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MLB Playoff Schedule and Predictions

  • by Coach Ross
  • 11 min read

October is upon us! That means the Major League Baseball Playoffs are back and more exciting than ever. Check out this year's participants, playoff schedule and predictions by MaxBP's Neil McConnell and Coach Ross.

National League Wild-Card Game: Tuesday, October 1, 8 p.m. ET

Milwaukee Brewers @ Washington Nationals

The Milwaukee Brewers were the hottest team in baseball for much of September, going 19-7 in the final month of the regular season and earning the National League’s No. 2 wild-card in the process.

It was especially impressive considering the fact that reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich suffered a season ending broken knee cap in a 4-3 victory against Miami on September 10. Heading into the final weekend of the season, it looked as though Milwaukee might take the NL Central crown from a floundering St. Louis club; however, a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies at Coors Field extinguished those hopes.

Now the Brewers are faced with the challenge of marching into Washington D.C. and facing a 93-69 Nationals team and their ace Max Scherzer in a one game playoff. Making matters worse, Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun will be playing with a calf strain in tonight’s game, center fielder Lorenzo Cain is questionable with a bum ankle, Yelich remains unavailable and they are coming off a tough three-game stretch in Colorado.

Craig Counsell and the Brewers can be proud of what they accomplished and the resilient attitude they've showcased, particularly after the Yelich injury, but the road stops here. The Nationals line-up is too deep (even without Bryce Harper), Scherzer is too dominant and the Nationals have the luxury of playing in front of their home crowd.

Coach Ross’ prediction - Washington 6, Milwaukee 2

Neil McConnell’s prediction - Washington 5, Milwaukee 1


American League Wild-Card Game: Wednesday, October 2, 8 p.m. ET

Tampa Bay Rays @ Oakland Athletics

If you had a Tampa Bay vs. Oakland AL wild-card game pegged at the beginning of the season, congratulations, you’ve got game. The Rays and Athletics defied their low-budget odds and earned a playoff berth ahead of teams like the Anaheim Angels, Cleveland Indians and the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox.

The Rays and Athletics’ trophy for six months of outstanding baseball, a one-game playoff in Oakland. Can we extend this wild-card match-up to a three-game series, please? The Athletics send Sean Manaea (4-0, 1.21 ERA, 0.76 WHIP) to the mound. The left-hander has defied the medical odds and been brilliant in his five starts since returning from Tommy John Surgery.

The Rays will send veteran Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) to the mound in the game. The battle tested former Houston Astros pitcher is no stranger to big games in October, as he will make his seventh career start in the playoffs (2-2, 4.60 ERA, 1.21 WHIP).

This should be a great game that either team has a legitimate shot at winning. Both teams have experience in the one-game playoff format that began in 2012. The road warrior Rays defeated the Indians in Cleveland in 2013, while the Athletics have taken the “L” as the visiting team in the 2014 wild-card game in Kansas City and last season (2018) in New York against the Yankees.

I’ve gone back and forth on this one, as I foresee a classic match-up in the making. But in the end, I’ll go with the hometown Athletics and the "Matts" - Olson and Chapman. Manaea has worked his tail off to be a part of October baseball and Billy Beane and company deserve an extended October experience. Although Oakland hasn’t fared well in their first two wild-card games, I like their chances playing at the Oakland Coliseum.

Coach Ross’ Prediction - Oakland 3, Tampa Bay 2

Neil McConnell’s Prediction - Oakland 3, Tampa Bay 2


National League Division Series: Thursday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 9

Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

This is a very intriguing series and one that should have the two-time defending NL champion Dodgers feeling nervous. After a rough start to the 2019 regular season, the Nationals have been one of the best teams in baseball during the second half of the season. Washington finished the season with 93 wins, including eight straight victories to finish of the year. The Nationals are hot!

The Dodgers meanwhile haven’t played a pressure filled game for several months. Los Angeles won the NL West title for the seventh consecutive year, running away with the division by the All-Star break en route to an impressive 21-game margin over the second place Diamondbacks.

Historically, this is the type of match-up that hasn’t gone well for the favored team, particularly in a “no time to waste” best of five series. The Dodgers learned this lesson the hard way in 2014, as their 98-win team was dismantled by the St. Louis Cardinals and lost the series, 3 games to 1.

However, this is not 2014. This version of the Dodgers won 106 games, behind a great line-up and solid starting pitching, including young hurler Walker Buehler. I believe this will be a highly contested series and the Nationals led by young phenoms Juan Soto and Victor Robles will show the baseball world they are a force to be reckoned with, but it won’t be enough to knock off a historically great Dodgers team.

