With the Pittsburgh Pirates' 11-8 win over the Washington Nationals on Sunday, the 2017 MLB regular season officially drew to a close.
Baseball fans won't have to wait long for the postseason to get underway with the American League Wild Card Game scheduled for Tuesday night.
In 2015, the Kansas City Royals won a title after losing the World Series in seven games the year prior. The Cleveland Indians could follow the same trajectory. The Indians have the highest World Series odds (23.8 percent) on FanGraphs, and Cleveland will look to atone for dropping Game 7 at home last year to the Chicago Cubs.
The 2017 Indians are essentially the same team as last year with two big exceptions. Jose Ramirez has ascended to become one of MLB's best players, and Cleveland's starting rotation isn't decimated by injury. The Indians won't need Corey Kluber to start three times in the World Series if it comes to that.
Whether the Indians can repeat as American League champions and get over the World Series hump is one of a few burning questions heading into the MLB playoffs.
Below is the full postseason schedule, followed by three storylines to follow over the next month. The MLB playoff bracket is available on MLB.com.
2017 MLB Playoff Schedule
American League Wild Card Game
Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees, Tues., Oct. 3, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
National League Wild Card Game
Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks, Wed., Oct. 4, 8 p.m. ET (TBS)
American League Division Series (AL Wild Card Game Winner vs. Cleveland Indians)
Game 1: AL Wild Card at Cleveland; Thurs., Oct. 5, TBD (FS1/MLBN)
Game 2: AL Wild Card at Cleveland; Fri., Oct. 6, TBD (FS1/MLBN)
Game 3: Cleveland at AL Wild Card; Sun., Oct. 8, TBD (FS1/MLBN)
Game 4*: Cleveland at AL Wild Card; Mon., Oct. 9, TBD (FS1)
Game 5*: AL Wild Card at Cleveland; Wed., Oct. 11, TBD (FS1)
American League Division Series (Boston Red Sox vs. Houston Astros)
Game 1: Boston at Houston; Thurs., Oct. 5, TBD (FS1/MLBN)
Game 2: Boston at Houston; Fri., Oct. 6, TBD (FS1/MLBN)
Game 3: Houston at Boston; Sun., Oct. 8, TBD (FS1/MLBN)
Game 4*: Houston at Boston; Mon., Oct. 9, TBD (FS1)
Game 5*: Boston at Houston; Wed., Oct. 11, TBD (FS1)
National League Division Series (NL Wild Card Game Winner vs. Los Angeles Dodgers)
Game 1: NL Wild Card at Los Angeles; Fri., Oct. 6, TBD (TBS)
Game 2: NL Wild Card at Los Angeles; Sat., Oct. 7, TBD (TBS)
Game 3: Los Angeles at NL Wild Card; Mon., Oct. 9, TBD (TBS)
Game 4*: Los Angeles at NL Wild Card; Tues., Oct. 10, TBD (TBS)
Game 5*: NL Wild Card at Los Angeles; Thurs., Oct. 12, TBD (TBS)
National League Division Series (Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals)
Game 1: Chicago at Washington; Fri., Oct. 6, TBD (TBS)
Game 2: Chicago at Washington; Sat., Oct. 7, TBD (TBS)
Game 3: Washington at Chicago; Mon., Oct. 9, TBD (TBS)
Game 4*: Washington at Chicago; Tues., Oct. 10, TBD (TBS)
Game 5*: Chicago at Washington; Thurs., Oct. 12, TBD (TBS)
American League Championship Series
Game 1: Fri., Oct. 13, TBD (Fox/FS1)
Game 2: Sat., Oct. 14, TBD (Fox/FS1)
Game 3: Mon., Oct. 16, TBD (Fox/FS1)
Game 4: Tues., Oct. 17, TBD (Fox/FS1)
Game 5*: Wed., Oct. 18, TBD (Fox/FS1)
Game 6*: Fri., Oct. 20, TBD (Fox/FS1)
Game 7*: Sat., Oct. 21 TBD (Fox/FS1)
National League Championship Series
Game 1: Sat., Oct. 14, TBD (TBS)
Game 2: Sun., Oct. 15, TBD (TBS)
Game 3: Tues., Oct. 17, TBD (TBS)
Game 4: Wed., Oct. 18, TBD (TBS)
Game 5*: Thurs., Oct. 19, TBD (TBS)
Game 6*: Sat., Oct. 21, TBD (TBS)
Game 7*: Sun., Oct. 22, TBD (TBS)
Game 1: Tues., Oct. 24, TBD (Fox)
Game 2: Wed., Oct. 25, TBD (Fox)
Game 3: Fri., Oct. 27, TBD (Fox)
Game 4: Sat., Oct. 28, TBD (Fox)
Game 5*: Sun., Oct. 29, TBD (Fox)
Game 6*: Tues., Oct. 31, TBD (Fox)
Game 7*: Wed., Nov. 1, TBD (Fox)
Will the Houston Astros Fulfill the Prophecy?
