After an extremely excint wild card and divisional round in the Major League Baseball postseason, the Conference Series get underway this Saturday morning and continue throughout next week!
The Milwaukee Brewers will face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League while the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros will do battle in the American League Conference Series. We take a look at both series and give our betting tips below!
(Game 1 – Sunday 11am AEDT)
After accumulating the best record of 108-54throughout the regular season, the Red Sox secured home field advantage in their conference championship series against the Astros. The REd Sox have been nearly unstoppable with the bat throughout the regular season and the first round of playoffs. They led the league in runs, hits and team batting average in the regular season and plundered 27 runs in their four games against the Yankees in Round 1. Their batting lineup is extremely consistent yet extremely flexible and boasts some dynamic hitters in the likes of J.D Martinez, who led the league in RBI and Mookie Betts, who topped all Major League batters in batting average.
In fact, Boston boasted four of the top 16 batters in the American League batting averages, with star outfielder Andrew Benintendi and short stop Xander Bogaerts joining Betts and Martinez. For all the talk about the Red Sox batting line-up, their pitching staff is also one of the best in all of baseball. The Sox were fourth in all of baseball in strikeouts in 2018 and eighth in combined ERA. They are led by two Cy Young award winners in David Price and Rick Porcello and their ace Chris Sale, while not a Cy Young winner, is renowned as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Their closer Craig Kimbrel is also near unplayable and racked up the second most saves in the American League this season with 42.
The reigning champion Houston Astros will square off in their second consecutive Conference Series this year, after finishing the regular season with a 103-59 record. While Boston’s dominance was mostly due to their dynamic batting line-up, it was the Houston pitching staff that carried them through the long season. The Astros led the MLB in combined ERA and strikeouts and boast one of the most star studded rotations we’ve seen in recent memory.
Cy Young winner Justin Verlander will be in contention to pick up his second trophy this season while Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton all finished within the top 15 pitchers in the American League in ERA. While the batting line-up was a little inconsistent this season, it’s still stacked to the brim with talent. The Astros piled on 21 runs in their 3-0 whitewash of the Indians in the divisional series as the likes of George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Marwin Gonzalez all fired.
Tough series to call here, the two sides were seperated by just five wins in the regular season but Boston had control of the American League from start to finish and never looked like relinquishing it. Houston have a slight advantage in the starting rotation whereas Boston probably have a slight advantage in the batting line-up. This series could come down to the talent of the bullpens, in which I think Boston should come up trumps. Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Brandon Workman and Joe Kelly have all been great this season and should give the Sox an edge as well as the home field advantage.
(Game 1 – Saturday 11am AEDT)
The Dodgers just managed to snatch first place in the NL West division away from the Colorado Rockies in the final few days of the regular season, finishing one game better with a 92-71 record. While their regular season wasn’t as dominant as their 104-58 2017, they find themselves back in the NLCS and fighting for another a return to the World Series. They were outplayed by the Astros in the 2017 World Series and will be looking to avenge the loss and win their first World Series since 1988.
The Dodgers have been a well-rounded team in 2017. They led the National League in combined ERA and were fifth overall in total runs scored. Ace and three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw was injured for the majority of the regular season but will look to fire in this series, likely starting in two of the seven games if needed. A healthy Kershaw is a scary prospect for the Brewers, as the lefty threw eight scoreless innings with three strikeouts in his only divisional series game.
The Brewers are a surprise contestant in this year’s NLCS, finishing the year with a 96-67 record to edge out the favoured Chicago Cubs in the NL Central division. The Brewers pitching staff finished with a combined ERA of 3.73, the fifth best in all of baseball and is led by Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley.
It’s the Milwaukee batting depth where we see the potential prolems coming, esepcially against the adept Dodgers pitching staff. The Brewers were only a midfield team in both runs, hits and combined batting average this regular season and while they needed only three games to breeze past the Rockies in the NLDS, they scored just 13 runs in those games.
Seems like the Dodgers are destined to get back into the World Series here. This squad has been primed to make a play at a trophy for the last four years now and are yet to snare one. After four straight years of being bounced in the first two rounds, they finally made it to the big dance last season, could they go one better in 2018?
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