Perhaps it would be a different story if Max Scherzer got the ball in game one, if the Nationals had a better bullpen and if Los Angeles didn’t tear the cover off the ball. I like the Dodgers to advance in a hard fought five game series.

Coach Ross’ Prediction - Los Angeles in five games

Neil McConnell’s Prediction - Los Angeles in five games


National League Division Series: Thursday, October 3 - Wednesday, October 9

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves

The Cardinals were able to withstand a valiant effort by the Milwaukee Brewers and hold on to the NL Central crown in the season’s final weekend. Their big prize? A five game affair with Ronald Acuna Jr. and a 97-win Atlanta Braves team.

The exciting and powerful Braves have the look of a young dynasty, while the Cardinals playoff berth comes as more of a surprise and good fortune. St. Louis took advantage of a late season collapse by the Chicago Cubs and held off a surging Brewers team playing without their best player.

You never know what’s going to happen once a team reaches the playoffs, but it seems like the Braves have a distinct advantage in firepower. If the Cardinals do advance or keep the series competitive, it will be because of a shaky Atlanta pitching staff, their Achilles's heel for much of the season.

Regardless, I like the Braves - led by their sluggers Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson and Acuna Jr. and their home field advantage in the series. Look for Atlanta to prevail and secure an exciting match-up with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Coach Ross’ Prediction - Atlanta in a three-game sweep

Neil McConnell’s Prediction - Atlanta in four games


American League Division Series: Friday, October 4 - Thursday, October 10

Oakland Athletics vs. Houston Astros

The poor Athletics. If any team ever deserves a participation trophy in this day and age, it’s the pride and joy of the East Bay. Despite a minimal payroll and an ancient ballpark, the Athletics keep coming back, year after year with a revamped cast of characters. It only seems fair that Oakland would eventually catch fire in the postseason and go on that magical underdog ride we’ve all been waiting for, but this doesn’t look like the year.

The Athletics have it tough as they face one of the deepest offenses in all of baseball, who just happened to add AL Rookie of the Year favorite Yordan Alvarez to the mix (.313 BA, 27 HR, 78 RBI in 87 games), along with the most impressive starting trio in recent memory - Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke.

The Astros won the season series against the Athletics, 11-8; however, the Oakland did take three out of four games in Houston between September 9-12. So the A's have that going for them, which is nice.

Against any other team I would like Oakland's chances. They play inspired baseball, have a deep and powerful lineup and have a formidable rotation in Manaea, Mike Fiers, Tanner Roark and Homer Bailey. Unfortunately, the Astros are Major League Baseball’s “cream of the crop” and the odds on favorite to win it all. It will be extremely difficult to counter Houston’s line-up and pitching rotation in a five game series. I see the Astros prevailing in four games.

Coach Ross’ Prediction - Houston in four games

Neil McConnell’s Prediction - Houston in five games


American League Division Series: Friday, October 4 - Thursday, October 10

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees

If “Chicks dig the long ball” as suggested in the Nike commercial from the 90s featuring Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mark McGwire and Heather Locklear, then female baseball fans will want to pay close attention to this series.

The Minnesota Twins set a Major League record this year by hitting 307 home runs in the regular season. Which team hit the second most home runs in a season - in Major League history? That would be the Twins’ ALDS opponent, the 2019 New York Yankees, who hit 306 home runs. Needless to say, baseballs will be flying out of Yankee Stadium and Target Field in the coming days, as the two historically powerful teams go head-to-head in a five game series.

Both teams have limited starting pitching - the Yankees feature James Paxton, Luis Severino (injured most of 2019) and Masahiro Tanaka, while the Twins are limited to Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and more than likely a couple of “bullpen games” after the suspension of Michael Pineda. This should only add to the fireworks on display in the series.

With their ability to match the Yankees’ power, the Twins should be able to hang with the Yankees with Berrios and Odorizzi on the mound; however, the thought of relying on the bullpen to record 27 outs in back-to-back games should terrify the Twins and their fan base. Ask the A’s how the “bullpen” approach worked in the 2018 AL Wild-Card game against the Yankees? I’ll take the New York in four games.

Coach Ross’ Prediction - New York in four games

Neil McConnell’s Prediction - New York in four games


National League Championship Series: Friday, October 11 - Saturday, October 19

Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

While the Braves have a realistic opportunity to dethrone the reigning NL Champion Dodgers, I believe Atlanta’s best days are ahead of them, as Acuna and Co. gain playoff experience and the Braves improve their pitching staff (particularly the bullpen).

