World Series 2020: Latest Predictions for Potential Fall Classic Matchup

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2020

Tampa Bay Rays' Willy Adames hits an RBI double against the Houston Astros during the second inning in Game 6 of a baseball American League Championship Series, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Both the National League and American League Championship Series looked fairly evenly matched on paper when they began, and that has manifested itself in the form of both series going deep.

The Los Angeles Dodgers entered Friday's Game 5 against the Atlanta Braves trailing 3-1, but they managed to score a come-from-behind victory to force a Game 6. Meanwhile, the Houston Astros won their third game in a row over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday to overcome a 3-0 deficit, meaning the teams will meet Saturday in a winner-take-all Game 7.

It is possible that the 2020 World Series matchup could be set by Saturday night, as the Rays vs. Astros series will come to an end and the Braves have a chance to close out the Dodgers with their ace, Max Fried, on the mound in Game 6.

Here is a closer look at both league championship series along with predictions for which team will prevail in each and move on to the World Series.

     

Dodgers vs. Braves

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The Braves have been in control for most of their series against the Dodgers, as they took a 2-0 series lead and then went up 3-1.

The Dodgers inched closer Friday night in Game 5, and now they have a chance to even the series for the first time since it was 0-0 if they can prevail in Game 6 on Saturday.

The Dodgers were down and out, trailing 2-1 in the sixth inning of Game 5 with two outs, but catcher Will Smith came through with a huge three-run homer to put the Dodgers on top 4-2:

Los Angeles went on to win the game 7-3, and Smith's home run could turn out to be not only a game-changing play but also a series-turning moment.

Despite the momentum the Dodgers gained by winning Game 5, FiveThirtyEight's updated prediction model still gives the Braves a 66 percent chance to advance to the World Series and the Dodgers only a 34 percent chance.

Those numbers will change significantly if the Dodgers manage to take Game 6, and they certainly have a chance with Walker Buehler on the mound.

The pitching matchup of Fried vs. Buehler already happened in Game 1 of the NLCS, and it was fairly even, as both pitchers ended up with a no-decision.

Fried went six innings, allowing four hits, two walks and one run while striking out nine. Buehler allowed three hits, five walks and one run to go along with seven strikeouts in five innings.

Buehler effectively worked around traffic throughout his outing, but he can ill afford to lose the strike zone as often as he did in Game 1, as the Braves' heavy hitters like Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna and Ronald Acuna Jr. are likely to make him pay.

Assuming Buehler has a better outing this time around, the NLCS will go to a decisive Game 7. The pressure would shift to the Braves to some degree after blowing a 3-1 series lead, but they would also have the advantage.

Ian Anderson would presumably start for the Braves after posting a 1.95 ERA in six regular-season starts and surrendering no earned runs in three playoff starts.

With Anderson leading the way for Atlanta and the Dodgers having to piece things together with Tony Gonsolin and their bullpen, the Braves will advance to their first World Series since 1999 with a Game 7 win.

     

Rays vs. Astros

While the Dodgers and Braves could still have two games remaining in their series, the ALCS will reach its conclusion Saturday in Game 7.

The Astros are only the second team in MLB history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0 in the series, joining the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the ALCS.

That means momentum is completely with Houston, but FiveThirtyEight still gives the Rays a 55 percent chance to win Game 7 and advance to the World Series compared to the Astros' 45 percent chance.

Game 7 will feature a rematch from Game 2 of the ALCS with Charlie Morton pitching for the Rays and Lance McCullers Jr. going for the Astros.

Both pitchers performed well in Game 2, as Morton allowed five hits, one walk and no runs with five strikeouts to pick up the win, while McCullers gave up four hits and four runs in seven innings, although only one of those runs was earned. He also struck out 11.

Fittingly, Morton and McCullers teamed up to win Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS and World Series while with the Astros, but they will pitch against each other with a spot in the 2020 World Series on the line.

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Morton is on a remarkable roll in the playoffs that few other pitchers have matched in MLB history:

He is also 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA in winner-take-all playoff games during his career, which gives the Rays a distinct advantage despite their three consecutive losses.

There is no question that the Astros have a more potent lineup than the Rays, especially with the likes of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley playing so well.

The Rays have some hot hitters in their own right with Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot, but they could use a lot more out of Brandon Lowe, Willy Adames, Yandy Diaz, Austin Meadows and Co.

Tampa seemingly always found a way during the regular season and had a different player step up on a daily basis, and with Morton on the mound to stabilize things, the Rays will find enough offense to win Game 7 and advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.