Sports Illustrated placed George Springer on the cover of its June 30, 2014, edition and proclaimed the Houston Astros would be 2017 World Series champions. The cover reflected the general sentiment around the Astros, who hadn't won more than 56 games between 2011 and 2013 but began showing progress in 2014.
Houston reached the American League Division Series in 2015—the franchise's first postseason appearance since 2005—which was cause for further optimism.
Some may have begun losing faith in the Astros last year when they went 84-78 and missed out on the playoffs, but the team is poised for a deep run this October.
Springer is enjoying his best offensive season—boasting a .283/.367/.522 slash line along with 34 home runs and 85 RBI—while Jose Altuve is the front-runner for the American League MVP Award. Altuve is second among position players in WAR (7.5), per FanGraphs, and led MLB in batting average (.347).
The Astros have a great offense, but their pitching will make or break their World Series hopes. Houston ranks sixth in team FIP (3.92), according to FanGraphs, which puts it behind the Indians, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in the AL.
Will Clayton Kershaw's Playoff Luck Turn Around?
Clayton Kershaw best sums up the Los Angeles Dodgers' inability to reach the World Series since the team's ownership committed to spending whatever's necessary to win a title.
The Dodgers have spared no expense to build the best roster and front office possible. Yet having the best players and smartest minds doesn't guarantee success in October.
Kershaw is one of the top pitchers on the planet but has been inexplicably mediocre in the postseason. He has a 4.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a 3.93 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his 18 playoff appearances. Compare that to Kershaw's career regular-season numbers: 2.36 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and a 4.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Nobody should blame Kershaw for the Dodgers' falling short of the Fall Classic in the last four years, nor are his postseason struggles a damning indictment of his overall legacy. He could retire right now and have a strong Hall of Fame resume.
But the absence of a World Series ring or a dominant postseason similar to Kluber's last year is glaring for a pitcher who has achieved everything Kershaw has on the mound.
Will the Washington Nationals Finally Advance Past the NLDS?
Speaking of postseason disappointment, no fanbase has experienced more playoff heartache in recent years than those who follow the Nationals.
Washington won the most games in MLB in 2012 (98), tied for second-most in 2014 (96) and tied for second again in 2016 (95). Three appearances in the National League Division Series are all the Nationals have to show for that regular-season success.
Once again, the Nationals have the pieces necessary to win a World Series. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are two of the best aces in baseball, while any lineup anchored by Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy is capable of putting a lot of runs on the board.
Whereas Nationals fans could still look ahead to a bright future when the team exited the playoffs in 2012 and 2014, a stronger sense of urgency surrounds the team now—as it did last year.
Murphy, Gio Gonzalez and most notably Harper can become free agents in 2019. Losing Gonzalez and Murphy would hurt, but failing to re-sign Harper would be a significant blow to the Nationals offense. His potential free agency adds urgency for Washington capitalize on its championship window while he's still under contract.