With the Dodgers owning home field advantage, more October experience, and a couple shiny new toys in Gavin Lux and Will Smith - it’s the Dodgers series to lose. That’s not to say the Braves won’t present a formidable challenge. After all, a team doesn’t win 97 games by accident.

The Braves have some impressive offensive firepower and their pitching staff - Dallas Keuchel, Mike Soroka, the suddenly red-hot Mike Foltynewicz and Julio Teheran - might be able to hang with the Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill). However, the Dodgers have looked like a team on a mission in 2019 and I don’t see them falling to an inexperienced and unproven Atlanta team with an extremely questionable bullpen.

I believe the Los Angeles Dodgers will represent the National League in the World Series for the third consecutive season, as they try to secure their first championship since the 1988 team featuring Tommy Lasorda, Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser.

Neil McConnell on the other hand sees a different result when looking into his crystal ball - he believes the time is now for the young and intriguing Braves, and has Atlanta prevailing in a classic seven game series!

Coach Ross’ Prediction - Los Angeles in five games

Neil McConnell’s Prediction - Atlanta in seven games


American League Championship Series: Saturday, October 12 - Sunday, October 20

New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

This match-up has Major League Baseball in full salvation mode as the star-studded Houston Astros take on one of the most storied sports franchises in the world, the New York Yankees.

This series features two of the most dominant offenses in recent memory. The Yankees with Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez and a finally healthy Giancarlo Stanton - facing off with the Astros line-up featuring - Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, George Springer and the presumed AL Rookie of the Year, Yordan Alvarez.

The two offenses are historically great and match-up very evenly on paper. Both line-ups are powerful and deep, featuring players that can hurt you throughout the batting order. The Astros come into October healthier than they Yankees, while the Yankees feature more options off the bench. 

Where this series will be decided is that patch of dirt located 60 feet and 6 inches away from home plate. The Yankees have struggled to stay healthy and consistent on the mound all season, but have managed their success by out slugging their opponents.

In the Astros, the Yankees have met their offensive match. And unlike the Yankees, the Astros have the luxury of sending three of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball to the mound - Verlander, Cole and Greinke. Combine that with the fact that New York will have faced the team with the most home runs in MLB history in the previous round (Minnesota) and it’s very likely the Yankees pitching staff will be taxed by mid-October.

The Yankees will win a couple "slugfest affairs" to keep it interesting, but the Astros will eventually prevail in six games. Houston is destined for a rematch with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and fans can only hope that it is as exciting as the classic seven game series in 2017.

Coach Ross’ Prediction - Houston in six games

Neil McConnell’s Prediction - Houston in five games


World Series: Tuesday, October 22 - Wednesday, October 30

Los Angeles vs. Houston

It seems unfair to expect the Dodgers and Astros to provide Major League Baseball fans with an encore that would live up to their previous engagement. But, that’s exactly what they will do.

In a back-and-forth affair like the the 2017 World Series, Los Angeles and Houston will provide a number of memorable moments and classic games. With two evenly matched line-ups and bullpens, this series will likely come down to starting pitching. With that being said, Houston has to like their chances.

The Los Angeles rotation of Kershaw, Buehler, Ryu and Hill is elite compared to the rest of the league, but they will be viewed as the underdog in most match-ups with Houston - Verlander, Cole, Greinke and Wade Miley. Therefore, if the Dodgers are going to prevail they will likely need to get to Houston’s bullpen as early and often as possible. This isn’t out of the question considering the Dodgers’ loaded line-up and depth, including newcomers Lux and Smith.

Back in August, I dubbed the Dodgers as the “Biggest Loser of the Trade Deadline." The reason why? Prior to the July 31st deadline, the Dodgers and Astros were equally matched in the starting pitching department. Then, Houston went out and got Zack Greinke, while the Dodgers decided to roll with what they had. At the time, I predicted that the Greinke trade would give the Astros an edge in a potential World Series match-up.

How do I feel now? I’ve changed my mind! I believe Cody Bellinger and Co. will bust out against their former teammate Zack Greinke and the struggling Wade Miley, while holding their own against Verlander and Cole. In doing so, I predict the Dodgers to return the favor against the Astros, as Los Angeles will be the road team celebrating a game seven victory in Houston. So there you have it ladies and gentleman, a lifelong Giants fan predicting the Dodgers to win it all. Now, I'm going to take a shower.

Coach Ross’ Prediction - Los Angeles over Houston in seven games

Neil McConnell’s Prediction - Houston over Atlanta in five games

*Houston fans rejoice, Neil McConnell’s got your back!