The baseball season has just four teams remaining. Two of them (Astros, Dodgers) appeared in last year's World Series. Another is making its first championship series appearance in five years (Red Sox) while the last one (the Brewers) has never won a championship in franchise history. Our writers are here to weigh in on who will get to the World Series.
NLCS: Dodgers vs. Brewers
Tom Verducci: Brewers in 7
Fantastic chess match between managers in this one as Brewers try to bullpen their way through the Dodgers' offensive depth and patience. Two good defensive teams who finished 1-2 in home runs in the league, so there are many similarities. The last edge may be home field on Game 7 and this stat: when games are decided by both bullpens, Brewers win 68% of the time (44-21).
Ben Reiter: Dodgers in 6
Milwaukee is opening the series with a pair of lefties, Gio Gonzalez in Game 1 and Wade Miley in Game 2, in part because L.A. mashes righties (.799 regular season OPS). But it’s a pick your poison type of thing; the Dodgers’s platoon-heavy lineup will counter the southpaws with Chris Taylor (instead of Joc Pederson), Matt Kemp (instead of Cody Bellinger), and confirmed October hero David Freese (instead of Max Muncy). The Brewers’ far superior bullpen will help them swipe a couple of games late, but not four of them.
Emma Baccellieri: Dodgers in 6
The Brewers have come this far despite their lack of quality starting pitching, thanks to a shut-down bullpen and a slug-filled line-up. But that rotation is still enough of an area of concern that it's hard for me to see them coming out on top of a match-up as tough as the Dodgers.
Jon Tayler: Brewers in 7
Milwaukee’s bullpen is going to have to carry a heavy load in this one, and the Dodgers present a far tougher task than the anemic Rockies did in a snoozer of an NLDS. But here’s banking that the combo of Christian Yelich, Josh Hader and at least one surprise star (Mike Moustakas? Jesus Aguilar? The Ghost of Jonathan Schoop?) can lift the Brewers past Los Angeles.
Stephanie Apstein: Dodgers in 6
It’s been a weird year for the Dodgers. They had the best odds to win the World Series even when it wasn’t clear they would make the playoffs. But now they are here and clicking, and their top three starters can shut down even the Brewers’ hot offense.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Dodgers in 7
This series is primed to go to seven games. It features two of baseball's savviest managers in Craig Counsell and Dave Roberts, some of its most fearsome presences in Clayton Kershaw, Josh Hader and Manny Machado as well as the two hottest hitters in baseball in Christian Yelich and Justin Turner. Ultimately, this series will hinge on the bullpens. If the Dodgers are capable of forcing Milwaukee to theirs early, then they will hold the upper hand in the series. Roberts's crop of relievers has succeeded recently, but has been an unpredictable unit all year; the Brewers' balanced lineup is capable of exploiting.
ALCS: Astros v. Red Sox
Tom Verducci: Astros in 6
Go ahead and try to find a flaw to exploit with this Houston team. You better get out the microscope. Boston comes in with two areas to expose: David Price's postseason history and a thin bullpen. The Red Sox play a fun brand of baseball and at their best can hit good pitching. But the Astros right now are playing too well to see them losing four times.
Ben Reiter: Astros in 5
No disrespect whatsoever to the Red Sox, who are a truly great team—if a flawed one, when it comes to the bullpen. Even Craig Kimbrel is less reliable than in the past. The control issues he showed in the ALDS aren’t new, as he walked 4.5 batters per nine during the regular season, a 250% increase from a year ago. The finally healthy Astros, meanwhile, have no weaknesses, and Justin Verlander will end this series in Game 5 at Minute Maid Park.
Emma Baccellieri: Red Sox in 7
These teams are just so closely matched. But I think I'm going with Boston's slightly superior bats over Houston's superior pitching.
Jon Tayler: Astros in 6
This is the same Houston team that won the World Series last year, then went and added Gerrit Cole to the rotation while beefing up what had been a shaky bullpen. With a lineup that’s clicking and Alex Bregman making the leap into superstar territory, the Astros have no weaknesses right now—save Carlos Correa’s balky back—and look poised to repeat as AL champions.
Stephanie Apstein: Astros in 6
This the marquee matchup of the postseason, and it should be a real joy to watch. The Red Sox are the best team the franchise has produced. The Astros are just a bit better. They match up well on every front except the bullpen, which should propel Houston to the World Series.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Astros in 6
If the Red Sox want to win this series, they must be mistake-free. Literally. Remember when Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer failed to turn an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play in the seventh inning of ALDS Game 3? The score was 2–2 when that happened. Houston won that game 11–3. The Astros' offense is intent on demolishing starting pitching, and the back end of the bullpen is significantly stronger than it was last year. The Red Sox will need to hit and hit often if they want to keep pace, and that means they'll need big series from stars Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.