The League Championship Series are about to get underway, bringing us a step closer to the 2013 World Series.
There are two fantastic LCS matchups. In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers will take on the St. Louis Cardinals, while the Detroit Tigers will take on the Boston Red Sox in the American League.
Which teams will win their respective leagues and meet up in the Fall Classic?
Read on to find out.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
It's fitting that the two best teams in the National League will meet up for the chance to head to the World Series.
Both teams feature elite hitting. The Cardinals were third in the league in runs in the regular season, and they were fourth in the league in batting average.
Carlos Beltran was fantastic in the regular season. While he didn't light the world on fire against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he is the offensive force that drives this team.
The Dodgers have stars up and down the lineup. Adrian Gonzalez paced the team with 22 home runs and lead the team in average and RBI.
The key, of course, was the emergence of Yasiel Puig. The Cuban rookie sensation batted .319, with 19 home runs and 42 RBI. Against the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the playoffs, Puig batted .471 with a stellar .500 OBP.
Make no mistake—runs will be scored in this series. While the pitching is great—more on that in a moment—there are elite hitters in both lineups. It is impossible to hold players like Gonzalez, Puig, Beltran and Allen Craig down for long. There will be some high-scoring games.
But, as it always does, this series will come down to pitching. Both staffs have star power and depth.
The Dodgers are led by Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball. Kershaw had a ridiculous 1.83 ERA in the regular season, along with 232 strikeouts. In the postseason, the ace let up just one earned run in 13 innings.
The Dodgers will need Kershaw to continue his dominance, but they will rely on pitchers like Zack Greinke, the Game 1 starter. Greinke lost his postseason start against the Braves, but he didn't pitch badly, giving up just two runs over six innings. This is the biggest game of Greinke's career, and while he did pitch tremendously in the regular season, it will be interesting to see how he responds.
For the Cardinals, their ace is Adam Wainwright, who has given up only two runs in 15 innings of postseason work. He's a big game pitcher, but he won't start until Game 3.
Taking the hill in Game 1 is Joe Kelly. The rookie took the loss in Game 3 of the NLDS, giving up five hits and four walks over 5.1 innings of work. However, he did post a stellar 2.69 ERA in 124 regular-season innings. That said, it's a big challenge for the youngster.
Who Will Win the NLCS?
The Dodgers probably have the edge in pitching. It's hard to counteract the dynamic duo of Kershaw and Greinke. The Cards are trotting out rookies in Games 1 and 2, and they may be in too deep of a hole for Wainwright to pull them out of when he takes the bump in Game 3.
On offense, it's a push. The Dodgers definitely have more star power, but the Cards are steady, deep and have plenty of experience in the biggest situations. Will the pressure get to Yasiel Puig? Tough to say.
It could be a great series, and it could easily go seven games. I have the Dodgers winning, only because of Kershaw and Greinke. But it'll be a great series.
Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers
Once again, it's great to see the two best teams in the American League fight for the right to play for the World Series trophy.
After a disastrous season a year ago, the Red Sox rebounded in great fashion, cruising to the AL East crown.
They did it on the strength of their hitting. The Sox finished first in runs, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage and second in batting average. David Ortiz was fantastic, batting .309 with 30 homers and 103 RBI. The Sox had eight players with 100 or more hits.
The Tigers are pretty good on offense, too. They're led by the incomparable Miguel Cabrera. After a Triple Crown a year ago, Cabrera followed that up with a .348 average, 44 home runs and 147 RBI. Add players like Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez and the Tigers have an absolutely incredible offense.
I think it's safe to say that the Tigers have a better offense. The Red Sox have a lot of depth, and Big Papi had a big year. But Cabrera is just too good, and while he played through injury most of the year, he still had a huge home run in Game 5 against the Oakland A's.
Both teams have great pitching, too. The Red Sox have a lot of depth. With Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Clay Buchholz, the Sox can stretch out their starters better than the Tigers. All four are big-game pitchers, and Peavy and Lester, in particular, were fantastic in the LDS. They're also bolstered by closer Koji Uehara, who had 21 saves and a sterling 1.09 ERA.
The Tigers are led by Justin Verlander, who was dominant in Game of the ALDS, pitching eight innings of two-hit, shutout ball. He pitched 15 scoreless innings against the A's.
Who Will Win the ALCS?
Behind him is Max Scherzer, who holds the inside track on the Cy Young. Scherzer was dominant in the regular season, racking up 21 wins and posting a 2.90 ERA. Scherzer was only decent in the LDS, giving up three runs in nine innings, including one in relief. He'll have to be a little bit better against the explosive Red Sox offense.
Where the Tigers struggle is in the bullpen. Closer Joaquin Benoit posted a 5.40 ERA against the A's. That's not good enough.
Like the NLCS, this is a close series. The Tigers and Red Sox are the two best teams in the American League. There's a real possibility this goes to seven games. It'll be close, but the Red Sox are going to pull it out. Their bullpen is a bit better, and the their four-man rotation will really help.