his rookie season at .219 hitting five home runs and driving in 18.
Third baseman Alex Bregman hit a career-low .242 with six home runs and 22 RBI.
Lastly, shortstop Carlos Correa hit .264 with six home runs and 25 RBI but posted a career-low .383 slugging percentage.
All-in-all, the Astros just keep winning with its experience.
Now led by manager Dusty Baker, Houston is in search of it’s second title in four years and looking to silence the doubters.
With starting pitcher Justin Verlander out, the team will continue to turn to it’s young arms in Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy.
The team does still have former Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke, on it’s roster who can still pitch in big moments.