2018 MLB season

12 days of baseball: What do we see now?

Here in the new season, 12 days of baseball have passed. The 2018 season is still very young, but several teams have shown significant surprises and concerns early on. Like any other season in any other sport, there are those who remain hot throughout the season. There are also those that start slow, but later pick up steam and momentum. Unfortunately, there will be teams that fail to find many winning formulas and find themselves at the bottom of their division.

All 30 teams have only started to make their marks. With what each franchise has accomplished until now, could this foreshadow what awaits in games to come? Not entirely. Though we have seen comebacks and cold streaks in the past, not everyone gets to play in October.

Let’s now take a look at how both the American and National Leagues look in 2018 up to this point.

12 Days of Baseball: American League

The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros are boasting the two best records in the American League. For Boston, first-year manager Alex Cora has constantly found winning formulas, especially on the road. The Red Sox have taken the lead of the East Division early by two games. The Astros, on the other hand, have kept the engine running hot like last season in the AL West. With a roster full of household names, Houston’s chemistry has proven why many favor them to return to the World Series.

2018 MLB Season

Image Courtesy of NBC Sports

If these two continue their hot streaks, expect Boston and Houston to meet again in the playoffs.

Returning to the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays are not nearly as fortunate in their 2018 campaign. As a unit, the Rays are fighting cold streaks at the plate and on the mound. Starting the season at 2-8, manager Kevin Cash and company will have significant ground to cover. The Rays have not seen playoff action since 2013.

As for the AL Central, there is not exactly a clear standout yet. The Minnesota Twins lead the pack by only one game and have started the new season at 4-3. So far, their pitching staff is starting off strong. But Minnesota will need to start firing off at the plate if they want to take the division. With the Cleveland Indians in the same division, the fight ahead will only get tougher for the Twins from here on out.

12 Days of Baseball: National League

In the NL East Division, the New York Mets have jumped to the top. Their pitching staff has been relentless, leading the National League in ERA. But with the Atlanta Braves catching fire, the Mets must keep at it.

In the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks have also started their 2018 season on a high note. Though their batting is solid, it is their defense and pitching that is keeping the ride going.

2018 MLB Season

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

The Los Angeles Dodgers, on the other hand, are off to an uncharacteristically slow start. The reigning NL champs have struggled at the plate, ranking 29th in the MLB in team batting average. The Dodgers’ pitching rotation remains ruthless, but they have received very little run support in these first few games. They started with losses to San Francisco twice by a score of 1-0.

Staying in the NL West, the Colorado Rockies are among the teams hanging in there at the .500 mark. The Rockies’ fielding defense is among the best in the MLB. But Colorado will need to make improvements on the mound and at the plate if they want to get back in the playoffs.

Now in the NL Central, The Chicago Cubs stand at 5-4. The Cubs’ pitching rotation is among the best in baseball right now. But their offense needs to step up to take back the Central Division from Pittsburgh.

The Cubs should not panic at all right now. Manager Joe Maddon has consistently found a way to kick it into high gear and take over the NL Central, even from lukewarm starts. Seeing that the Cubs have found themselves in the NLCS in each of the last three seasons, don’t count them out just yet.

Looking Ahead

With plenty of baseball in store, momentum built now can translate to success for each team in the weeks ahead. Whatever the future may hold, these first 12 days of baseball have taught valuable lessons to each of the 30 franchises; “Do not panic.” “Weather the storm.” “Keep the motor running hot.”

As the 2018 season thunders onward, all of the right moves will need to be made to taste the October glory.

 

Featured image from USA Today Sports

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Manuel!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

 

MLB Opening Day game

MLB Opening Day preview: Miami Marlins vs. Chicago Cubs

In only two days, the first Opening Day game will arrive. Spring is in the air, and another MLB season will soon begin. For the fans, this will be a site for longing eyes. But for the players and managers, the real fight is only getting started. The coming 162 games will determine the most improved, the most in need of improvement and the future All-Stars of baseball.

As spring training reaches its last few days, the world will watch as the best hit the diamond once again. For some teams, the mountain is steeper to climb. For others, last season’s success should set the goals for the regular season. Regardless, the pressure to succeed is always high. When the lights are on and the training wheels are off, all 30 teams will need to firmly plant their cleats in the dirt as they fight for those 10 coveted spots in October.

The first Opening Day game on March 29 will showcase the very beginning of things to come.

Opening Day game: Miami Marlins

The National League has the honor of the very first regular season game of 2018. The rebuilding Miami Marlins will host the Chicago Cubs at 12:30 p.m. this Thursday. Jose Urena will start on the mound for Miami, as will Jon Lester for Chicago.

MLB Opening Day game

Urena was the one bright spot on the Marlins pitching staff (Photo from MLB.com)

Urena had a solid season last year, finishing with a 14-7 record and a 3.82 ERA. Those are not quite All-Star numbers, but his improvements over the years have been substantial for someone entering his fourth year in the big leagues. Not to mention his .238 opposing batting average was his career best and among the lowest in the entire league.

The Marlins no doubt still have a ton of areas in need of improvement, one being their pitching rotation. The rotation as a whole recorded a 4.82 ERA (26th out of 30 teams) and only 34 saves out of 61 opportunities.

To be fair, this past offseason was anything but sunny for Miami. It was like a full season of “The Apprentice” with everyone being told, “You’re fired.” This time, even the winner got the boot.

Names ranged from each of their All-Stars, to the guy who played Billy the Marlin. No one was safe from the never-ending cycle of staff changes. Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter will have a lot to answer for, seemingly perpetuating Jeffrey Loria’s ownership tactics. But with Don Mattingly managing a lineup of kids hungry for a shot at the big leagues, the eagerness and youth of the team can stand as a bright spot for the new season.

Opening Day game: Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs, on the other hand, will look to continue their reign over the NL Central. Chicago ended last season with a 92-70 record and an NLCS appearance. The Cub contending against Urena for the first win, as previously mentioned, is 34-year old Jon Lester.

MLB Opening Day game

(Photo from dailyherald.com)

Lester did not have the most electrifying season in 2017. He posted a 13-8 record with 4.33 ERA. However, the four-time All Star has proven he could quiet the critics and batting lineups over the course of his career. He has been a part of three World Series titles, the last one being with the 2016 Cubs.

