2018 World Series Predictions

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It’s been a whirlwind of a day, so I’m going to make this one pretty brief. I talked more in-depth about the Red Sox and the Dodgers in my 2018 NLCS/ALCS Predictions that accurately selected the two powerhouses to advance this far. So who will hold the Commissioner’s Trophy? Let’s take a look at the World Series.

Long story short, both of these clubs easily have the most stacked lineups from top to bottom in the MLB. The pitching rotations aren’t great, but they are built to win playoff games with 2 or 3 aces. Both bullpens have been shaky at times, but dependable which is all one could ask for in October.

However, there are two key differences. The first is the managers. Dave Roberts is a seasoned veteran. He’s been criticized at times, but at the end of the day, he knows his players very well and puts together a strategic lineup every game. His in-game use of the bullpen and various double switches could be improved, but I give him a solid B+. Best of all, Roberts was managing games this late last year too, as his team fell to the Houston Astros in the Fall Classic. The man knows what it takes to win in the playoffs, and what he did to lose in them.

That’s not to say that Red Sox manager Alex Cora is inexperienced. It may be his first year as the skipper, but he too was in last year’s World Series… helping AJ Hinch’s team take the title. As a rookie manager, Cora has led Boston to their best regular season in franchise history, and is now just four wins away from the cherry on top. If he trusts himself as much as his team and fanbase does, the Red Sox will not be at a disadvantage in coaching.

The second difference is consistency. The reason the Dodgers couldn’t knock off the Brewers sooner is their inability to always score. The Brewers did a great job of putting points on the board every night. No, they never scored 8 or 9, but 2 or 3 is sometimes all it takes in the playoffs. Sure, the Dodgers are capable of it, but they are equally likely to be shut out too.

The Red Sox aren’t perfect in that sense, but much more reliable. Boston cans struggle at the hands of good starting pitching, as most teams do, but what sets them apart from the League is their drive to dig and string a few hits together when it matters. They rarely get blown out with their never-say-die mentality that ultimately stems from a player’s coach and that MVP in right field.

PREDICTIONS

Game 1 – Clayton Kershaw at Chris Sale, Red Sox win 4-3

Game 2 – Hyun-jin Ryu at David Price, Dodgers win 5-0

Game 3 – Rick Porcello at Walker Buehler, Red Sox win 7-6

Game 4 – Nathan Eovaldi at Rich Hill, Red Sox win 5-1

Game 5 – Chris Sale at Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers win 3-0

Game 6 – Hyun-Jin Ryu at David Price, Red Sox win 6-3

Red Sox in 6.

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2018-2019 NBA Predictions

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We are a few games into the NBA season, and it’s about time I publish my predictions for this year. Last season, seeding aside, I was able to predict 14 of the 16 playoff teams, including both conference finals match-ups and their series’ going the distance, as well as the eventual champion.. Golden State Warriors. How will I fare this season? Let’s take a look at who’s riding through the postseason this spring.

Eastern Conference

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  1. Boston Celtics

The Celtics fell two games shy of the Eastern Conference regular-season title last year, but they were still able to take the Cavaliers to Game 7 in the Conference finals without their superstars Kyrie Irving and, of course, Gordon Hayward. Apart from the 76ers and maybe the Raptors, there isn’t anyone in this crippled Eastern Conference able to challenge Boston.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

The only thing holding the 76ers back from greatness is their coach, whose contract they unfortunately extended this past offseason. Ben Simmons is the future of the NBA, Joel Embiid is an imposing center with a lot of potential, and Markelle Fultz can still make his mark on the League. If only Brett Brown could manage in-game situations against formidable opposition…

  1. Toronto Raptors

Contrary to popular belief, the Raptors didn’t get a whole lot better with the addition of Kawhi Leonard. DeMar DeRozan was an all-star and the heart of Toronto. Leonard can be that same guy, and he may even have more skill, but he doesn’t change the franchise. To quote James Franklin, Toronto is a great basketball team, but they aren’t elite.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

This team is as good as Giannis Antetokounmpo. A perennial MVP candidate with infamous length and now some more muscle, the big man should be a force in the NBA this year. The question is, even in a depleted conference, how much can one man do?

  1. Washington Wizards

Nothing has changed in Washington. They seem to always be fighting for home court in the playoffs as the four or five seed every year. This year, with the same stout backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, the threat of Dwight Howard replaces Marcin Gortat under the rim. If the old Howard comes to play, the Wizards can be far better than a 5 seed, but if it’s the journeyman Howard, 5 may be the best case scenario.

  1. Indiana Pacers

Victor Oladipo and the Pacers surprised me not once, but twice last year by making the playoffs. I’m a believer in the Indiana native’s ability to distribute the ball while being a threat himself, and he should be considered a top 10 point guard in the league today. The Pacers have an opportunity to feast in the East, but without the talent of the elite teams, I think they remain in the middle of the pack.

