By Dan Schlossberg
Baseball is very unpredictable.
Even after covering the game for more than half a century, nothing is certain—especially in the postseason.
But that doesn’t stop me from posting my picks every year anyway.
Even knowing how slumps, injuries, and a myriad of other factors can sabotage any semblance of logic, I’d love to go out on a limb — or several, thanks to this year’s expanded playoffs.
With the Wild Card series now a best-of-three, it was easy to pick the home team—especially since the higher seed had all three games at home.
Lots of good ideas: the Padres beat the Mets, the Phillies crushed the Cardinals, the Mariners beat the Blue Jays, and the Rays lost to the Guardians (the only home team to win a Wild Card round).
Then came the best-of-five series, loaded with heavyweights who won more than 100 matches. Only the Houston Astros, last year’s American League champions, survived.
The Phillies’ surprising upside down led the defending World Champion Braves, and the resurgent Padres beat the Dodgers after finishing 22 games behind them during the regular season. In the American League, Houston beat Seattle (18 innings, 1-0) and the Yankees beat the Guardians, who certainly could have found a better title. But the format here was 2-2-1 with the higher seed getting the home court advantage.
In the first inning of the seven-game series, Houston continued its mastery of the Yankees, sweeping all four games, while Philadelphia capitalized on San Diego manager mistakes — making him keep a close eye on an eighth-inning disaster he might have prevented — and overly anxious hitters, both swinging In the first courts with the team’s season on the line.
This brings us to the World Series, another best-of-seven contest, and the chance for the Astros to become the first team since the 1976 Cincinnati Reds to run the table and go undefeated in post-season play.
Houston jumped Aaron Nola — who was questionably picked over Zach Wheeler to pitch the Phillies’ opener — for five runs in his first two innings last night. And Kyle Tucker joins Andruw Jones and Gene Tenace as the only players to play in the first two editions of the World Series of Rackets – despite this fact being completely ignored by the FOX broadcast team.
But the Phils kept getting beaten down by Justin Verlander, who has never won a World Series game (he is 0-6), and eventually pulled off a stunning 6-5 victory on the road.
If it lasts a full seven, the Astros will have four games at Minute Maid Park, where it usually cannot be stopped. My hunch is that it won’t get that far — or even close.
No one expected the Phils – a third-place team that finished 14 games out of first place while beset by defensive problems and troubles – to last this long. Yes, they’re getting hotter at the right time, but they might be Team of the Month instead of Team of the Year.
With all the credit due to Rob Thompson, in his first season as a major league manager, we applaud Dusty Baker, who took five teams to the postseason but never won an episode as a manager. At 73 — the oldest statesman of acting directors — he’ll fill that void this year and do so fairly easily. But he won’t do what the big red machine did 46 years ago.
Astros in six.
Former Associated Press sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, New Jersey was known for making bad baseball predictions. But he still wrote or co-authored 40 books about baseball. Dan covers forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, and Memories & Dreams. Email him at email@example.com.