After all, he is 34 years old, so no need to throw so much dirt on him.

Last season, Chicago’s batting lineup recorded a .255 average, while the pitching crew tallied a 3.95 ERA. Although these numbers are solid, there is always room for improvement.

If manager Joe Maddon has proved anything in his short tenure with the Cubs, it is his ability to utilize what he has and adjust. More often than not, this brought victory to Chicago, including a World Series trophy in 2016. His managerial record with the Cubs stands at 292-193 in three seasons.

The Cubs have appeared in each of the last three NLCS matchups. With a lineup full of familiar weapons, it is not hard to say they will be back in that ring in 2018. But if they are to exceed that feat, they will need new faces to rise up and further expand the firepower of the lineup.

In Closing

The tale of the tape between these two teams boasts opposites of each other. Miami is rebuilding its franchise, while Chicago continues to build on its solid foundation. The Marlins have not felt October fun since 2003, while Chicago cannot get enough of it.

Understandably, the rebuilding process is not supposed to be easy. It must get worse before it gets better. Mattingly and Jeter seem ready for the up-hill battle ahead.

Now, let’s see if the new faces can carry the Marlins for a long-awaited return to the playoffs.

 

Featured image from Paul Howe Illustration

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Manuel!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

mlb spring training reports

Spring Training: Players and managers

As the 2018 spring training games thunder onward, several players and managers are starting to find their strides. Managers are making their cases as to why they were the right hire for their organizations. As all 30 teams are continuing to construct their 40-man rosters, players are contending for those last few starting spots. Opening Day is less than three weeks away, and everyone wants a piece of the pie.

This is just spring training, and the regular season is where the real battle begins. But to me, these names are taking full advantage of the spring games to make themselves known. Is there a lot of hype behind these names? Of course. Do these players and managers live up to it? I really think so. I will be spotlighting stars looking to repeat past success, players looking to debut in 2018, and managers in charge of continuing a team’s success.

Here are the managers and players making waves in the league.

Players and managers: Grapefruit League

The 15 teams playing in Florida have shown the latest and greatest they have to offer. Though much work still needs to be done, players and managers alike have risen to the occasion. The first name is looking to continue his All-Star strides as a third baseman. Meet Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado.

Manny Machado Spring Training

Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In 2017, Machado did not make the All-Star team, posting a career low batting average of .259. But he did put up similar numbers in home runs (33) and RBI’s (95) as he did in the two seasons prior. Now in spring training, he is posting a .480 batting average, 3 home runs, and 14 RBI’s.

He will be back as an All-Star selection in 2018 no problem if he continues this improvement in the regular season.

One of the names that will be in the “NL Rookie of the Year” conversation is Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves. At the plate, Acuna has recorded a .419 batting average in 2018. His fielding prowess is equally as impressive. The 20-year old outfielder has maintained a 1.000 fielding percentage and zero errors.

Expect to hear his name quite a few times in 2018.

For new managers, having a stacked roster is great. But it can lead to some challenges. Players putting their own interests ahead the teams needs is one of the most common of them. So far, Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees is breaking into in his new manager’s shoes. Yes, having Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge has more than plenty of benefits. But stacked rosters doesn’t always equate to automatic success. With the Pinstripes comfortably above .500 in spring training, Boone has proven he can make an impact as a first year manager.

players and managers: Cactus League

Changes in scenery can be challenging. Traded players and managers have to adjust to a new play scheme and build chemistry with new teammates. In some cases, this can also mean learning to play a completely different position. But Dee Gordon of the Seattle Mariners does not seem phased with such changes.

New SEA player Dee Gordon

Image courtesy of The Seattle Times

Primarily fielding as short-stop or second base, Seattle moved the 29-year old to center-field. So far, Gordon has recorded a .385 batting average in the 2018 spring games. He is also starting to find a rhythm in the outfield, having no errors at that position.

Pitchers are among the most idolized and scrutinized positions in baseball. When a young pitcher starts dominating at the mound, the entire league and baseball fans start noticing quickly.

Corey Copping of the Los Angeles Dodgers has the potential to be the next big arm in the majors.

In the 2018 spring games, Copping has an ERA of 0.00 and a pitching record of 2-0 in five games. In 2017, the team had the second lowest ERA and the lowest average in the MLB. Copping can prove to further continue the team’s pitching power and aid the Dodgers return to the World Series.

When looking to repeat success, managers need to make adjustments and find more formulas for winning. Chicago Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, knows a thing or two about repeating success. Along with the Cubs on top of the Cactus League, Maddon has guided Chicago to three consecutive appearances in the NLCS. More importantly, he led the charge winning the 2016 World Series, ending a 108-year title drought. Not to mention, Maddon accomplished this in just three seasons as the Cubs’ manager.

Looking Ahead

Before you know it, a new season of baseball will begin. Then, the training wheels come off, and the game is on. With each franchise with its own laundry list of important issues, the prize is the same: a World Series trophy. As spring training starts to wind down, players and managers will have to buckle down to turn around past misfortunes or repeat appearances in October. Soon, the league will see who has what it takes to step up and help their teams win.

 

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Manuel!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Image Courtesy of springtrainingonline.com

Photo by Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Image courtesy of The Seattle Times

2018 MLB preview: Chicago Cubs

2017: 92-70 (first place in NL Central)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2017

Last World Series Title: 2016

2017 Recap

The Chicago Cubs won back-to-back World Series titles from 1907-1908. 108 years later, they finally managed to win another one, but, unfortunately, the 2017 Cubs were unable to repeat. Chicago was eliminated in five games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. The offense hit just .156 in the series, with their three star hitters, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras, going a combined 9-for-55.

Although they won 11 fewer games than they did in the 2016 season, the Cubs had a great regular season and won the NL Central for the second year in a row. From July-October, the Cubs went 52-30. They entered the postseason hot, but the bats went cold and the pitching struggled against the Dodgers, who were clearly the better all-around team.