  1. Miami Heat

It’s Dwayne Wade’s farewell season, and there is no way that Miami doesn’t play more than 82 games this year. Obviously, Wade isn’t the superstar he used to be, but his city and his team should rally around one of the greatest players to don the Heat uniform as he steps off the court for the last time.

  1. Detroit Pistons

The Pelicans have shown that the two-center system works over the course of a season, and Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond can easily outmuscle most of the East. Detroit would love more production in the backcourt and beyond the arc, but for someone who really values consistency, I think the Pistons are underrated.

 

Western Conference

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  1. Golden State Warriors

The reigning world champions only got better this offseason when DeMarcus Cousins sold out to join this team of all-stars. The NBA has a serious problem with championship chasers, and until that is fixed, the Warriors will roll.

  1. Houston Rockets

I think the Rockets had all of the tools that they needed last year to win a championship, so the addition of Carmelo Anthony helps. However, it only helps because he knows his ability and role as a bench player. He has not been the same player since leaving the Nuggets, and he has to recognize that, like Russell Westbrook, he cannot win a championship with his style of play. That said, if he comes off the bench, the Rockets have relentless scoring pressure from starters James Harden and Chris Paul as well as the second line led by Carmelo Anthony when the duo is tired. Not to mention, when Anthony doesn’t have to compete against the league’s best, his numbers will have a resurgence. I love the humility of this former NBA great.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder

With that said, the Thunder will actually get better by dropping Carmelo Anthony. As I had predicted, his unwillingness to move to the bench to instead compete for touches with Russell Westbrook and Paul George was detrimental to a really good team. Now, with his ego off of the roster, the Thunder can be as good as last year’s Houston Rockets.

  1. San Antonio Spurs

I see a lot of people writing off the Spurs and I can’t understand why. Last year, they were two games away from the 3 seed, and they didn’t have their superstar Kawhi Leonard at all. Now, they have DeMar DeRozan, who I view as comparable, but he’s actually going to play, and he’ll probably have a fire under him because of how Toronto betrayed him this summer. Not to mention, San Antonio has one of the greatest coaches to step on the court in Gregg Popovich. Don’t sleep on the Spurs, guys.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

Now it gets difficult. There is a lot of parity in the West, and it makes for some teams that deserve to be in the playoffs, but there just isn’t enough room. I’m only at the 5 seed and I’m thinking about it. I’ve given this rank to Portland for their marksman and clutch play in the backcourt of Damian Lilliard and C.J. McCollum.

  1. Utah Jazz

Despite Gordon Hayward leaving after 2016, the Jazz didn’t miss a beat (no pun intended). Donovan Mitchell should have been the Rookie of the Year last year if not for a technicality, and Rudy Gobert is one of my favorite young centers in the league. Utah is capable of another great season despite the small market.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers

Yeah, there is no way that LeBron James misses out on the postseason, even if he doesn’t have much help around him in L.A. Honestly, it’s hard for me to say how or why, but you know James’ magic and commitment to the game will elevate those around him as they strive for greatness together. It won’t happen this year, but you can’t doubt that a title is coming back to the Lakers soon.

  1. Denver Nuggets

The last spot was especially tough, as I have to leave out the Pelicans, the Timberwolves, and the Suns for various small reasons. I’ve gone with Denver for their combination of experience and depth. Isaiah Thomas leads the way, even if he has seen better days, and Nikola Jokic continues to get better under the rim every year. It won’t be easy, but the Nuggets snag that last spot.

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

East First Round

(1) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Detroit Pistons – Detroit’s two-center system wins in the regular season, but not the postseason. Celtics in 4

(2) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (7) Miami Heat – Dwane Wade’s last ride ends in Philly. 76ers in 5

(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (6) Indiana Pacers – After the Raptors relieved the Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, of his duties, we will see how much Nick Nurse can win in the playoffs. Raptors in 5

(4) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (5) Washington Wizards – These teams have been oppositely equal in my eyes for a long time, so this meeting should be fun. Wizards in 7

West First Round

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Denver Nuggets – Not much to say here, with “Boogie” Cousins fully healthy at this point, GSW should cruise. Warriors in 4

(2) Houston Rockets vs. (7) Los Angeles Lakers – It was a good run, but LeBron James cannot make it back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Rockets in 6

(3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (6) Utah Jazz – Even as the three seed, the Thunder might be underrated. Unfortunately for the young Jazz team, the road ends here. Thunder in 4

(4) San Antonio Spurs vs. (5) Portland Trailblazers – The West is top-heavy, which makes for easy first round matches… but a different story in the Conference Semifinals. Spurs in 7

Eastern Conference Semifinals

(1) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Washington Wizards – The Celtics have a few rivalries to deal with before making it to the NBA Finals. The first, a physical series full of hate with Washington. Celtics in 6

