Two short weeks ago, Major League Baseball’s “Hunt for October” officially kicked off. Despite the longest championship drought in professional sports at 108 excruciating years, the Chicago Cubs were largely considered the favorite. A balanced field indicated that no other team was really that close to the Cubbies, baseball’s only 100-win team, who won 103 games in the regular season, eight more than the 95 wins collected by the Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers. Perhaps those two teams were your next best bet.
My Top Sports Books also indicated the Cubs as the favorite, trailed by the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. Maybe those were the two teams you had. Maybe the remaining two to advance past the Wild Card game—the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants—were your surprise picks.
Well, here we are two weeks later and both 95-win teams have been eliminated as well as the Red Sox in an upset to the Indians and the Giants in a no-doubter to the top-ranked Cubs. The League Champion Series’ are halfway home with half the circuit decided. Pitching, pitching and more pitching propelled the Indians past the Blue Jays in five games.
Cleveland Manager Terry Francona has changed the fortunes of his team—and the way bullpens work in general—with his usage of trade deadline acquisition Andrew Miller. Miller, usually a closer, has been used not only in the 9th inning but simply whenever the highest leverage situation pops up. Francona isn’t wasting any chances and the move has paid off in a huge way as Miller took home ALCS MVP honors, throwing 7.2 scoreless innings with 14 strikeouts.
In the game five clincher, Miller entered the game in the 6th inning with one out. He dominated in 2 and 2/3 innings, eliminating eight Blue Jays at-bats on just 21 pitches.
All in all, the spotlight is literally on the Cubs, with North Chicago’s darlings and historical benefactors (though don’t tell them that) claiming the prime time television spots with every game. Deservedly so, writes the New York Times.
Cleveland’s off for five days before the World Series starts on Tuesday in their home park thanks to the All-Star Game rules. Their 7-1 postseason record certainly has their fans excited and the baseball world on notice. Are they the new favorite? They have the best record of any remaining team but on paper they seem to be inferior to both National League squads. But the game isn’t won on paper. Look no further than what Coco Crisp has brought to the table, including a clutch game-five home run. Did you realize the Indians were missing former All-Star and MVP candidate Michael Brantley? Didn’t think so. Not to mention two front line starters, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, with a bloodied Trevor Bauer potentially missing the World Series as well.
In the end, two of the four remaining will advance. The at-the-moment odds favor a Cubs vs. Indians World Series in 2016, from there a new set of odds will roll out, surely different tomorrow than they are today. There’s a lot of baseball to be played.