Both Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo were tremendous in the 2017 regular season (Chicago Tribune)

Much like in their championship season, the offensive success was led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Bryant finished fifth in walks, seventh in runs created and OBP, and eighth in runs and offensive WAR. He hit .325 in the second half and finished the season with 29 home runs. His buddy, Rizzo, drove in 109 runs, which was good for eighth in the MLB. He finished first in HBP, and slashed .273/.392/.507, with 32 home runs and 10 steals. 2017 was the third straight season in which Rizzo had 600 AB’s, 30 home runs, 90 runs, and 100 RBIs.

Among the 15 NL teams, the Cubs ranked third in home runs, and fifth in total bases. In regards to the entire MLB, Chicago finished fourth in runs and OBP, sixth in OPS, and seventh in SLG. The pitching staff ranked fourth in BAA, had the seventh best ERA in the bigs, and finished eighth in strikeouts.

The glaring difference from 2016 to 2017 was the amount of home runs and walks surrendered. After finishing in the NL with the sixth fewest home runs and seventh walks issued, Chicago ranked 10th in walks, and 11th in home runs.

2018: Around the Diamond

The Cubs will enter 2018 with, again, one of the most dynamic lineups in the bigs. Behind the plate is Contreras, who, in 2017, solidified himself as one of the best catchers in the game. He finished with the third highest WAR among catchers and hit 21 home runs with an OBP of .356. Contreras hit .305 in the second half alone, as well as .363 with RISP.

Joining Contreras, Rizzo, and Bryant in the infield are two of the best defenders in the game, Addison Russell and Javy Baez. Russell spent time on the DL in 2017, after suffering a strained right foot, and hit just .239 in his 110 games. However, he finished eighth in defensive WAR, and hit 21 home runs in 2016. Russell is a fantastic defender, and has shown he has pop from the shortstop positon, but is still a lifetime .240 hitter. Keep in mind, he is only 24-years-old and can easily turn into a star.

Javy Baez’ defense is must-see TV (NBC Chicago)

Baez, who is already making highlight reel plays in Spring Training, will play the majority of the games at second base. Baez has a lot of power, 23 home runs last season, but also strikes out a ton. He hit .315 against lefties and was one of five second basemen to hit at least 23 home runs, 10 steals, 25 XBH, and 75 runs (Brian Dozier, Rougned Odor, Jose Ramirez, Jose Altuve).

Heading into the season, Chicago has five outfielders who are all capable of starting. Let’s start with the obvious, which is the 5x-Gold Glove Award winner, Jason Heyward, who will be the starting right fielder. After hitting just .230 in 2016, Heyward improved a little and got the average up to .259. For some odd reason, at just 28, he has lost all his power and speed. Heyward hit just 11 home runs and stole four bases.

The fan favorite, Kyle Schwarber, lost 20 lbs. and worked on his agility during the offseason. Schwarber, who was sent down to AAA last season, crushed 30 home runs in 129 games. He hit just .211, but in the final 65 games, the 25-year-old hit .255. His .244 BABIP means the average is bound to go up in 2017, so look for the skinnier, more agile Schwarber to have a 2018.

Ben Zobrist, Albert Almora Jr., and Ian Happ will battle for the center field spot, as well as playing time at the corner-outfield positions. Almora, in 323 plate appearances, hit .342 against lefties, while Happ crushed 24 home runs in 115 games. Zobrist had a rough 2017, hitting just .232. Almora has to be the favorite to start in center, but Coach Joe Maddon will find a way for all three of these guys to get solid playing time, especially with Zobrist’s ability to play multiple positons.

On the Bump

No Jake Arrieta or John Lackey means the rotation will be looking a little different in 2018. Jon Lester, the Opening Day starter, needs to bounce back after a rough 2017. Last season, Lester posted a 4.33 ERA, which was his worst since 2012. He also had his highest HR/9 since becoming a full-time starter.

Lester’s walks were up, and, quite frankly, his fastball was bad. In 2017, opponents hit .289 against Lester’s four seam, which is a drastic difference compared to 2016, when opponents hit just .200 against it. Still, Lester is about as reliable as it gets, posting 10 straight seasons of at least 180 innings.

Yu Darvish looks to move past his World Series struggles and dominate in 2018. (SI.com)

Chicago’s biggest offseason splash was the signing of Yu Darvish. Darvish, a four-time All-Star, throws eight different pitches, and should excel, as long as he does not tip his pitches. Darvish has a career 3.42 ERA, as well as an 11.0 K/9.

Jose Quintana, who was acquired from the White Sox last July, went 7-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 14 starts for the Cubs. He came up short in the NLCS, and overall, struggled last season, career-highs in BB/9 and HR/9, but he has pitched well the last few seasons, and could put up ace-type numbers.

Kyle Hendricks, who spent time on the DL due to a middle finger tendon inflammation in his right hand, is coming in hot for 2018. Over his last 78 innings, Hendricks had a 2.19 ERA, and ultimately finished 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA. He was elite in 2016, and, if he stays healthy, should continue to succeed in 2018. The Cubs also brought in former Colorado Rockies pitcher, Tyler Chatwood, Chatwood had a 3.49 ERA away from Coors last year, but he also had a 4.69 BB/9, which is absolutely atrocious, Still, Chatwood generates a lot of ground balls and will be a solid number five in this rotation.

No Wade Davis means the Cubs will have a new closer in 2018. In December, Chicago signed Brandon Morrow, the 11-year veteran who thrived with the Dodgers in 2017, going 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 43.2 innings. Morrow, who has 18 career saves, will start the season in the closer role. The bullpen will also showcase guys like Carl Edwards Jr, Justin Wilson, and Steve Cishek.

The Future

The Cubs young core will hopefully be around for years to come, because they have traded away the majority of their star prospects. Heading into 2018, they have zero members on the Top 100 Prospects list.  Still, that list is merely just projections, and cannot tell the future.

Chicago’s top pitching prospect, Adbert Alzolay, has top-of-the-rotation potential. Signed out of Venezuela in 2011, Alzolay went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA last season between A+/AA. The Cubs top hitting prospect is shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan is a left handed hitter who had 20 XBH, 7 home runs, and 14 steals in 68 minor league games.

2018 Prediction: 93-69

The Brewers have improved, the Cardinals are always good, and even the Reds are on the rise. However, the Cubs are still clearly the best team in this division, and, for the third year in a row, will win the NL Central. Chicago will be right in the hunt to win the NL Pennant.