(2) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (3) Toronto Raptors – The answer to my question about Nick Nurse? He can’t. Advice for the future- don’t fire the Coach of the Year. 76ers in 7

Western Conference Semifinals

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (4) San Antonio Spurs – A rematch of last year’s disappointing series is a little more interesting this year with both future Hall of Fame coaches likely on the sidelines for the duration. Warriors in 6

(2) Houston Rockets vs. (3) Oklahoma City Thunder – Another rivalry matchup as the great state of Texas is divided for the clash of the playoffs. Rockets in 7

Conference Finals

(1) Boston Celtics vs. (2) Philadelphia 76ers – If it wasn’t for Brett Brown, the 76ers would win this rematch. Unfortunately for them, Boston betters their bitter rivals again. Celtics in 7

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) Houston Rockets – The Warriors gravy train to the NBA Finals is derailed. Rockets in 6

NBA FINALS PREDICTION: Rockets over Celtics in 7

2018 NLCS/ALCS Predictions

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And then there were four. In last week’s action, I got burned for sticking with my April pick to win the World Series, but I can’t be upset with correctly picking the other three finalists, predicting the first six games winners, and even getting the winning score correct in the first four of those games. I’ll try to keep it rolling. Let’s take a look at who’s moving on to the Fall Classic.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Brewers

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Things kick off tonight with the Dodgers visiting the Brewers. Both teams cruised through their respective division series with the Brew Crew shutting down the Rockies’ offense, and doing their job to advance, while the Dodgers were one grand slam away from doing the same to the Braves in three games instead of four.

I mentioned before why I love this year’s Brewers team. They actually remind me of the 2003 World Series Champion Marlins. There is just nothing special about them. No superstars, no perfect pitching, not the best coach in the world, but everyone does his job. They consistently manufacture three or four runs a game, and the pitchers can grind out quality starts without giving up the big inning.

The Brewers are a team that doesn’t beat themselves, and when the opposition tries to do too much, Milwaukee’s small ball prevails. They are riding an 11-game winning streak, one shy of the franchise record, as they look to march on and claim their club’s first ever Commissioner’s Trophy. With everyone else having won a championship before, one could argue that the Brewers want to advance more than any of the remaining teams.

The problem is, I don’t see a glaring weakness in Los Angeles. They do have superstars, great pitching, and one of the best coaches in the League. Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and newly acquired Manny Machado lead the way, but I truly believe every hitter in that dugout is dangerous in the right spot. They have a good balance of power and contact that can break down most pitchers and be successful over 9 innings.

The pitching staff is obviously headlined by Clayton Kershaw, who is still looking for his first ring. Arguably the greatest pitcher of all time, Kershaw needs to put his postseason struggles behind him to solidify his legacy. Next in line is rookie Walker Buehler, who was shelled by Ronald Acuna, and Rich Hill, who has been in the NLCS a time or two.

That’s the key for L.A.- experience. The Brewers haven’t seen a spotlight like this in a long time, and the Dodgers were here last year. Manager Dave Roberts has done a fantastic job managing his players through injury and hot streaks, and this series should be no different. He knows his team well, and the outcome of this series is on his shoulders.

PREDICTIONS:

Game 1 – Clayton Kershaw @ Gio Gonzalez, Dodgers win 5-2

Game 2 – Hyun-Jin Ryu @ Wade Miley, Dodgers win 6-3

Game 3 – Jhoulys Chacin @ Walker Buehler, Brewers win 4-2

Game 4 – Junior Guerra @ Rich Hill, Dodgers win 4-3

Game 5 – Brandon Woodruff @ Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers win 3-1

Dodgers in 5.

 

Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox

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Easily the two best teams in the American League this year, it’s only fitting that these two titans would clash with a trip to the World Series on the line. The clubs meet for the second October in a row, as the Astros took down the Sox in four games in last year’s ALDS en route to their first World Series in franchise history. Now the question is, do they have the hunger to do what no team has done since the ’98-’00 Yankees and go back-to-back?

The Red Sox boast a dangerous lineup of studs. Mookie Betts leads the way in my AL MVP voting in part due to his deadly combination of power, contact, and speed in the field. J.D. Martinez is a straight slugger with no fear, and it looks like even utility guys can come off the bench and hit for the fist cycle in MLB postseason history like Brock Holt. As good as Houston’s pitching staff is, they have their work cut out for them.

The ALCS most likely depends on the play of Boston’s starting pitching. The bats are there and so is the bullpen, but the starters all have a record of being shaky in the playoffs. Sure, the Yankees can make anyone look bad on any given night, but it’s been a trend for too long from guys like Chris Sale and David Price. It will be interesting to see what first-year manager Alex Cora does if these guys start to struggle early versus late. I’ll bet he wants to beat the Astros more than anyone else, as he was a part of that team that won it all last year.

