Pro Prose: A mid-divisional series check-in and why you should be watching

The NFL is back, and it has been great. The MLB playoffs have been must-see television, and shouldn’t be overshadowed by America’s New Pastime. After an electric end to the regular season, in which the Giants held their ground as the Dodgers unsuccessfully battled for first place in the National League West, the postseason brings even more drama. Plenty of eyes are on the series between the Giants and Dodgers, featuring the MLB’s best two teams this season, but the other three matchups have already proved to be competitive and entertaining enough to pay attention to.

In the battle for a spot in the American League Championship Series, the Tampa Bay Rays have met their match against the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox, who finished last place in the A.L. East in 2020, have battled to win the series 3-1. The Red Sox solidified their spot in the playoffs with a 6-2 victory over the New York Yankees in the A.L. Wild Card game. Kyle Schwarber, who was traded from the Washington Nationals during the season, proved his worth as he hit an early home run on the struggling Yankee ace pitcher Gerrit Cole. 

After the Rays took game one convincingly, the Red Sox responded by recording 20 hits en route to a 14-6 victory. Their ability to get on base and strong hitting performances from shortstop Xander Bogaerts, outfielder Alex Verdugo and third baseman Rafael Devers proved to be too much for the Rays. 

While the first two games of the series were filled with excitement, Game 3 was a showstopper. A 5-hour game that lasted a whopping 13 innings, the third installment of this match up provided the most controversial play of the postseason thus far. 

After a line drive hit from Tampa Bay center fielder Kevin Kiermaier hit the back wall, bounced off of Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe and landed back out of the field of play, the Rays were awarded an automatic double. However, the Rays had a man on base who, if the ball stayed in the field of play, likely would have scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 13th inning. The MLB rulebook struck again, and Red Sox’s catcher Christian Vazquez walked it off in the 13th. It was an incredibly flukey play, and Rays fans have every right to be upset over the outcome.

The Red Sox, who finished last in their division in 2020, are in a prime position to take over the A.L. If they continue riding the momentum won in the Wild Card game, they could be the team to beat in the A.L. However, pitcher Chris Sale will need to improve from his previous start. The Red Sox star who returned from injury this year let up 5 runs in the only inning he pitched. The Red Sox certainly have potential to advance to the World Series, but potentially facing the Houston Astros will be a tall task. 

The Astros are a complete team and are making their way to the A.L. Championship Series. With second baseman Jose Altuve and outfielder Yordan Alvarez combining for 64 home runs and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr.’s pattern of excellent starts, the Astros are the heavy favorite to win the A.L. They proved why in their first game against the Chicago White Sox, embarrassing Chicago’s starting pitcher Lance Lynn, who allowed 5 runs in 3.2 innings pitched. The White Sox’s pitching woes continued in Game 2, as the Astros got on base 16 times, and won the game 9-4. 

Game 3, like the Rays-Red Sox series, was by far the most exciting. The White Sox hit the ball extremely well and didn’t leave many men on base, earning 12 runs for their 16 hits. Both pitcher Luis Garcia and reliever Yimi Garcia) posted double-digit ERAs as the Astros dropped their first game of the postseason. The Astros will move past the White Sox and into the ALCS, where they will utilize their bullpen, perhaps the best out of the remaining teams, to reach the World Series.  

The series between the Braves and Brewers, despite low scoring, still remains intensely competitive, with the Brewers taking Game 1 by a score of 2-1 due to an excellent performance by pitcher Corbin Burnes. However, thanks to a shutout from Braves pitcher Max Fried, the Braves took Game 2. Fried pitched 6 innings and struck out 9 batters without allowing a single run or walk. The Braves took the series lead in Game 3 in another low-scoring match up. A 402-foot home run from outfielder Joc Pederson brought in the only runs scored in the game as Atlanta defeated Milwaukee 3-0. 

Atlanta is getting hot at the right time, looking to play spoiler to the winner of the Dodgers-Giants series. With a solid bullpen and a strong offense, they could steal a game or two from either of the NL West squads. However, the Dodgers are built for the postseason in a way that few teams can compare. Led by pitchers Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer, they have an elite lineup of starting pitchers. No matter who comes out of the Braves-Brewers series, the Dodgers or Giants should handle them with relative ease and earn a spot in the World Series. 

There have already been so many fantastic games, and there are only a few short weeks until we have to say goodbye to baseball for now. So, if you are ever bored in class or looking for a reason to put off studying for your midterms, throw on some baseball and enjoy this fantastic postseason. 

Patrick Warren is a junior providing updates and opinions on all things professional sports. His column “Pro Prose,” runs every other Tuesday.