1 reason every team can win it all

October 5th, 2021

If you’ve made it to the playoffs, you can win the World Series. For the fanbases of the 10 teams who have made it to October, it’s time to dream. We asked the beat reporters for each of the playoff teams to provide one reason why the team they cover can win it all. Here is what they said. Teams are listed alphabetically by league.


ASTROS: October track record

The Astros have played in 63 playoff games since the start of the 2015 season, which is second only to the Dodgers (70). Their core players -- Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman -- have played in four consecutive ALCS and two World Series that went seven games. In other words, Houston has playoff experience no other team can boast, with the exception of Los Angeles.

Of the 12 active players who have played the most postseason games, the Astros have four of them: Altuve and Correa (63); Bregman and Gurriel (57). Altuve (tied for sixth) and Correa (tied for ninth) are in the Top 10 all-time in postseason homers. Lance McCullers Jr., who started Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, has 46 2/3 career postseason innings. In addition, outfielder Michael Brantley, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, starters Zack Greinke and José Urquidy, catcher Martín Maldonado and outfielder Kyle Tucker all have World Series experience, along with closer Ryan Pressly. -- Brian McTaggart

RAYS: A complete team

The one thing about the Rays is that they don’t just have one thing. Long known for run prevention, this Tampa Bay team, with the additions of Wander Franco and Nelson Cruz, became the franchise’s highest-scoring lineup ever. They remain one of the Majors’ best defensive teams, especially in the outfield, and they can still pitch well -- even if the names aren’t as familiar as they’ve been in years past. Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Luis Patiño and Shane Baz form a hard-throwing group of young starters, and manager Kevin Cash will deploy the Rays’ deep, versatile bullpen early and often. They have postseason experience after last year, and having lost to the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series, they have plenty of motivation, too. -- Adam Berry

RED SOX: October experience

Between their recent acquisitions and holdovers, the Red Sox have a strong group of players who know what it takes to play deep into October. Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, Matt Barnes, Christian Vázquez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers remain from the 2018 World Series championship team. Kiké Hernández played for the World Series-winning Dodgers last season while Hunter Renfroe was on the losing side for the Rays. Kyle Schwarber had a huge hit for the Cubs in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Though other teams might have more talent, you can be sure the moment won’t get too big for the veteran-laden Red Sox. -- Ian Browne

WHITE SOX: Tony La Russa

The White Sox are one of the most complete teams in baseball when totally healthy, a state they rarely have played during the 2021 season. But their X-factor just might be La Russa, who already has 70 postseason victories, six pennants and three World Series titles on his Hall of Fame resume. The man certainly knows October baseball, even though his last postseason was in 2011, when he guided the National League Wild Card-winning Cardinals to a World Series title. Despite trying to win every day, La Russa managed the regular season with an eye toward October, taking advantage of a huge AL Central lead to keep his players fresh and rested. White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf pointed to La Russa’s excellence in handling pitching as something this talented team needed, and being able to execute those mound-managing skills is a key part of October success. -- Scott Merkin

YANKEES: Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge

The Yankees are seeing what they dreamed about four winters ago when they partnered Stanton with Judge, the only players to slug 50 or more homers in the previous season (2017). Stanton was then the reigning NL MVP, and Judge was the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year, prompting Stanton to remark: “I feel sorry for the baseballs.” Injuries have kept the hulking he-men from fulfilling that vision -- until now. With both players healthy and crushing balls regularly, the Yankees’ offense can rest upon their shoulders, taking pressure off the supporting cast. Stanton’s remarkable weekend in Boston, when he crushed three homers and collected 10 RBIs, could be a hint of what is to come. Stanton rose to the occasion in last year’s playoffs, and he is poised to do so again. If the big boys aren’t bashing, the uber-streaky Yanks could have trouble making a deep run … but if they are, look out. -- Bryan Hoch


BRAVES: Plethora of power hitters

With the Trade Deadline acquisitions of Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario, the Braves added outfielders who each hit at least 30 homers either this year or within the past three seasons. The trio joined a lineup that already included Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies and Austin Riley, who all enjoyed 30-homer seasons this year. Dansby Swanson nearly gave the Braves four infielders with 30-plus homers. This power plays in the postseason, when top-flight pitchers often prevent teams from being successful with a station-to-station approach. There’s reason to question Atlanta's starting pitching depth and certainly the bullpen -- but power can cure many ills. -- Mark Bowman

BREWERS: Pitching depth and dominance

The Brewers have elite talent at the top of their rotation in Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta -- all of whom were among the NL Cy Young Award contenders for most of the season -- and capable depth behind that trio in left-hander Eric Lauer (3.19 ERA) and right-hander Adrian Houser (3.22 ERA). Then they have an elite option at the back of the bullpen in closer Josh Hader, who has a strong case to win the NL Reliever of the Year Award for the third time in four seasons. (The absence of setup man Devin Williams, who broke his hand while celebrating a division clinch, knocks the pitching staff down a peg.)

The offense has been hit or miss, especially with star outfielder Christian Yelich slogging through a second consecutive subpar season. But their outstanding pitching means they typically need just one big hit to win a ballgame. -- Adam McCalvy

CARDINALS: They’re red-hot

During the Cardinals’ penultimate homestand this season, the club held a 10-year commemoration of the 2011 World Series team -- a hot September club who clawed their way to a Wild Card and made a magical run to the top of the baseball mantle. That club long knew they had the talent to win a championship, though they may not have shown it at points in the regular season. They simply believed they needed a ticket to October, and the rest would take care of itself. This 2021 team is not the 2011 team. In fact, they’re hotter, accomplishing a feat -- a 17-game win streak -- never done before in franchise history. They’ve morphed into a team no one wants to face at exactly the right time. -- Zachary Silver

DODGERS: Starting pitching

Coming into the season, most people thought the Dodgers were going to be carried by an explosive offense. But over the last six months, the offense has shown signs of being elite, though it has been inconsistent for most of the season, particularly over the last two months. Instead, it’s been top-flight starting pitching that has carried the Dodgers to the second-best record in the Majors. The rotation is led by Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler, both of whom will likely finish in the top five in NL Cy Young Award voting. Then the Dodgers have Julio Urías, who led MLB in wins (20). Even if they have to go without Clayton Kershaw, who is questionable due to a left elbow injury, the top end of the rotation is elite. The Dodgers are going to need their offense to step up in the playoffs, but the starting rotation should keep Los Angeles within striking distance in every game they play. -- Juan Toribio

GIANTS: Consistency

The Giants, fueled by a mix of resurgent veterans and a deep cast of supporting characters, never had a bad month during the regular season, which explains why they held the best record in baseball for most of the year. Their longest regular-season skid was four games, a sign of their depth and ability to rebound from tough losses. With the oldest position-player group in the Majors, the Giants have plenty of experienced players who have been here before and won’t be overwhelmed by the big stage. -- Maria Guardado