Featured image by MLB.com

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Jeremy

“From our Haus to Yours”

MLB Game 162 2011

Remembering baseball’s best night ever: Game 162

It is times like this when the average fan will look back and remember some great moments in baseball history. The hot stove is rather cold, and we are still six weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting in the spring.

One of the greatest moments of the 21st century, if not ever, was the 162nd game of the 2011 regular season. I am not talking about one game in particular. I am talking about four different games that all led to one of the greatest finishes to a regular season ever.

Before we can focus on game 162, we need to know the context of the season.

September 2011

On Sept. 1, 2011, the Boston Red Sox were in first place of the AL East and were nine games ahead of the third place Tampa Bay Rays. In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals were 7.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card. Remember, this was the year before there were two Wild Card teams accepted from each league.

At the beginning of the month, everything was perfectly laid out for teams that looked playoff bound. Boston was a favorite to go to the World Series at the beginning of the year, and they looked poised to make another trip. However, they went 7-18 going into the last game of the season, and the Rays went 16-9 going into game 162. They were tied for the Wild Card with one game left, and everyone knew it would be exciting night just on that front.

The Cardinals were long shots for the postseason at the beginning of September. They were further back in the Wild Card than they were in the division. Luckily for them, the Braves went 8-17 going into game 162, while the Cardinals went a solid 16-10. This also left Atlanta and St. Louis tied for the NL Wild Card, just like the American League.

The hype for these games was there, and luckily for us, they did not disappoint one iota.

What was the situation for game 162?

Where even to start? The Cardinals were playing the Astros in Houston in what would be the last time Minute Maid Park would ever be a part of the National League. The Astros were also the worst team in the league with a lowly 56-105 record.

The Braves, on the other hand, were playing at home. The only problem is that they were playing the best team in the majors, and their bitter rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though the Phillies had clinched the division and home field advantage through the entire postseason long before this game, they still had every intention of keeping their division rival out of the playoffs.

Much like the Cardinals, the Red Sox were on the road and they were playing one of the worst teams in the league in the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore had lost the previous game, but were treating this last one like it was their World Series. Under no circumstances were they going to let Boston have a free ticket into the playoffs.

Down in Tampa, the Rays were playing the New York Yankees, who already clinched the AL East as well as home-field advantage through American League playoffs. The Rays had won five games in a row and had Boston sweating up in Baltimore. A Boston loss and a win against New York would give the Rays their third playoff birth in franchise history.

The National League

MLB Game 162 2011

The Braves collapse will go down as one of the “greatest” ever (Photo from NY Daily News)

The first domino to fall on the historic day was St. Louis beating Houston 8-0. It was a straight forward game that left the Cardinals confident they would have a ticket to the postseason. The problem was that the Phillies were down to the Braves 3-2 going into the ninth inning. It looked like the Braves would hold on amidst their September collapse.

Not so fast. Chase Utley flew out to left field to allow Pete Orr to score and tie the game. They were on the way to extra innings.

The Braves were not able to muster much of anything in extras. The closest they got was in the 12th where they had runners on first and second with two outs. Martin Prado proceeded to ground out, and they went to the 13th.

Hunter Pence came to bat in the 13th and was able to drive in the go-ahead run on an opposite field single. That gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the inning where the Braves would fight to stay alive.

Due up in the bottom of the inning were three of the Braves best hitters in Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman. Jones began the inning by striking out, followed by Uggla being walked. It was a runner at first with one out with the young Freeman at the plate. He then grounded to first base, where John Mayberry and Jimmy Rollins were able to turn the double play, and Freeman slammed his helmet on the ground in disgust, finishing off what was an epic collapse to miss the postseason.

The American League

The results of the day are not the only thing that makes these games incredible, but it was in the manner in which it happened. Fangraphs did an excellent piece on the timing and odds that went into the regular season finale in the American League.

To sum up the games, New York had taken a 7-0 lead over Tampa, while Boston had a 3-2 lead over Baltimore. It looked like Tampa had no chance of coming back and that Boston would hold on. The stadium had emptied out as all hopes of the postseason alluded the Tampa faithful. About half the stadium looked emptied out at this point. All those fans forgot the wise words of Lenny Kravitz.

It ain’t over til it’s over.

The Rays burst out for a six-run bottom of the eighth, largely thanks to a three-run home run by Evan Longoria. The only problem was that they were still down 7-6 going into the ninth inning. They were down, but not out.

MLB Game 162 2011

The Rays react to a stunning home run from Dan Johnson (Photo from mlb.com)

The Rays found themselves down to one out in the bottom of the ninth. Joe Maddon used Dan Johnson as a pinch hitter to try and save their season against Cory Wade. Johnson fell behind and eventually reached a 2-2 count. The season was all but lost. Then, something magical happened.

Johnson roped a ball around the right field post for his second home run all season long.

Johnson trotted around the bases taking in what would be one of the greatest moments of the year. Everyone in Tropicana field went nuts, except for the skipper, Joe Maddon, who was stunned beyond belief.

It wasn’t over yet though. Boston and Baltimore had been in a rain delay, and they were just beginning to resume their game with Boston leading 3-2. They went to the bottom of the ninth, and Jonathan Papelbon had retired the first two hitters, and Baltimore was down to their final out.

Chris Davis was at the plate and was able to rope a ball down the right field line and get to second base for a two-out double. Nolan Reimold proceeded to drive a ball into the right-center gap for a ground-rule double to tie the game. Papelbon was just trying to get out of the inning at this point with Robert Andino at the plate. Andino was batting just .262 and was not a big threat at the plate. No problem for Papelbon, right?

MLB Game 162 2011

Mike Aviles walked off the field watching Baltimore celebrate their improbable victory (Photo from New York Times)

Wrong. Andino hit a line drive to the left fielder, Carl Crawford. Crawford bobbled the ball on the hop as he tried to make a play to catch the ball. That brief moment where he could not gather the ball led Reimold to round third base. Reimold steamrolled into home and just beat the throw. You might have thought that Baltimore had just won the World Series after that play.

Even after the blown save by Papelbon, the Red Sox still had hope. Hope that relied on the dreaded New York Yankees taking an extra-inning lead against the Rays. A moment where the Red Sox and their fan base would pray all they could for the Yankees to win, a true once in a lifetime moment. That moment was short lived.

