Nick Saylor, Staff Writer
Bryce Harper celebrates with team after advancing to the NLCS. Photo//Bill Streicher/NBC Sports Philadelphia
As the MLB Playoffs roll on, the Division Series matchups in both leagues have concluded. The Division Series matchups in the MLB Playoffs are similar to the Elite Eight in college basketball with the four winning teams advancing to the Championship. Let’s see how these matchups worked out and which teams are left standing.
#5 Seattle Mariners vs. #1 Houston Astros
Heading into this series, Seattle was coming off of a great series played in Toronto. They swept the Blue Jays in a best-of-three series and looked to keep their Cinderella season alive as they headed into Houston to face a red hot Astros team.
As for the Astros, this was their first game played this postseason as they received the bye as the #1 and #2 seeds do in both leagues. Houston locked up the #1 seed in the American League with a regular season record of 106-56. Houston is leaned on as the favorite to come out of the American League.
As for game 1, it was a wild one. Justin Verlander started and was roughed up early. As the Mariners jumped on the Astros quickly, home runs from Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, and the walk off three-run blow from Yordan Alvarez pushed the Astros back to take the 8-7 victory in Game 1. 24 hits combined in Game 1 made the contest full of action.
Game 2 was definitely more geared towards pitching. Mid-season acquisition Luis Castillo started for the Mariners and had another strong outing, going seven innings with seven strikeouts, as he faced the left handed offerings from Framber Valdez, who countered with 5.2 innings. Two hits from Jeremy Peña would lead the Astros to a 4-2 victory in this high intensity affair.
As the Astros looked to put the series away, Seattle had other plans. Seattle scratched and clawed as they matched every zero Houston put up with one of their own. All the way up to the 18th inning where Peña had enough and slammed a go-ahead home run. Houston would close out the game and the series in the bottom of the 18th inning. Another extra inning affair in this postseason as that is now the second game this postseason to last longer than 15 innings. Houston advanced to the ALCS for the sixth year in a row.
A great season from the Seattle Mariners as they continue to trend in the right direction. Look for them to make a few moves and become a stronger contender for next year.
#3 Cleveland Guardians vs. #2 New York Yankees
As the Cleveland Guardians fended off the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Round, the daunting New York Yankees awaited them. New York received the bye just like Houston. New York finished the season with a 99-63 record, good enough for the second best record in the AL.
As for Game 1, it was all Yankees. Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo went deep, and Gerrit Cole turned in 6.1 innings of great ball as the Yankees snatched Game 1 by a score of 4-1.
In Game 2, guess what? Another extra inning affair was on the line as the game was tied 2-2 after nine innings. Oscar Gonzalez, who already had a walk-off in the Wild Card Round, singled up the middle to give the Guardians a 3-2 lead. Josh Naylor followed with a single to make it 4-2. Nestor Cortes went six great innings on the mound, but it was not enough to outlast the Guardians.
Game 3 was a pleasure to watch. Great pitching was on display as Triston McKnezie and Luis Severino both went 5+ innings. Aaron Judge found the stands for another home run, and Gonzalez had another go-ahead hit. Yes, Gonzalez now has three go-ahead hits this postseason, most ever by a rookie. In the 9th inning, Gonzalez launched a single to score two and give Cleveland a 4-2 victory and 2-1 series lead. Cleveland needed one more win to advance.
As Cole took the mound in Game 4, he knew he had to keep his team alive. Cole turned in seven innings with eight strikeouts as Bader went deep and kept the Yankees alive with a 4-2 win. The series was now tied with Game 5 set to be played at Yankee Stadium.
As Game 5 began, it was all Yankees. Giancarlo Stanton set the tone in the first inning with a 3-run home run to give the Yankees a lead. Judge proceeded to homer as well as the Yanks powered through to eliminate the Guardians by a score of 5-1. Cortes turned in five innings of work to help the Yankees advance. They will face the Houston Astros in the ALCS.
#5 San Diego Padres vs. #1 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego recently took down the juggernaut New York Mets, and they were set to accomplish a similar task against the 111-51 Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers and Padres were a similar matchup to Houston and Seattle as they both play in the same division. Both teams knew each other well and matched up well against one another.
Game 1 was a close game as Julio Urías went five innings for the Dodgers. Starter Mike Clevinger only went a few innings for the Padres and a Trea Turner home run led the Dodgers to a 5-3 win.
The Padres fired back in Game 2 with a 5-3 victory of themselves. The bats were hot on both teams as Turner, Max Muncy, Freddie Freeman, Jake Cronenworth, and Manny Machado all went deep. After 20 combined hits, the dust settled and San Diego tied the series back up 1-1.
Game 3 was an unconventional low scoring game. Blake Snell's five inning effort was enough as San Diego won 2-1. The Dodgers turned the game into a bullpen game as starter Tony Gonsolin only went 2+ innings.
As San Diego's horse Joe Musgrove took the hill looking to send the Dodgers home, Tyler Anderson countered. Both pitchers turned in great outings, but it would be a five-run 7th inning that put the Padres ahead. San Diego eventually won 5-3 to advance to the NLCS to play the winner of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves.
As for the Dodgers, there are not many excuses you can make for them not making the World Series with the payroll they have. It will be back to the drawing board as they may make another big acquisition possibly.
Joe Musgrove showing emotion after a strikeout in the fifth inning of Game 4. Photo//Orlando Ramirez/USA Today
#6 Philadelphia Phillies vs #2 Atlanta Braves
As the Phillies knocked off the NL Central Champ St. Louis Cardinals, they were set to face the 2-seeded Atlanta Braves, who finished the season with a 101-61 record. Again to round out the Division Series games, these were two division rivals, so both teams were familiar with one another.
Game 1 was a rout. Starters Max Fried and Ranger Suárez only turned in 3.1 innings of work, and both teams’ bats were hot. 12 hits from the Phillies, including three from Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos, led Philly to a 7-6 win in Game 1.
Game 2 was a pitcher's duel as Kyle Wright and Zach Wheeler both gave strong efforts. Only seven hits were recorded as Atlanta would shut out Philadelphia 3-0 to even the series.
As the series headed back to Philly, the Philly faithful made it known. Their team put up nine runs, including home runs from Rhys Hoskins and Harper. Starter Aaron Nola put up six innings of great work. Philadelphia won 9-1 to take a 2-1 series lead and looked to clinch with one more win.
Brandon Marsh, Harper, and J.T. Realmuto all homered as the Phillies ran away with Game 3 by a score of 8-3, stunning their division foes.
As for Atlanta, it is back to the drawing board as they failed to repeat as World Series champions. They will need a different angle to get back to the promised land.
The Championship Series matchups are set and should bring plenty of fun and excitement. In the National League, the #6 Philadelphia Phillies will take on the #5 San Diego Padres in a best-of-seven series. My prediction is Philly in six games.
As for the ALCS, familiar foes square off as the #1 Houston Astros will take on the #2 New York Yankees. Last time these two teams matched up in the playoffs, the Yankees were eliminated during the year of Houston’s cheating scandal. Things should be interesting as the Yankees look for revenge and the Astros look to return to the World Series for the fourth time in six years. I have the Yankees in seven games.