The matchups are now set.
Two teams are four wins away from playing for baseball’s crown jewel.
Here’s how the two league championship series could play out.
The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers had a relatively pain-free journey to the LCS, while the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs had to fight tooth and nail.
Here’s a breakdown of each series.
From CBS Sports:
The 2017 American League Championship Series is now set.
The New York Yankees punched their ticket to the ALCS with Wednesday night’s Game 5 win over the Cleveland Indians (NYY 5, CLE 0), completing the comeback after losing the first two games of the ALDS.
The Houston Astros dispatched the Boston Red Sox in their ALDS matchup in four games earlier this week.
At 101-61, the Astros had the AL’s second best record during the regular season, behind the 102-win Indians. The Yankees went 91-71 during the regular season, though they had a slightly better run differential (+198) than the Astros (+196).
The Astros and Yankees are similar in many ways. Both teams have a legitimate MVP candidate (Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge) and both teams feature exciting young cores.
The Astros have Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer; the Yankees have Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius and Luis Severino, among many others, of course.
Also, the Yankees and Astros have two of the most progressive front offices in baseball. They blend old school scouting with new school analytics. These are two great teams with very smart front offices, so precisely the kinds of teams you expect to see in a league championship series.
These clubs played seven games during the regular season — four at Yankee Stadium in May and three at Minute Maid Park in late June/early July — and the Astros won the season series 5-2. That includes a doubleheader in the Bronx on May 14, the day the Yankees retired Derek Jeter’s No. 2, which the Astros swept.
The Yankees and Astros are two of the top power-hitting teams in the league. However, the Astros are far less prone to strikeouts, making them a formidable offensive club.
The Astros also have two former Cy Young winners, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, so they’re a well-rounded team.
A big disadvantage the Yankees can exploit is Houston’s poor defensive catchers. The Astros are one of the easiest teams to run on, and the Yankees have some speed in their lineup. They will need to run if they plan on beating the favored Astros.
After a rousing elimination game against the Nationals, the defending-champion Cubs have to regroup quickly to take on the best team during the regular season.
From Sports Illustrated:
As noted, this year’s NLCS is a replay of last season’s, when the Cubs overcame a 2–1 series deficit to win their first pennant since 1945, wrapping it up by clubbing Kershaw in a raucous Game 6 at Wrigley Field.
Chicago was the favorite in that series, thanks in part to Los Angeles having to grind its way through a brutal, exhausting five-game Division Series against … the Washington Nationals.
Kershaw was unavailable for last year’s Game 1, having heroically closed out NLDS Game 5; in his stead, the Dodgers had to start rookie Kenta Maeda, who struggled mightily through four innings before giving way to a worn-out L.A. bullpen that couldn’t finish the job.
The tables will be turned almost 180 degrees this time around: The Dodgers come into the NLCS with home-field advantage and are fully rested and confident after easily dispatching the Diamondbacks in the first round, while the Cubs will limp into Southern California in mild disarray.
Especially concerning for Maddon has to be the fact that, as of now, his likely Game 1 starter is Lackey, who didn’t take the ball once in the Division Series and was awful in the regular season.
Quintana should be available to some degree, but he will be the only other starter Maddon can likely turn to. How effective Davis will be after his marathon Game 5 outing on just a day of rest remains to be seen.
And Maddon still has yet to find a reliable late-innings formula for his bullpen, which blew Game 2 late, was tagged in Game 4 and nearly spit the bit in the finale.
The Cubs will come into the NLCS as the defending champions, but they are in a vulnerable position, and Kershaw and Los Angeles are well suited to put them in an early series hole.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were the best team in baseball from wire-to-wire, although they had to endure an inexplicable 11-game losing streak near the end of the season.
Despite the extended drought, they finished the season strong and look to exorcise past playoff demons.
After finally breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat, this year’s Chicago Cubs are playing with house money. Perhaps they came into the season too loose, sputtering out the gate before finally seizing control in the NL Central.
Although the Cubs are a strong team, the Dodgers have run out of excuses. It’s now, or possibly never, for the 104-win team.