It was not but three minutes later that those hopes would go down the drain.

Evan Longoria, the cornerstone player of Tampa Bay, perfectly fit a baseball just over the 315-foot marker on the short left field wall. The Rays came back from the grave in the Wild Card race in game 162 to stun the Boston Red Sox, who had just lost a heartbreaker 1,000 miles away.

The Aftermath

Terry Francona left as the Red Sox manager shortly after they blew their postseason chances. The Tampa Bay Rays lost in four games to the Texas Rangers, who eventually went on to the World Series.

The Philadelphia Phillies played the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, the very team they allowed to enter the postseason after they stunned Atlanta. They lost the series to the Cardinals after a stunning performance by Chris Carpenter, outdueling the great Roy Halladay.

St. Louis went on to beat the Texas Rangers in seven games in the World Series in stunning fashion. That story is for another day though.

 

Featured image from the Tampa Bay Times

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Andrew.

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Washington Nationals 2018

Washington Nationals team profile

After a successful regular season, the Nationals came up short in the postseason once again. The franchise still has not won a postseason series. This year looked to be their year, as their roster had few holes in it especially after bolstering their bullpen. However, Game 5 in the NLDS slipped through their fingers, and now Washington is in a state of perplexity. What can they possibly do at this point that they have not already done?

The managerial carousal

The Washington Nationals fired another manager at the end of 2017. This time, Dusty Baker was the victim despite winning 192 games in two seasons and winning the NL East both years. He is also the third manager to be fired in five years in Washington.

Washington Nationals 2018

Dusty Baker is the latest example of how Washington is insecure at the manager role (Photo from AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

What makes the situation interesting is that they have still won their division four times in seven years. Not only that, but two of the three managers (Davey Johnson and Matt Williams) have won the NL manager of the year during their tenure in Washington.

Is the management really the problem? It is understandable why the front office points to the skipper role as the issue with their teams. This is apparent in the fact that there are no glaring issues in the roster. The bullpen was by far the weakest aspect of the team at the beginning of the season, but were able to make it an asset through trades.

Replacing the manager will not fix the Nationals’ issues. Dave Martinez has accumulated a lot of experience under the wing of Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and Chicago. However, he still has a lot to learn as a manager seeing as this is his first gig. What it is really going to come down to is the Nationals being able to execute in the postseason.

Washington found themselves down 2-1 in the NLDS against the Cubs. They were able to win Game 4 in order to force a fifth and final game, and the offense really showed up when it needed to. The only problem was that Matt Wieters fell apart when it mattered most, and his mistakes cost the Nationals three runs in what ended up being a one run game.

The players need to be held more accountable, rather than thinking that the manager is the problem.

Bryce Harper and free agency

2018 marks the final year on superstar Bryce Harper’s contract, and oh boy will teams be coming out for him this time next year. No matter where he signs, expect for him to surpass Giancarlo Stanton for the largest contract in the sports world.

What has Nationals fans worried is that Harper has been rather aloof when it comes to his status in Washington. Harper asked Washington for a $400 million extension, which the team of course was not able to meet.

This is purely speculative, but it seems Harper made a rather high asking price just to see if the Nationals would meet it. It is hard to think that he expected Washington to pay up that kind of dough. It is very tempting for Harper to test free agency, so why not see if you can get that much?

Harper had to be ecstatic when he heard of Stanton’s record contract. That is because most teams would value Harper over Stanton at this point in time, despite the 59 home runs Stanton hit this year. The precedent of Stanton’s contract may just boost Harper’s value through the roof.

One ridiculous move that will never happen is Washington possibly trading Harper this offseason. Harper has never said out loud that he would like to stay in Washington, so his future there looks murky. With the high possibility of him chasing the money in 2018, why not see what you can get for him this offseason? One season of Harper’s services for a contender could be worth some very valuable prospects in the long run, and Washington should have an eye past 2018. This is especially the case since their current formula can’t seem to get them past the NLDS.

What is in store in 2018 for the Nationals?

Don’t expect a whole lot different in 2018. The NL East is going to be controlled by Washington once again. Brandon Kintzler, Matt Albers and Jayson Werth are some notable names leaving, but the core is still in tact. On top of that, Adam Eaton will be returning from his devastating injury he sustained early in the season.

Washington Nationals 2018

Eaton’s return to Washington will have a large impact. (Photo from MLB.com)

The Nationals ought to target an arm or two in order to bolster their bullpen. Other than that and maybe adding an arm like Jaime Garcia to the rotation, they shouldn’t be too active at the winter meetings barring any big news.

Derek Jeter and the Marlins will be taking a step back next season as the front office has expressed a desire to tear things down and build back up. Miami finished second place in the East despite being 20 games back of the Nationals. The Mets may be making moves this offseason in order to get back into their World Series form from a few years ago, but they are still far behind the Nationals.

The main questions is, who will face Washington in the NLDS? Also, will Dave Martinez make the difference that the front office hopes he can make? Either way, all of the 2018 season is already riding on whether or not they will make it past the NLDS.

The ultimate goal is the World Series obviously. However, they first need to win their first playoff series in franchise history.

 

Featured image from Sports Illustrated

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Andrew.

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Knizner

Five early predictions for the National League offseason

The 2017 World Series has come to a close, and the Houston Astros are champions for the first time in franchise history. That means it is time to look forward to next season as we will be without baseball until the spring. This ought to be an exciting offseason due to a star studded free agent class, especially in the outfield.

Not only are there a lot of good free agents, but this ought to be an interesting winter on the trade market. There are some big names floating around that could shake up the whole league. With that being said, here are five early predictions for the 2017 offseason.

The Los Angeles Dodgers sign Jake Arrieta

The Dodgers are coming off a tough World Series loss against the Astros. The front office knew that 2017 was a prime year to break their 30-year drought since the start. Now that it didn’t happen and a large part of their roster still in tact, they will look to push even harder next year.

National League offseason

The Dodgers may look elsewhere for help after Darvish’s collapse in the World Series. (Photo from Newsweek)

Yu Darvish is a free agent now (which may be a relief for the Dodgers after his World Series performance), and Los Angeles is looking to bolster their rotation. Jake Arrieta may be the best starting option on the market after his proven track record in the postseason and reliable arm in the regular season.