Minus Cora, the Astros bring back virtually the same team, and in virtually the same form from 2017. If anything, they got better with the addition of former Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole. The pitching staff was lights out against the Indians, taking care of business in a quick three-game series. The Indians’ lineup isn’t mild by any stretch, but the Red Sox are on the next level. Cole along with my Cy Young pick Justin Verlander will have to prove that they are among the best throwers in the MLB if they want to get back to the Fall Classic.

Another great thing about Houston is their patience at the plate. Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Alex Bregman could not be more composed in any given situation. With their leadership and experience, the pressure is on Boston to force a swing-and-miss. As long as the rest of the lineup follows suit, I don’t see the Red Sox doing that four times a game. Then, it’s all about a shootout. These teams are so evenly matched, it’s anybodies guess what happens game-to-game.

PREDICTIONS

Game 1 – Justin Verlander @ Chris Sale, Red Sox win 3-2

Game 2 – Gerrit Cole @ David Price, Astros win 5-3

Game 3 – Nathan Eovaldi @ Dallas Keuchel, Astros win 4-3

Game 4 – Rick Porcello @ Charlie Morton, Red Sox win 7-5

Game 5 – Chris Sale @ Justin Verlander, Astros win 3-0

Game 6 – Gerrit Cole @ Nathan Eovaldi, Red Sox win 5-4

Game 7 – Dallas Keuchel @ Rick Porcello, Red Sox win 2-1

Red Sox in 7

2018 ALDS/NLDS Predictions

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On to the next one. After one anticlimactic victory in the Bronx and an absolute heartbreak at Wrigley, we have narrowed the field to eight. I do feel for Chicago. One day they’re one big hit away from the best record in the National League, and 24 hours later they find themselves out of the playoffs just as it gets started. After a grueling 163 games, their season is as over as the Orioles’ season is… but the validity of the Wild Card game is a discussion for another day. Let’s take a look at the best-of-five Division Series.

 

Cleveland Indians vs. Houston Astros

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The Astros’ journey to repeat as World Champions makes its first stop against Cleveland. One of the first teams to clinch their spot in the postseason, Houston nearly gave up the division lead before ultimately finishing off the final two weeks with a commanding six-game difference. For the Indians, there was hardly any doubt that they would finish at the top of the AL Central. As weak as every other team in that division was, it’s hard to figure why the Indians have the worst record of all playoff teams besides Atlanta… perhaps we are about to find out.

The Astros are the same powerhouse that they were last year, but they are missing one thing: hunger. They have a convincing 103 wins on their resume, but they don’t have the feel of a dominant win-at-all-costs mentality when it counts. A.J. Hinch has proven that he is one of the best managers in the MLB, but he has not instilled the same drive as he did when the Astros claimed their first title in franchise history last year.

The talent is there at the plate with perennial superstars Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman. Arguably more impressive is their starting pitching staff, as my AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander takes the hill in Game 1 following one of the best seasons of his long career. His 2017 playoff exploits are well-documented and he should be a force in 2018 as well. The rotation rounds out with aces Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel along with all-star Charlie Morton. They have all the pieces, but do they want it enough?

The Indians have been surprisingly lackadaisical in their own right…basically the Patriots of the MLB.  There isn’t any reason the Indians shouldn’t have run away with their division, and granted, they did by 13 games, but staying under 100 wins worries me. Preseason, I had the Tribe just behind the Astros for the best record in the MLB, so this match-up is very high-profile, and will be very difficult for the Indians to take on without home field advantage.

Cleveland boasts some big bats too. Of course there’s Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Edwin Encarnacion, but now there is the controversial addition of former AL MVP Josh Donaldson. For those unfamiliar with the situation, Donaldson was on the DL for the Blue Jays when he was reinstated to the MLB roster before being immediately traded and put back on the DL by the Indians. It’s against MLB trade rules to deal an injured player, so this was met with some ire around the MLB. In any case, the man is here now, and we are yet to see what he truly brings to the table for the Indians.

The key for this series is starting pitching. The Astros have the better all-around lineup, and the Indians can control the game beyond the 7th inning. That gives Houston 5 or 6 innings to take a lead and try to hold it. Houston can definitely be confident in their rotation, but Cleveland’s is a question mark. Sure Corey Kluber is one of the best pitchers in the game, but he has yet to play great postseason baseball. Carlos Carrasco is the obvious number two, and he famously missed out on the 2016 World Series run with an injury, so his playoff experience is limited. Beyond that, injuries have left the Indians scrambling for innings, and that will ultimately cost them.

PREDICTIONS:

Game 1- Corey Kluber at Justin Verlander, Astros win 4-2

Game 2 – Carlos Carrasco at Gerrit Cole, Astros win 6-5

Game 3 – Dallas Keuchel at Mike Clevinger, Indians win 5-1

Game 4 – Justin Verlander at Corey Kluber, Astros win 2-1

Astros in 4.

