The American League Wild Card race may not be over yet, but the National League playoff picture is finally set, and we can begin making our predictions for that entire half of the playoff bracket.
The Wild Card teams have been set, with the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates taking the spots in the first year with two wild card teams playing a one-game playoff round to determine who will advance to the NLDS.
With everything set, here are my predictions for how the NL playoffs will turn out.
Note: Seeding projections based off of CBS Sports' playoff picture as of Sept. 27.
NL Wild Card
Cincinnati Reds vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
In their first playoff appearance since 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates will be taking on their divisional rivals, the Cincinnati Reds.
This is going to be a good one.
The two teams will be sending out their aces in this one, but both lineups have enough pop in to bring in runs. Andrew McCutchen has had another great season for the Pirates, batting .317 with 20 home runs and 83 runs batted in. Joey Votto has had a solid season as well, putting up 24 home runs while batting .305.
This is a tough one to guess at, but in a one-game series, I like the Pirates' magic to continue into the NLDS.
Pirates advance to NLDS, beat Reds 5-3
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers may have had that blazing streak a month or so ago, but the St. Louis Cardinals are on a hot streak of their own right now, winning eight of their last 10 games.
The balance between batting and pitching for the Cardinals has been impressive this season.
They rank third overall in the majors—766 runs and on-base percentage at .331—while their pitching staff ranks sixth with a 3.47 ERA and eight with a 1.25 WHIP.
The Dodgers' bats have been on and off, but their pitching staff has been one of the best in the league, with an ERA of just 3.29 and WHIP of 1.23. Yasiel Puig has become a superstar over the past few months, batting 3.22 with 19 home runs and 42 runs batted in in just 102 games played.
Despite all of the hype surrounding the Dodgers this season, I don't think they can get past the Cardinals. With how much talent is spread out on their lineup, it's really hard to see them losing this one.
Cardinals advance to NLCS, win series 3-1.
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves
As magical as the Pirates' season has been, this might be where they finally fall.
The Braves arguably have the best pitching staff in all of baseball right now. Kris Medlen has been brilliant this season, posting a 3.11 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 197 inning pitches. Julio Teheran has been even better, striking out 167 in 180.2 innings pitched with a 3.09 ERA.
There is a lot of star power in the batting order.
Players like Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann have make big plays with their bats throughout the season. The bats may be held to fewer runs in this series with the likes of Burnett and Francisco Liriano going against them, but they'll find ways to generate some runs.
A strong pitching staff can take you a long way. The Braves have the stronger pitchers in this one, and should come away with a series win.
Braves advance to NLCS, win series 3-2.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves
This is the matchup that almost everyone wants to see, and it's going to be a good one.
If this series goes for six or seven games, we could get to see Adam Wainwright twice, and he's been fantastic this year.
He's gone 18-9 with an ERA of just 3.01 and gone 236.1 innings. Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina have been the leaders on offense, batting .321 and .316 respectively and combining for 23 home runs, 193 runs scored and 156 runs batted in.
The Braves have three strong pitchers to go through the series with Medlen, Teheran and even Mike Minor. Minor has gone 13-8 this season with 175 strikeouts and a WHIP of just 1.08.
The return of Jason Heyward could give this team a lift in the postseason as well. Before leaving with a broken jaw, he played in 102 games and hit 2.56 with 14 home runs and 65 runs scored.
This will be a tight series, but the Cardinals have too much depth on their roster for them not to pull out the series. They have a strong pitching staff and a superior lineup with playmakers coming from almost everywhere.
Cardinals advance to World Series, win series 4-3.
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