 

He won’t come cheap though. The Dodgers already have the highest payroll in the league, but Magic Johnson and company are surely not going to remain complacent after falling short this year. The Dodgers’ starting rotation and bullpen are what separated them from the rest of the league this season, but it may have been what costed them a championship.

A Kershaw-Arrieta duo would look to accomplish what a Kershaw-Darvish pair couldn’t. Darvish was successful in the NLDS and NLCS. However, he could not manage to put much together in the World Series. Arrieta has proven himself in those situations, so it would make sense for him to give the Dodgers that final push.

The St. Louis Cardinals get a reliable bat

The Cardinals had a glaring issue all season long, and that was their lack of an impact bat in the middle of their lineup. The problem is that St. Louis already has a crowded outfield full of players that they seem dedicated to, due to their high-value in their homegrown players. However, it is time for them to make a move for a big bat.

National League offseason

Christian Yelich would be tough for the Cardinals to get as Miami highly values him. (Photo from CBS Sports)

Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins are looking to cut payroll big time under new ownership. The one name that sticks out immediately is Giancarlo Stanton. St. Louis is not known for taking on such large contracts, even though Stanton is exactly what the Cardinals need.

If the Cardinals do end up trading with the Marlins, it would most likely be for Christian Yelich. Yelich is much more affordable and is under team control until 2022, which is very appealing. He also would provide a solid 3.0-4.0 WAR every year out.

What the Cardinals most likely will accomplish though is getting a corner infielder. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are both hitting the free agent market, and both would fit nicely into the lineup. What is important to keep in mind though is the Cardinals have an eye on the 2018 free agent market as well, and Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson will be available then. Expect the Cardinals to especially push for Machado next year, or even look to trade for him this offseason.

The Diamondbacks will retain J.D. Martinez

National League offseason

J.D. Martinez was one of the hottest hitters in the league after being traded. (Photo from Detroit Free Press)

J.D. Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks from the Tigers during the summer. He thrived in Arizona, hitting a monstrous 29 home runs and hitting .302. The Los Angeles Angels have already announced that Justin Upton, another Detroit Tigers outfielder traded at the deadline, will be signed through the 2022 season. Now some are wondering if Martinez will do the same and stay in Arizona, or seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Martinez announced on Wednesday that he is switching to contract negotiator extraordinaire Scott Boras. At first glance, this seems like it is a move to negotiate with other teams, but he can still be very helpful in discussions with Arizona’s front office.

In a conversation with azcentralsports.com, Martinez expressed his desire in staying with Arizona long term. Being next to names like Paul Goldschmidt and AJ Pollock makes him a good fit. Martinez may also feel it is the right place to stay after such a successful two months in the desert.

The Diamondbacks will have to give Martinez a large chunk of change in order for him to stay, but it may be what they have to do in order to compete with the reigning NL Champs in the West.

The Cubs will sign RHP Alex Cobb

With Jake Arrieta most likely leaving Chicago due to his high price tag, Alex Cobb could potentially come in and provide a solid third starter role behind Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Cobb has spent six years in the league and has had at least 20 starts in four of those years. Other than his 2016 campaign where he was sidelined most of the year for an elbow injury, he has been an extremely reliable pitcher for Tampa Bay.

Cobb is no Arrieta, but Cobb may be one of the better affordable pitchers on the market this offseason. Lance Lynn is a similar pitcher that could fit in Chicago. However, Cobb’s relationship with Joe Maddon and new Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey could have a big impact on decisions for both sides.

Out of all the potential offseason moves that could happen, this one makes the most sense.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will trade for Giancarlo Stanton

As mentioned earlier, Derek Jeter and the Marlins are trying to cut payroll as much as possible in order to fully engage in a rebuild. Stanton has come out and said that he does not want to go through that process again. He is ready to win now.

National League offseason

Stanton may be on the Dodgers’ radar, as trading for him would make sense for all parties involved. (Photo from CBS Sports)

The Dodgers, despite having the highest payroll, have some money they can spend. Stanton has the most expensive sports contract in the world, so this would be a whole lot to take on. Even with the high payroll, the Dodgers don’t break the bank on one player too often. They are an organization that likes to spread their payroll out between many good players. However, this player is worth it.

Stanton also has the right to veto any trade he doesn’t like. The perfect fit may be in Los Angeles though. He is a California boy who grew up in the Los Angeles area. He also wants to win, as he has not done that much in his MLB career with the Marlins. It would be unlikely if a deal were to be put in front of him that he could deny such a tempting offer.

The Dodgers have a couple of solid prospects in their system with RHP Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo, who rank 10th and 23rd in the MLB’s best prospects rankings. Those two players, along with the Dodgers taking on the daunting contract, should be plenty to acquire the 2017 home run king. The question is if the Dodgers are willing to put that high of an investment into Stanton, who only put in his third full season of work this year.

There is a lot of upside with this player though. He turns 28 next week, which means he is at the beginning of the hitter’s prime (27-32). Acquiring Stanton, along with signing Jake Arrieta, would make the Dodgers an even bigger juggernaut to fear. One thing for sure though is L.A. is hungry for a World Series after watching the Astros win it on their home turf.

 

Featured image by Getty Images  

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Andrew.

“From Our Haus to Yours”

TGH First Annual MLB Academy Awards

The best from the film industry were celebrated last night in the 89th Academy Awards ceremony. With the MLB’s spring training beginning this past week, we have come up with a way to honor them both. I’m proud to present The Game Haus’ First Annual MLB Academy Awards. The game’s best and brightest will be awarded for their play on the field.

Categories will include: Best Picture (Best Team), Actor in a Leading Role (Best Player), Actor in a Supporting Role (Best Secondary Player) and Director (Best Manager). Without further ado, we begin our award presentation with Best Picture.

Best Picture: Chicago Cubs

MLB Academy Awards

Kris Bryant headlined a World Series roster for the Cubs (Credit: Michael Zagaris/Getty Images).

After a season that saw them win 103 games and the World Series, the Chicago Cubs are hands-down the choice for Best Picture of 2016. The Cubs are certainly not a one-year wonder.