 

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

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This is what baseball is all about. The best rivalry in sports in an abbreviated best-of-five playoff series. It’s hard to believe the last time these two giants met in October was the infamous 2004 ALCS that saw the Red Sox come back from an 0-3 hole to win the pennant. The Sox and the Yankees have had two of the best seasons in the MLB this year, and neither wants to have their work undone by their bitter rival. Let’s get into it.

The Red Sox haven’t played a game in five days, and that could be a huge factor in Game 1. Too much rest is definitely a bad thing, especially when they face a Yankees team that has maintained some hot bats as the season came to an end. However, new manager Alex Cora has led Boston to their best regular season in their long franchise history, and there are countless factors to explain it.

First, they have a nearly unstoppable lineup. From top to bottom, Boston has a deadly combination of contact, power, and an ability to get the important hit. I could single guys out like my AL MVP Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, but truthfully there isn’t a single guy on that roster that I wouldn’t trust with the bat in his hand. The Yankees pitchers will have to do their homework.

The likes of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and even Eduardo Rodriguez have been superb throughout the summer, but their postseason track records tell a different story. We already saw one of the greatest pitchers of all time get benched in Game 1 for his lack of postseason success, but by the looks of it, the Red Sox are going to try to power through. Either these guys find their form in some of the most heated ALDS action in years, or their legacy is already written in stone, and they crumble under the playoff lights.

This is great news for the Yankees, as their biggest weakness is easily starting pitching. They’re down an ace after Luis Severino started the Wild Card game and spun a gem through four innings before Aaron Boone quickly pulled him from the game. I initially questioned the move, but it worked out in the end as Dellin Betances eliminated the threat and the Yanks cruised into this matchup.

J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka aren’t major steps down, though on paper they are inferior to the Red Sox’s rotation. So, with a small advantage going to Boston’s bats and the pressure on the ace pitchers to play like it in the playoffs, the pressure is on the Red Sox to win. This is sure to be another exciting chapter in this great rivalry, and we are all lucky to see it unfold starting tonight.

PREDICTIONS:

Game 1 – J.A. Happ at Chris Sale, Red Sox win 5-3

Game 2 – Masahiro Tanaka at David Price, Yankees win 7-1

Game 3 – Rick Porcello at Luis Severino, Yankees win 6-3

Game 4 – Chris Sale at C.C. Sabathia, Red Sox win 8-5

Game 5 – Masahiro Tanaka at David Price, Yankees win 4-2

Yankees in 5. (I have to go with my preseason World Series Champions)

 

Colorado Rockies vs. Milwaukee Brewers

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I’ll be honest, I never really thought I’d be making a playoff prediction between the NL regular-season champion Milwaukee Brewers and the Colorado Rockies. Both of these clubs have had absolute fairy-tale seasons and it’s going to be a shame to watch one of them bow out now. Before going any further, I know Game 1 happened yesterday, but it hasn’t influenced my overall series prediction.

An advantage that the Brewers have, unlike the Red Sox, is that they haven’t had to wait quite as long for their next game. However, the Rockies haven’t gotten much time to breathe and take in the moment having to play in some extremely important baseball games over the past week. Well, now Colorado made it. How do they respond?

Ironically, it’s been stellar pitching. They are known for the hitter-friendly Coors Field and dangerous bats of Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, and Trevor Story, but they have failed to truly produce so far this week. Luckily, the Rockies have played great defense and kept their dreams alive by silencing their opponents’ bats as well. I don’t really expect that to continue, as last night was proof that the Rockies will need to string runs together to win ball games at this level.

The Brewers lucked out last night as they were virtually shut out but for a Christian Yelich two-run homer to give them some comfort. With a pitching staff like Milwaukee’s, who didn’t even have a true starter for Game 1, it’s probably only a matter of time before the Rockies wake up at the plate.

I love the style of the Brew Crew. Yes, Yelich is probably the NL MVP, but even he isn’t truly a “big name”. You have the Bryants, the Altuves, and the Trouts, but the Brewers don’t really have a true star. Across the board they do their job and contribute. Cain, Yelich, Moustakas, Shaw, Aguilar… they do what they’re good at, and they do it well. That wins you an even-matched playoff series.

PREDICTIONS

*Game 1 – Antonio Senzatela at Brandon Woodruff, Brewers won 3-2

Game 2 – Tyler Anderson at Jhoulys Chacin, Brewers win 4-3

Game 3 – Wade Miley at Kyle Freeland, Rockies win 9-2

Game 4 – Gio Gonzalez at German Marquez, Rockies win 4-1

Game 5 – Antonio Senzatela at Jhoulys Chacin, Brewers win 3-2

Brewers in 5

 

Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

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I saw the score for Game 1 here too, but it only reaffirmed my belief that the NL is the Dodgers’ to lose. They have by far the best and most experienced batters, pitchers, and coaches. It really is that simple. The Braves are young and have had a tremendous season out of nowhere, but they have the worst record among playoff teams, and they just aren’t ready for baseball like this. The nothing-to-lose attitude is great, and maybe they can steal a game from L.A. with that mentality, but it isn’t sustainable in a must-win format.

