The cooler temperatures and the falling leaves can indicate the start of one thing: Playoff Baseball. The 2021 MLB Playoffs feature some new and exciting storylines while maintaining the tradition of old rivalries.
Can the Giants shock the world one last time? Will the Dodgers be the first team to repeat as World Champions since the 2000 Yankees? Who will win the AL East showdown between the Red Sox and the Rays?
Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about the 2021 MLB Playoffs.
San Francisco Giants
They were easily the biggest surprise from the regular season. The Giants took home the league’s best record [107-55] while being able to hold off the reigning champs, the Los Angeles Dodgers, for a division title and maintain the top seed in the NL. Not to mention a roster mixed with aging veterans and unestablished, young guys.
The Giants were blessed to see club legends Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey get a blast from the past and guys like Kevin Gausman take that next step forward. Led by manager Gabe Kapler, the Giants have already shown the world that they don’t need the biggest names in the league to make noise.
The question is: how long can this Cinderella story last?
For the fourth consecutive season, the “Brew Crew” is playing baseball in October.
Led by their great pitching staff and timely hitting, the Brewers [95-67] clinched the NL Central for the first time since 2018 and they hold the NL’s second seed throughout the playoffs. Cy Young candidate pitcher Corbin Burnes headlines a rotation full of nasty pitchers, with Devin Williams and Josh Hader in the back of that bullpen waiting to lock the door on opposing offenses.
The always dangerous Christian Yelich highlights a batting lineup that had no problem scoring runs, averaging nearly five runs a game.
If the Brewers can get an early lead, watch out.
The Atlanta Braves looked bleak when their superstar outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr tore his ACL on July 10. However, the Braves [88-73] took sole possession of the NL East on August 15 and never gave it back.
An MVP-like season from third baseman Austin Riley, Freddie Freeman’s second-half resurgence and contributions from acquisitions at the trade deadline catapulted the Braves up the standings and into their fourth straight division title.
The Braves haven’t had their ace all season, but pitchers like Max Fried and Charlie Morton have stepped up in his absence. If any team is going to beat the Braves, they better get those bats ready because they won’t win a 1-0 game against them.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Fresh off a 3-1 walk-off victory against the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card round, the defending champs are looking to do something that hasn’t been done in over 20 years: take the championship two years in a row.
The Dodgers [106-56] missed out on winning their division by one game, causing the Wild Card matchup. They are loaded with talent from pitchers Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler. They create a rotation nobody wants to face and there isn’t one easy out in their lineup.
The Dodgers have the 2018 AL MVP and 2019 NL MVP batting at opposite ends in the lineup, making it nearly impossible for pitchers to shut them down.
I wish every team that has to face the Dodgers good luck, they’ll need it.
Tampa Bay Rays
The 2020 AL Champions are back in the postseason and looking to avenge last season’s World Series loss. The Rays [100-62] are one of the best teams in the MLB while having one of the lowest payrolls.
Their secret? Home-grown talent.
The Rays are bolstered by one of the league’s best farm systems in the entire league. Rookie Wander Franco, one of the Rays’ best hitters, isn’t legally allowed to drink yet. The first two guys the Rays are putting on the mound for this series are also rookies.
The Rays’ depth is how they went to the World Series last year and a key reason to how they’ll get there this year.
Free of any cheating scandals, the Astros [95-67] head into this postseason looking to make the World Series for the third time in five years.
The Astros are led by the same three guys that led their team to a 2017 title and a 2019 AL pennant: Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa. The Astros rotation has fallen off dramatically since their 2019 second-place run, losing Gerrit Cole to the Yankees and Justin Verlander to Tommy John surgery.
This could be the Astros best shot at winning a championship with shortstop, Carlos Correa, going to be a free agent. Veterans like Zach Greinke, Justin Verlander and Jose Altuve are only getting older.
Chicago White Sox
For the first time since 2008, the White Sox [93-69] have won the AL Central. This marks back-to-back years of October baseball for South Side Chicago.
Tim Anderson headlines a team full of young, exciting players that are hungry to make a deep playoff push and veterans, Jose Abreu and Lance Lynn, add a calming presence to that locker room.
The White Sox lineup is loaded with talent and that back end of the bullpen is intimidating. Liam Hendriks and Craig Kimbrel are a two-man wrecking crew that can get the job done any night for Chicago.
It’s important for the White Sox to come out of the gates hot and build up that confidence because the sky’s the limit for Tim Anderson and company.
Boston Red Sox
After knocking out their most hated rival in the Wild Card round, the Red Sox looks to eliminate yet another rival in the ALDS.
Averaging over five runs a game in the regular season, the Red Sox [92-70] are going to need their offense to stay hot and carry the weight of the team.
Boston’s pitchers are going to be the X-factor to how far into October this team can play. Will we see the old Chris Sale, or the one who couldn’t last three innings in his final regular-season start?
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