If baseball’s postseason was like the NCAA college basketball tournament, it’s highly likely there would not have been a single perfect bracket left in contests by the time the final four was set.
A couple of teams that have advanced to their respective League Championship Series were expected to be there; others were considered surprise winners, “upsetting” their favored opponents.
Hours before the first ALCS game between the Astros and Red Sox gets underway at Minute Maid Park, we took our best shot at ranking the remaining postseason teams, 1-4:
Our No. 1 team was going to be whichever won what turned out to be one of the most compelling postseason series of modern times, and while the Dodgers beat the Giants to advance to the NLCS with the Braves, we can all probably agree we wish this NLDS could have lasted 40 games. Even with the Dodgers moving on and the Giants going home, there may never be a majority consensus on which of these teams, over the long haul, was better. Magical years all around.
2. Red Sox
Boston’s wrecking ball of a lineup allowed the Sox to roll to an ALDS win over the heavily-favored Rays, and now we’ll find out how they’ll do against that OTHER scary offensive team, the Astros. This ALCS could be highly entertaining, if not frustrating for pitchers on both sides. The Red Sox slashed .328/.372/.547 with 11 homers and 32 runs scored in five postseason games, including the Wild Card win over the Yankees. Keep an eye on Kiké Hernández, who is 10-for-23 (.435) with three doubles, two homers and six RBIs so far this postseason. Fun fact: he began his career with the Astros in 2014.
Lance McCullers Jr. is not on the ALCS roster due to a forearm issue, and the Astros have an uphill climb ahead of themselves in the ALCS. It’ll be a daunting task getting through the best-of-seven series without a true ace on the pitching staff, and the bullpen is likely going to be stretched even more thin than it was in the ALDS win over the White Sox. If the offense keeps clicking, it’s doable. The Astros exploited even the smallest of weaknesses they detected from Chicago’s pitching, and if they can apply that same pressure vs. the Red Sox, this could be a close, competitive series.
The strength of Atlanta’s starting staff hasn’t exactly been underrated, but perhaps it was underestimated during the NLDS with the Brewers. A trio of Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson may not be of the same ilk as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz from two decades ago, but so far, the current three have performed close to that level in the postseason. They’ve combined to allow four runs over 20 1/3 innings, with all of the runs surrendered by Morton.