2016 MLB League Championship Series Preview: The Final Four
Just four MLB teams’ World Series dreams remain alive. Here's a preview of the best-of-seven league championship series:
American League Championship Series
Cleveland Indians vs. Toronto Blue Jays
How They Got Here:
Thanks to a 14-game mid-season win streak and solid starting pitching, Cleveland ran away with the American League Central. Despite the loss of starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar to injury, the Indians silenced the Red Sox bats and swept Boston, 3-0, in the ALDS.
Toronto stayed in contention in the A.L. East all season thanks to big bats like third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Troy Tulowitski, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion and right fielder Jose Bautista, but the pitching staff led by JA Happ and Aaron Sanchez helped the Blue Jays secure a wild card berth. After beating Baltimore in extra innings in the A.L. Wild Card Game, Toronto tormented Texas pitching on the way to a three-game sweep of the ALDS.
Season Series: The Indians won the regular season series, 4–3.
Postseason History: The teams have never met in the postseason. The Blue Jays are making their seventh LCS appearance. They lost to the Royals last season. Toronto hasn’t been to the World Series since 1993, when they beat Philadelphia. The Indians are making their fifth LCS appearance and first since 2007. Cleveland hasn’t been to the World Series since 1997; they haven’t won a world title since 1948.
Why The Indians May Win: Patience and the ‘Pen: As the Indians showed in the ALDS, they can send a steady stream of good hitters like second baseman Jason Kipnis, shortstop Francisco Lindor, first baseman Mike Napoli and DH Carlos Santana to the plate and wear out a starter. If they can do that to the Jays, they can get to a very suspect middle relief corps — and avoid closer Roberto Osuna. If Cleveland has a lead, lanky lefty Andrew Miller is nearly un-hittable whenever he enters the game. Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen are perfect henchmen to Miller; they can throw zeroes, too.
Why The Blue Jays May Win:They Dig the Longball: The injuries to Carrasco and Salazar leaves the Indians’ starting rotation very thin after ace Corey Kluber. The Toronto lineup has six players with 20 or more homers, and they’ll get multiple at-bats against Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger. If the Blue Jays bats get going, they could make Miller and the Indians’ bullpen a moot point.
2016 ALCS Schedule:
Game 1: Fri. Oct. 14 at Cleveland; 8 p.m. (ET) on TBS | Marco Estrada (9-9) at Cory Kluber (18-9)
Game 2: Sat. Oct. 15 at Cleveland; 4 p.m. (ET) on TBS | JA Happ (20-4) at Trevor Bauer (12-8)
Game 3: Mon. Oct. 17 at Toronto; 8 p.m. (ET) on TBS | Josh Tomlin (13-9) at Marcus Stroman (9-10)
Game 4: Tues. Oct. 18 at Toronto; 4 p.m. (ET) on TBS | Mike Clevinger (3-3) at Aaron Sanchez (15-2)
*Game 5: Wed. Oct. 19 at Toronto; 4 p.m. (ET) on TBS
*Game 6: Fri. Oct. 21 at Cleveland; 8 p.m.(ET) on TBS
*Game 7: Sat. Oct. 22 at Cleveland; TBD on TBS
* if necessary
National League Championship Series
Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
How They Got Here:
A deep lineup and a deeper rotation allowed Chicago to cruise to the best record in baseball and the National League Central crown. The Cubs beat the pesky San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, 3-1, thanks to some truly clutch hits from young stars like second baseman Javier Baez, catcher Willson Contreras and third baseman Kris Bryant.
Los Angeles used a second half surge — and the collapse of the Giants — to win their fourth consecutive National League West title. Thanks to three amazing pitching performances by Clayton Kershaw and some big late hits by former Phillies Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, the Dodgers edged the Nationals, 3-2, in the NLDS.
Season Series: The Cubs won the regular season series, 4–3.
Postseason History: Chicago is making its fifth LCS appearance. They lost to the Mets in this round last year. The Cubs last appeared in the World Series in 1945; they last won the world championship in 1908. Los Angeles is playing in its 11th LCS, and first since 2013. The Dodgers haven’t played in the World Series since winning the world title in 1988. L.A. swept Chicago in the 2008 NLDS - the only other postseason meeting between these franchises.
Why The Cubs May Win: The Right to Bear Arms: The Cubs rotation of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks is much deeper than L.A.’s. They pitch deep into games and can turn the ball over to flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, utility player Ben Zobrist and outfielder Dexter Fowler should join the hit parade against the Dodgers’ weak bullpen.
Why The Dodgers May Win: Young Studs: Shortstop Corey Seager, centerfielder Joc Pederson and right fielder Yasiel Puig are all under 25 and swing with the recklessness of youth. This enthusiasm can be infectious in a short series. Starter Julio Urias is only 19, but he can handcuff a lineup like a cagey veteran. Oh, and elder statesman Clayton Kershaw is still young (28) and hungry enough to will this team to a win.
2016 NLCS Schedule:
Game 1: Sat. Oct. 15 at Chicago; 8 p.m. (ET) on FS1
Game 2: Sun. Oct. 16 at Chicago; 8 p.m. (ET) on FS1
Game 3: Tues. Oct. 18 at Los Angeles; 8 p.m. (ET) on FS1
Game 4: Wed. Oct. 19 at Los Angeles; 8 p.m. (ET) on FS1
*Game 5: Thur. Oct. 20 on FS1
*Game 6: Sat. Oct. 22 at Chicago on FS1
*Game 7: Sun. Oct. 23 at Chicago on FS1
* if necessary