American League Championship Series (ALCS)
The Blue Jays were one of the last teams you’d expect to see in the World Series, but they’re on the brink of reaching the final stage. Only four wins against the Cleveland Indians stand in their way. Toronto isn’t fazed by competition, though. They’ve battled the Yankees, Orioles, and the Red Sox in the best division in the MLB, the AL East, for months. The Blue Jays had to overcome Baltimore in a hard-fought AL Wild Card game just to move on to the next round. In the divisional round, they faced the Texas Rangers, a team that dominated them in the 2015 ALDS, but the Jays swept Texas in three games. Statistically, Toronto has the best rotation in the American League. Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ both earned wins against Texas, and Marcus Stroman clinched the Wild Card for Toronto. However, the Jays are in a hole in the ALCS, having lost their first two road games in Cleveland. Normally a high-scoring team, they mustered just one run in two games against a strong Indians rotation. They'll have to pick up their offense and win at least one road game if they hope to reach the World Series.
On the other hand, the Indians lead the ALCS 2-0 and look like a true contender right now. Andrew Miller is the unquestionable MVP of the postseason, shutting down his opponents in the middle innings time after time. Cleveland ace and reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber shut out Toronto in Game 1, and Josh Tomlin limited them to just one run and got the victory in Game 2. The Indians don’t have the most potent offense in the playoffs, but their lineup is very reminiscent of the 2015 World Series Champions, the Kansas City Royals. They might not hit home runs or score a ton of runs, but they put guys on base and score just enough to take the pressure off their pitching and defense. On their journey to the ALCS, they had to overcome the Boston Red Sox. Though this seemed like a daunting task, the Indians swept the Red Sox in three games. Cleveland might just win two major sports championships in the same year.
National League Championship Series (NLCS)
The Dodgers, fresh off the biggest upset of the 2016 MLB season, now have to face the best team in baseball. Down 2-1 to the Nationals in the five-game ALDS, Los Angeles fought back to win the final two games, each by only one run. In an epic twist, Clayton Kershaw closed Game 5, earning just the second save of his storied MLB career. The Cubs defeated the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS, but stealing just one road game would be a big win for LA. With ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound, they should have every chance to head back home with the series tied 1-1. Even with a mediocre rotation (with the exception of Kershaw), the Dodgers’ postseason experience and heavy hitters like Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager have them primed for another World Series this year.
Once again, the Cubs have proven their critics wrong. Beating the San Francisco Giants on an even year (when they’re usually in better form) is a nearly impossible task for any team, even one as good as the Cubs are right now, but they did just that in only four games. The Giants nearly forced a fifth game, but the Cubs four-run rally in the top of the ninth sealed their ticket to the NLCS. Jon Lester continued his stellar year by getting the win in Game 1, and Aroldis Chapman earned the series-clinching save in Game 4. With talented hitters like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo as well as strong pitchers such as Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs look like they have the best chance at breaking their World Series drought once and for all.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Cleveland Indians/Chicago Cubs World Series – 5/7