Chicago is loaded with a roster that will allow them to compete for years to come. The offense is fueled by third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Bryant put up a 149 OPS+ with Rizzo’s 146 OPS+. That is exceptional production, but they weren’t the only contributors.

The pitching staff is rock solid for the Cubs, led by starters Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Even with a “down year” by Arrieta comparatively to his 2014 and 2015 campaigns, he still pitched exceptionally. He earned 18 wins with his 3.10 ERA and surprisingly, his first All-Star appearance in 2016. Jon Lester also earned an All-Star appearance in 2016, the fourth of his career.

The Cubs are one of the best teams in the league, and are sure to be in the running for this award for years to come.

Actor in a Leading Role: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

With a career 48.5 WAR at only 25 years old, Angels center fielder Mike Trout is without a doubt the best all around player in the game. His combination of power and speed are some of the best in the bigs. Trout stole 30 bases to go along with 29 homers and 100 RBIs last season. He was one home run from joining the exclusive 30-30 club, one that hasn’t had a new member since, you guessed it, Trout in 2012.

Any player can be an offensive juggernaut. It takes a truly exceptional player to be a game changer both at the plate and in the field.

Trout played 148 games in center field for the Angels in 2016. In his time at center, he posted six defensive runs saved. While that is not a mind-blowing number, it is solid for one of the more difficult positions to play in the field.

Trout is the best player in the major leagues, and it’s really not even close. He is the leader of the Angels, and in his five years in Anaheim he already has the second best WAR of any player in Angels history.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians

MLB Academy Awards

Jason Kipnis provided a solid season for the Indians in 2016 (Credit: Tony Dejak/AP Photo).

Cleveland shows no signs of regressing from their 2016 World Series appearance after landing Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason. Even with considerable contributions from stars such as Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller, it will take solid seasons from players across the roster.

Enter Jason Kipnis. Before the emergence of Lindor and Kluber, Kipnis was one of the most reliable offensive producers for the Indians. That didn’t change in 2016.

Kipnis hit the most homers of his career in 2016, slugging 23 long balls to go along with 82 RBIs. He also continued to showcase his speed, stealing a respectable 15 bases last season. His offensive production was impressive, but his four defensive runs saved proves he is an exceptional all-around player.

Kipnis may not be the best player on the Indians, but the support he provides surely does not go unnoticed.

Director: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

Sticking with Cleveland, Manager Terry Francona did an excellent job directing the Indians in 2016. He brought the Indians to their first World Series appearance since 1997 and will look to do the same in 2017.

Before Francona came to Cleveland in 2013, the Indians last playoff appearance had come in 2007. He quickly turned that around, guiding the Indians to 92 wins and a Wild Card berth. While they weren’t able to get past the Wild Card round, Francona had much more in store for the Tribe.

Entering his fourth year in Cleveland and only one playoff appearance to show for it, Francona was on the hot seat entering the 2016 season. He used that hot seat to light a fire under his team, guiding them all the way to the 2016 World Series. Even with a loss to the Cubs, Francona was able to stretch the series to seven games.

Some may think that the Cubs’ Joe Maddon is more deserving of this award. However, Francona was able to guide his club to one game away from the World Series title with a less talented roster and much lower expectations. Francona should guide the Indians to another deep playoff run in 2017.

 

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers like Jonathan!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Why the Indians Will Be World Series Champions

The Indians have surprised many national MLB pundits due to them being national underdogs coming into the playoffs. Despite having the second best record in the American League, the Indians were not the favorites, according to Vegas, against either the Boston Red Sox or the Toronto Blue Jays. Once again, the Indians will assume the title of underdog, as the Chicago Cubs have been the best team in baseball all season. This may be the toughest challenge yet for the Tribe, but I am here to tell you why the Indians will be victors when the dust settles.

It starts with the manager. The Indians have Terry Francona, one of the best managers in the business. Francona has two World Series rings under his belt already from his time managing the Red Sox. He knows what it takes to succeed in the postseason, as seen by his bullpen management in the previous series. Joe Maddon, the Cubs manager, may be one of the top managers as well, but Maddon has never had to manage a World Series game. Any sort of edge helps in the World Series, and Francona’s experience puts him at a higher level than Maddon.

coco-crisp

Coco Crisp has been hot for the Indians this postseason. Considered nothing more than a veteran addition at the waiver deadline, can he keep up the momentum going into the final series? Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

The Indians lineup has been so successful this postseason because the lineup is so balanced. Coco Crisp, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez all provide hitting from both sides of the plate. Switch hitting is important because that means these four hitters cannot be manipulated so the pitcher’s breaking balls break away from the hitter. These four hitters are match-up proof. The Indians have also received home runs from all parts of the lineup this postseason. Coco Crisp, who was picked up at the waiver deadline, had only 2 HR’s in 20 games with the Tribe during the regular season. He has already matched that this postseason, stepping up at key moments to put the Indians ahead in games.

Most important, however, may be the Indians bullpen this postseason. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen have combined this postseason to produce amazing results while being inserted into the game anywhere from the 5th inning to the 9th. Francona has shown that he is not afraid to lean on Miller at the first sign of trouble from one of his young starters. It is a move that is surprising, especially so early in games, but also proven effective this postseason. Miller and Allen have shown that if the Indians’ starter can get through five innings, the dynamic duo can get the Indians through the last four unscathed.

danny-salazar

Danny Salazar had the best k/9 ratio of any of the Indians starters this regular season. He could provide some valuable work in a tired bullpen or potentially start Game 4 for the Tribe. Photo courtesy of Chuck Crow of the Plain Dealer.

All the talk this Pre-World Series has been that the Cubs have added Kyle Schwarber (shoutout Middletown, Ohio) to the 25 man roster to be the designated hitter when at Progressive Field.  The media has not been discussing the return of Yan Gomes and Danny Salazar to the Indians 25 man roster. Yan Gomes will strengthen the weakest position in the lineup, as Roberto Perez has only amassed .174 avg this postseason. Even as just a pinch hit situation, Gomes could provide a lift much like Schwarber can for the Cubs. Salazar’s limit has been set at 60 or 70 pitches, but it could prove vital in either a long relief role or a potential game 4 start.

