BY NICK KONOW
The Chicago Cubs will represent the National League in the World Series for the second year in a row, and as a die-hard Cub fan Im sure of it.
After captivating fans last season, by making it to their first World Series since 1945 and coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Cleveland Indians to capture their first world title in 108 years, the Cubs will prove it was no fluke by returning to the Fall Classic for the second straight season.
The Cubs struggled during the first half of the year and limped into the All-Star break with a 43-45 record. The team shook off their World Series hangover, though and put together a great second half to win the N.L. Central and to give themselves a first-round match-up with the Washington Nationals.
Chicago’s lineup is stacked from top to bottom. They’re led by reigning MVP Kris Bryant as well as Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and plenty of other solid bats. Defensively, they’re strong with Addison Russell and Javy Baez at shortstop and second base. Not to mention perennial gold glover Jason Heyward in right field. The Cubs also have a great starting pitching staff, headlined by Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.
Chicagos one question mark, though, is their bullpen. In Game Two of the Nationals series Kyle Edwards Jr. left a curveball hanging in the eighth inning and Bryce Harper made him pay, crushing a game-tying home run. The Cubs would go on to lose that game, but were able to pull off a series victory.
That being said, the Cubs will not be able to make those mistakes if they’re going to take down the Dodgers, and Joe Maddon will need to do a better job managing his pen.
This team has experienced plenty of ups and downs throughout the season, but they’re peaking at the right time. The Cubs are more talented than any other team, and they know what it takes to win it all.
Chicago should be able to get by the Dodgers, and when they do, they will also be able to knock off Kevins pick, the inexperienced Astros, in the World Series.
BY KEVIN LINDGREN
The Houston Astros will face off against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship series tonight. While the Yankees boast both a deep bullpen and elite sluggers like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Todd Frazier, the Astros will clean up the Yankees rather handily.
The Astros have a powerful rotation featuring A.L. Cy young winners, Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. The Stros also feature the young but talented hurler, Lance McCullers Jr., as their third starting pitcher.
While Houstons strong pitching can shut high-powered offenses down, the Astros will primarily hurt the Yankees with their offense. Headlined by superstars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, the Astros three-headed monster has shredded pitchers all season.
The 56 Altuve led the A.L. in batting average and finished third with 32 stolen bases. Simply put, Altuve is an absolute menace at the plate and on the base paths. While Carlos Correa missed significant time on the disabled list, Springer, Bregman and Gonzalez have picked up the slack.
As a lead-off hitter, Springer popped 34 bombs and drove in 85 RBI while also locking down center field. Bregman drove in 71 runs, including a huge game-tying home run in the 8th inning against the Red Sox in their 5-4 series-clinching win. Gonzalez has embraced his super-utility role by turning in his best offensive season with 23 home runs and 90 RBI.
While Nick will tell you the Cubs postseason experience from last year will carry them to another title in 2017, the Cubs bullpen is where the team falls flat. How can Chicago be expected to contain Houstons dynamic offense without Aroldis Chapman and a struggling Carl Edwards Jr.?
The Astros have too much firepower for any other team left in the playoffs. Their explosive offense coupled with strong pitching performances will carry them to their second pennant and first World Series championship.