I don’t really have much more to say on the matter. The Dodgers held out Kershaw from Game 1 due to his postseason miscues, and they were still all over Atlanta from the first batter… literally. This should be quick and painless for the Dodger faithful, and at least Atlanta can say they made it this far. Congrats to the NL East Division Champions, it was well deserved and it’s only the beginning with guys like Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Freddie Freeman sticking around for the long haul.

PREDICTIONS:

*Game 1 – Mike Foltynewicz at Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers won 6-0

Game 2 – Anibal Sanchez at Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers win 2-1

Game 3 – Rich Hill at Julio Teheran, Dodgers win 4-3

Dodgers in 3

2018 MLB Wild Card Predictions

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We may have finished the regular season a day later than some anticipated, but we don’t have to wait any longer for postseason baseball. Before I get to my predictions for the midweek games, indulge me as I detail my MLB predictions since creating Sports Thoughts: 6 division winners in 2017 and 3 in 2018 (75%), 7 of 10 playoff teams in both 2017 and 2018 (70%), as well correctly predicting that a Game 163 would occur in 2018. If it wasn’t for the Cubs dropping to the Brewers at home on Monday, I’d be 83% effective when picking division winners, the only misses being a disappointing 2018 Nationals campaign, and a historic Red Sox season that saw them outlast the Yankees for the AL East title.

Last year, I also correctly predicted both Wild Card games and both Conference Championships, but my Achilles heel was a 1-3 record in the Division Series, and so I finished with an improvable 56% postseason record. We’ll see if I start just as hot as last season with my picks for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Let’s take a look at my 2018 Wild Card predictions.

 

Colorado Rockies at Chicago Cubs

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Unfortunate scheduling sees the two tiebreaker losers playing the very next night to keep their seasons alive. The Cubs were looking at the #1 seed in the National League 24 hours ago, and now they’re facing elimination. The Rockies made it interesting against the Dodgers late, but still suffered a tough loss. Now they hop on a plane to Chicago with their season on the line. It was an emotionally draining day for both clubs, so who can pick up the pieces first?

The pitching matchup features the veteran Jon Lester for the Cubs taking on an upstart young pitcher in Kyle Freeland. I wouldn’t say either can necessarily take over the game, thus I expect the bullpen to make the difference late. Both lineups are pretty much equally dangerous at the plate. The likes of Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, and Trevor Story get help from a red-hot David Dahl and a steady DJ LeMahieu for the Rockies. The Cubs return all of the crowd favorites to the postseason as Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Ben Zobrist.

The X-factor for Chicago is Daniel Murphy, the former Mets second baseman who nearly single-handedly crushed the Cubs’ World Series dreams in 2015. Now, he can change the North Side’s opinion of him if he can deliver for Chicago on Tuesday night. Additionally, with the luxury of staying home for a good night’s sleep on Monday, the Cubs have a huge advantage in not only rest, but a raucous home crowd in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Despite struggling in the 8th inning against the Brew Crew, I think the combination of a relentless, experienced lineup and a rested pitching staff gives the Cubs a best-of-five rematch with Milwaukee.

Cubs win 5-3.

 

Oakland Athletics at New York Yankees

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The story is far different for the American League Wild Card game. As the seeding was locked in way before Game 162, the A’s and Yanks could afford to go into cruise control as they prepared for their upcoming elimination game on Wednesday night. It’s hard to predict how the players and coaches will deal with the emotions that come with playoff baseball in Yankee Stadium, and without announced starters at the time of this article, it’s even harder to foresee how the early innings will go down.

I’ll be blunt: the Athletics’ starting pitching is pretty abysmal. Luckily, they boast one of, if not the best bullpens in the MLB. Mike Fiers is really the only starter that has a shot in this game, and he was just shelled by the Angels in his last start. Meanwhile, word has it that Liam Hendriks, who hasn’t allowed a run since September 1, may throw the first inning or two before turning the game over to the rest of the pen. It would be a smart move to play to their strengths, but that puts a lot of stress on Oakland’s bullpen not only on this game, but down the road if they are fortunate enough to advance.

For the Yankees, I’m giving the start to ace Luis Severino over J.A. Happ, who is 7-0 in a Yankee uniform. While Severino hasn’t been the Cy Young candidate fans were expecting, he has a pretty superb 3.39 ERA on the season, and he has held opponents to three runs or less in his last six quality starts. However, it’s worth mentioning that in the middle of that span he had his worst start since July. On September 5, he allowed 6 runs on 6 hits in 2 2/3 innings to.. guess who? The Oakland Athletics.

