Four teams remain standing in the MLB playoffs, but only two can advance. Who's it going to be? We asked our experts to look into their crystal balls.

By The SI Staff
October 13, 2017

Four teams remain standing in the MLB postseason, but which two will emerge from the Championship Series with the pennants? We convened our group of MLB experts to make their ALCS and NLCS predictions and choose between the Astros and Yankees in the Junior Circuit and the Dodgers and Cubs in the Senior Circuit. Make sure to bookmark this link so you can tell us how wrong we were once everything is settled. On to the picks!

Tom Verducci

ALCS: Astros over Yankees in 7
A fascinating matchup, with the hardest-throwing bullpen ever assembled against the best fastball-hitting and two-strike-hitting lineup in baseball. With Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, Houston has the better starting pitching, so it needs to win the first half of games to win the series.

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 6
The deeper team prevails in the longer series. The quality of the Dodgers' at-bats against Arizona was amazing. The Cubs need to fix their bullpen strike-throwing issues in a hurry to have a chance.

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Ben Reiter​

ALCS: Astros over Yankees in 7
These teams are the same. Their offenses ranked first (Astros) and second (Yankees) in runs scored, and first (Yankees) and second (Astros) in homers. Their pitching staffs ranked second (Astros) and fourth (Yankees) in strikeouts. How do you separate them? It might come down to ability to make contact, to generate runs when the ball is not flying over the fence. The edge there goes to the Astros, who despite their power struck out a league-low 1,087 times, which is 299 fewer whiffs than the Yankees. One manufactured run, in a series like this, could make all the difference.

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 5
The Cubs had just enough pitching—really, I’m not sure they could have gotten another out—to hold off the Nationals in the NLDS. Now, with just one day off, the staff is supposed to recuperate and reset itself to tangle with a club that has been chilling since Monday, won 104 games this year, and has homefield advantage as well as Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish?  This would be a much tougher pick were both teams rested and at full strength.  But one of them isn’t.

Jay Jaffe

ALCS: Astros over Yankees in 6
Houston's lineup leaves opposing pitchers no place to hide, and their ability to avoid strikeouts will counteract one of the Yankees' biggest strengths. Astros pitchers' ground-ball and soft-contact tendencies will help to keep the Bombers' powerful bats in check.

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 5
The defending champions come in disheveled after winning an ugly but thrilling Game 5. The Dodgers, meanwhile, made mincemeat out of a gassed Diamondbacks squad thanks to their patience and a bullpen that may finally have the weapons to get this team past the NLCS.

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Emma Span

ALCS: Astros over Yankees in 6
The Astros and Yankees had the best and second-best offenses in the AL this season, respectively, but the gap wasn’t a small one. That, plus a revitalized Justin Verlander, gives Houston an edge—but it’s a smaller one than the teams’ respective records might indicate, especially considering New York's much more dominant bullpen, and how large relievers have loomed this October.

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 6
Whatever malignant spirit took over the Dodgers in late August seems to have been exorcised, and in the Division Series against Arizona, the year's best regular-season team looked like itself again. L.A. is a much deeper team than previous editions, and the Nationals ran the Cubs ragged in a grueling five-game NLDS.

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Jack Dickey

ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7
Houston has the superior offense. The Yankees have the superior pitching staff, with a small to very small rotation edge (depending on which version of Masahiro Tanaka shows up), and a much healthier margin when the bullpens are compared. A tight series awaits—how much do you trust Ken Giles?

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 7
Not all the news from Los Angeles’s sweep of Arizona was good news: Clayton Kershaw got touched up in his lone start, and Rich Hill lasted only four innings in his. Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor didn’t do much of anything. Then again, Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner recorded almost as many hits as outs. Chicago, for its part, had to work for its Division Series win over Washington and enters the LCS with its rotation all out of whack. While the Cubs can match the Dodgers’ lineup depth, Los Angeles boasts a slightly better rotation and bullpen, especially if Dave Roberts can dodge his middle relievers.

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Jon Tayler

ALCS: Yankees over Astros in 7
Yes, Houston has the best offense since man first had the idea to hit a ball with a stick, and the prospect of having to take down Certified Yankees Killer Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander right from the get-go is as tall a task as exists for an opposing offense. But the Yankees have the better bullpen, one loaded with former, current and future closers; a deeper rotation that should help them survive the Astros' murderous intentions; and a lineup that, if Aaron Judge can snap back into MVP form, is every bit the equal of Houston's. It won't be easy, and it certainly won't be quick, but the bet here is that New York can grind away at the softer parts of the Astros and come out on top.

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 6
Chicago is a shell of itself at the moment, having emerged from a nasty, brutish battle with the Nationals in the Division Series looking worse for the wear. Likely forced to start John Lackey in Game 1 against Clayton Kershaw and saddled with a depleted and untrustworthy bullpen and a lineup that, Game 5's shenanigans notwithstanding, isn't hitting, Chicago won't be able to counter the best Dodgers team we've seen in three decades. This is Los Angeles' time.

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Gabriel Baumgaertner

ALCS: Astros over Yankees in 7
I'll admit that the Yankees have that "team of destiny" feel—one that is too young and too enthusiastic to feel the pressure—but the magic will run out. The Astros' offense will wear out the Yankees' starting rotation early in the series, and while New York will steal a couple of games because of its sterling bullpen, Houston will not wilt the way the Indians did in the Division Series.

NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 6
The Cubs stole a series that they shouldn't have won, and the Dodgers are fully rested. Joe Maddon's confusing managing strategies are going to finally bite him, one series after they should have.

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