Finally, the Indians will have home field advantage during the series due to the American League winning the All-Star Game. This may be just something minor, but it gives the Indians the opportunity to establish momentum through the first two games, before being able to play the last two at home (if necessary). It may be just something small, but any edge helps come World Series time.

The Chicago Cubs may have the better team on paper, but the same could be said of the Red Sox and Blue Jays in prior series. The Indians have thrived in their underdog role this postseason and will rely on the experience Terry Francona provides to pull out another championship for Cleveland. The bullpen will be used early and often these upcoming games, so it will be interesting to see how Francona utilizes Miller and Allen as the series unfolds. Combine that bullpen with a lineup that does not rely on one single guy to carry the team, and we could see one last upset this season as the Indians beat the Cubs in six games.

One Step Closer: NLCS Preview

With the NLDS out of the way, the Cubs and the Dodgers now sit just one series away from the World Series. Both teams showed a flair for late game heroics, with the Cubs tying the largest ninth inning comeback in MLB playoff history to win game four in San Francisco.  The Dodgers scored five runs in the final three innings in games four and five to eke out a series win vs. Washington. During the regular season, the Cubs won the series 4-3, capped by some stellar pitching against some of the Dodgers best bats. Like every series so far, the Cubs vs. Dodgers matchup will pit some of the NL’s best against one another on the mound. Here’s what I think each team will have to do, and who will have to do it to win the series.

Cubs

The Cubs come into the series the favorite, and with good reason. Joe Maddon’s Cinderella Cubs appear to be the team destined to end Chicago’s World Series drought. Jon Lester and the rest of the pitching staff have been fantastic on the mound throughout the year, and Kris Bryant heads a Cubs offense that’s almost unstoppable when it’s running at peak performance.

Image result for kris bryant

Can the NL MVP favorite lead the Cubs to their first World Series since 1945? Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Bryant has to be one guy that everybody is looking at coming into this series. He put up fantastic numbers against the Dodgers during the regular season, batting .320 and hitting four homers in seven games against the team. He hit .375 against a stout Giants rotation, and is one of many weapons the Cubs will look to utilize on offense. Another guy who we may not have expected to be looking at coming into the series is Javier Baez. There’s no denying Baez’s talent, but he wasn’t putting up the same gaudy numbers as Bryant or Anthony Rizzo during the regular season. He showed up big against San Francisco, providing the only run for either team in game one of the series. He also batted .375 throughout the series, and scored four runs during that time.

Two guys that Chicago needs to step up at the plate against the Dodgers are Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo. Heyward had a lot of success against LA during the regular season, batting .360 with a homer in seven games. However, he didn’t provide much at the plate in the series vs. the Giants, squeaking out a lone double in game two for his only hit of the series. Anthony Rizzo also only had one hit during the series against the Giants, but also worked his way on base with two walks in the series. The Cubs will definitely need to see more than that against the Dodgers from their regular season leader in RBI’s.

On the mound for the Cubs, Jon Lester is obviously one guy you have to watch. Lester went eight scoreless against an anemic Giants offense. We’ll have to see how he fares against a Dodgers offense that should provide significantly more resistance. Eyes will also be on Kyle Hendricks, who took a line drive off his arm in game two against the Giants. While he’s been cleared to pitch in game two, we’ll have to see how he fares and if his arm has any lingering tenderness that could take him off of his game. We’ll also have to see how the Cubs bullpen as a whole fares. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts showed that he’s not afraid to go to the pen early and often in the NLDS; we’ll see if Joe Maddon responds in similar fashion, and if the Cubs bullpen is up for the additional pressure.

 

Dodgers

The Dodgers willed their way past the Nationals in a gritty five-game series that came down to the wire. While they aren’t sitting on a drought quite as long as the Cubs, the organization hasn’t been to a World Series since 1988, when they won the series 4-1 against the A’s to cap off Orel Hershiser’s monumental season. Hershiser may be long retired, but this Dodgers pitching staff still looks plenty strong, perhaps even more so in the bullpen than the rotation.

Manager Dave Roberts went to the bullpen early and often against the Nationals. Only one starter made it past the fifth inning, Clayton Kershaw, who went five innings in game one and 6.2 in game four. Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill combined for just ten innings of work in their three starts. The Dodgers bullpen looked very strong for most of the series, just as it had during the regular season. The Dodgers had six of its arms combine for no runs allowed in 14.2 innings over those five games, with only Kanley Jansen and Grant Dayton surrendering runs from the pen during the NLDS. Joe Blanton saw the most work during that time, aside from Jansen, allowing just one hit in five innings of work over four appearances. On the mound, I’ll be watching for him to bridge the gap between Dodgers starters and the back of the bullpen if Roberts continues his current bullpen-centered pitching style.

Of course, I’ll also be looking for the Dodgers starters to step up in this series, to ease the stress of a potential seven-game series on the pen’s arms. Kershaw surrendered eight runs combined in his two starts against the Nationals, and the Cubs offense has a lot more weapons than Washington did. Rich Hill surrendered five runs over seven innings in two starts as well. The Dodgers rotation will have to step up to the postseason pressure to keep the game within striking distance for their offense.

Image result for justin turner dodgers

Justin Turner showed up big vs. the Nationals, can he continue his hot hitting against the Cubs? Image courtesy of Fox Sports.

Speaking of their offense, they’ll have to turn in a stronger performance against the Cubs in the postseason than they did during the regular season. I’m looking at Justin Turner specifically, who was just 2-for-24 with eight strikeouts in seven games against Chicago in the regular season. Turner was a huge performer in the NLDS, batting .400 and driving in 5 RBI’s, including the deciding two-run triple in the seventh inning of game five against Washington. Corey Seager is another guy who will have to step his game up in the NLCS. He had just three hits in the NLDS, including two solo homers, all coming in the first inning of the game. Outside of the first inning, he was 0-for-18. While it’s great to get your team started on the right foot, Seager will have to provide more support at the plate later in the game to give his team a chance. Joc Pederson is the last guy I’m looking at in this series. He, also had an abysmal time against Chicago in the regular season, going 0-for-20 with eight strikeouts. Pederson hit .333 in the NLDS, and provided the catalyst for their game-winning seventh inning in game five with a solo shot on the first pitch from Max Scherzer. He’ll have to continue to come up clutch to help his team overcome the juggernaut that is the Cubs.