With all of that said, the pitching isn’t the story of this matchup. The A’s and Yankees have two of the best offenses in the MLB and it’s going to be feast or famine at the plate. There really isn’t a single guy I’d want to face on the Yankees roster, as they bring sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Gary Sanchez, and Luke Voit who is absolutely on fire. If Oakland goes with their bullpen strategy, I expect double-digit strikeouts, but also at least three home runs.

The A’s aren’t as dangerous from top to bottom, but they sure can swing it at the heart of the lineup. Khris Davis has crushed 48 home runs while playing games at a very deep Oakland Coliseum, Jed Lowrie has 99 RBIs to trail only Davis’s 123 on the team, and Matt Chapman and Matt Olsen seemingly always come through in the final innings when Oakland needs a rally. In a hitter’s park like Yankee Stadium, it doesn’t matter who is on the mound… the A’s will take them deep.

The flow of the game will echo their respective seasons. They feel each other out for innings 1 and 2. The bottom of the Yankees order hits Fiers after he comes in for Hendriks, and the Yankees finish the 3rd up 3-0. Severino gives one or two back, but that’s it through 5. The Yankees go hitless until the 6th when they string a few together to take a commanding 7-2 lead by the 7th inning stretch with a couple of long bombs. However, when the mighty A’s closers come in, they are unable to extend the lead as Oakland starts their comeback. Two runs in the 7th, another in the 8th, and an RBI double with one out in the 9th. Now clinging to a one-run lead, manager Aaron Boone opts to leave in Aroldis Chapman who strikes out the final two batters and strands the tying run in scoring position.

Yankees win 7-6.

2018 NBA Finals Reactions

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The end of an era and a dynasty cemented. After a really good Game 1, the 2018 NBA Finals became a lot more of what I expected. LeBron James and the Cavs had hope for the first quarter up until halftime in each game, but when Golden State came out of the locker room, there was no way Cleveland could keep up with them for the full 48 minutes. While Games 1 and 3 were closer, I never had a doubt that the Warriors would pull away in a very quick four game series. Let’s take a look at how they did it.

Game 1- To be honest, luck. The Warriors came out expecting to be able to beat the one-dimensional Cavaliers in four games pretty easily, but James’ 51-point performance proved it would take a little more than showing up to the arena to win the trophy. Nevertheless, the Cavs made mistake after mistake down the stretch as they unraveled after an admittedly bad foul call. A Cleveland road win to kick off the Finals would have changed everything, but no matter which way you spin it, JR Smith’s infamous blunder at the end of regulation ultimately spelled the end of the Cavaliers’ season.

Game 2- Persistence. After escaping disaster in Game 1, the Warriors were not about to be embarrassed on their home floor. They came out strong out of the gate making their first seven shots, and the Cavs never even got close. You’ve probably heard about how good the Warriors are in the 3rd quarter, so I found it interesting that the Cavs actually made some decent adjustments and won the period by 3. Still, Golden State stayed strong and continued to shoot well. Cleveland was torched by 19 by the final whistle, but there was still hope to get one back on their home floor.

Game 3- Grit. I missed the majority of the Game 3 battle because I was working, but I got to a TV just in time to see Kevin Durant bury his 41st, 42nd, and 43rd points of the night on a late 3 to put the dagger in the Cavs. Despite trailing for the entire first half, the Warriors kept the Cavs close and were able to finally finish off the comeback in their deadly third quarter. However, the war wasn’t over as Cleveland wasn’t about to let Game 3 slip away that easily. In a back-and-forth second half, the Warriors never lost sight of the prize, and leaned on a crucial performance from Durant to put the Cavs in a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 hole.

Game 4- Closing. Apparently, the series was over before this game started. With the way the Cavs approached this game, despite their false confidence in the press conferences, it was simply a formality for the Warriors to just show up and play an average game to close the door. While, granted, Curry had a spectacular showing, GSW won by 23 despite only scoring 108 points. Make no mistake, that’s harder than it looks. Up 3-0, it’s easy to play lazy with such a big cushion. But with the Cavs chucking 3s and failing to build chemistry or any kind of momentum, fans were treated to a pretty boring Game 4 that gave a steady build to a series sweep.

Luck, persistence, grit, and an ability to close. Add it up and you have a winning formula for a dominant NBA championship run. Now winners of the Larry O’Brien trophy for the third time in four years, the city of Oakland officially has an NBA dynasty. Better yet, they’re not done. With all of the big pieces returning next year, the only drama in the organization is how long they will be together and how much money it will take to keep them there.

On the other hand, Cleveland’s time with LeBron James is sure to come to an end. After a Herculean year for The King, James made it back to his 8th straight NBA Finals before being undone by his own players. With frustrations mounting, he broke his own hand in the locker room after Game 1, and is sure to sever his ties with the city he loves… for now. The world waits to hear who the greatest basketball player of this generation will take to the NBA Finals next year.

This closes the book on Golden State v. Cleveland IV. The Warriors are on top of the world once again, and the other 29 teams will try to figure out a plan in the coming months to cut this dynasty short.

Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors, 2018 NBA Champions!

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2018 NBA Finals Game 1 Reactions

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Me too LeBron, me too. Game 1 of the NBA Finals was a whirlwind to say the least from a historic performance from The King that went by the wayside to another referee controversy. There’s a lot to discuss as everyone in the country tries to catch their breath and prepare for Game 2. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at what just happened.

First things first: we got a basketball game on Thursday night, huh? Overtime in Game 1?? Check out my full predictions and you’ll notice I pegged the Warriors to win by 22 on their home floor. If not for that weird technical foul at the end, Golden State would have played all 53 minutes without so much as leading by double digits. So who stepped up for the Cavs to help make this a competitive showing? Well, still no one. LeBron James just decided to go off for a NBA Finals career-high 51 points… and he still lost. If nothing else, a close game shows that maybe, if everything were perfect, one man could just do it all by himself.

Now, let’s walk through those final moments of regulation. I’m sure you’ve read all about it by now, but I’m going to throw my two cents in there. There’s 37 seconds left and James draws the charge according to the on-court officials in the heat of the moment. Regardless of whether or not that was the right call, it has to stand. Going to replay and overturning wasn’t only the wrong call, I’m pretty sure it’s not allowed. The refs blew the call. Period. However- and listen closely– The refs did NOT cost the Cavs the game. Bear with me, and I’ll get back to that.

So, the call is overturned and Kevin Durant sinks his two free throws. Ball don’t lie or whatever you want, the Warriors tie the game at 104. Here come the Cavs with a 2-for-1 to win the game, and sure enough, James makes an easy driving layup to take the lead with enough time to get the ball back if the Warriors were to score. No harm, no foul. In fact, the Warriors did score. Steph Curry waltzed right up the middle and Kevin Love gave him a slap on the face to give him an extra point. Strike 1. 

Again, the Cavs have the last shot here. James predictably walks it up the floor, and he’s predictably blanketed by a Curry. There is no way he is getting a good shot off. In a moment of underrated brilliance that has now been overlooked, he gives the ball up. James finds a driving George Hill and forgoes his last shot in favor of his teammate. The greatest basketball player of this generation gave up the last shot in an incredibly trusting and unselfish act… and it worked. George Hill was fouled with 4.7 seconds remaining with a chance to take the lead.

You know what happens next. Hill misses his chance. Strike 2. On a call that surely would be disputed if the game went the other way, the refs called Klay Thompson for a hold, and put the Cavs at the free thrown line to virtually win the game pending a possible last-second shot from Golden State. Unfortunately for Cavs fans, Hill was short on his second free throw and JR Smith got the rebound. Strike 3. 

Actually, there’s more. Five minutes more. The Cavs had 300 seconds to go out and win the game. They lost by 10. Strike 4. So, lets rewind the clock. Yeah, there was a controversial call with 37 seconds to go that went against the losing team. So be it. There was a call with 5 seconds to go that went against the winning team. Who took more advantage of their opportunity? That’s right.

The Cavs had 4 chances to recover from that call. Yeah, it would have been nice if the refs made the right call but they didn’t. That’s basketball. That’s every sport. If you put yourself in a position to have the refs decide a game for you, it’s your own fault. They had 47.5 minutes before the call to build a lead, and they had 5.5 minutes after to get it back. They didn’t do it. A sincere congratulations on a close game Cleveland, but you’re pointing the fingers at the wrong people. That won’t get you any closer to a Game 2 victory.

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Alright, Game 1 is in the books. Judging by the scrappiness and frustration at the end, I think we’re going to see a very physical Game 2, and a lot of Draymond Green. Contrary to popular belief, Sunday’s showdown is very much up in the air. James may not get 50 again, and he still may not get help, but this series just got emotional. When emotions are in play, the secret is keeping a level head.

James has done this more than a few times. Granted, so have the Warriors, but they have Green so you know. Who can get in their opponents heads without crossing the line? Who can do their job and frustrate the opposition with real basketball? Who is going to say, “To hell with the refs calls, we can still win”? I honestly don’t know.

I’m sticking with my prediction for the Warriors for Game 2, and I recommend everyone out there do the same. We will see if this was their wake up call as they come out firing, or with Cleveland play like they have each other’s backs and avenge the mistakes Love, Hill, Smith, and even James made down the stretch. It was a team loss for the Cavs. Make no mistake, despite how close it was on Thursday, it will take a team to win on Sunday.