The Major League Baseball (MLB) postseason is quickly approaching, and the stage is set for an exciting battle that will determine the top players of the baseball world. The postseason is bound to keep baseball fans on the edge of their seats; many of this season’s storylines have already etched their place in baseball history.
Perhaps the most noteworthy event of the season was the Cleveland Indians’ incredible 22-game winning streak. This streak marked the second longest in MLB history, four games shy of the New York Giants’ 1916 26-game winning streak, and the longest in American League (AL) history. Starting Aug. 24, the Indians began stringing together win after win against the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. Their streak ended Sept. 15, when the Royals finally handed the Indians a 4-3 defeat.
The Indians’ elite starting pitching energized their streak. Cleveland’s pitching has been the best in the AL, as they are the only team that has not yet given up more than 600 runs this season. The ace of their staff, Corey Kluber, dominated during the winning streak, tallying four wins and allowing only five earned runs during that span. Kluber has made a serious case as a candidate for the Cy Young Award, awarded to the best pitcher in the American and National Leagues, with an 18-4 record on the year. On top of 18 wins, Kluber also has struck out 262 batters and has a 2.27 earned run average (ERA). The most viable contender to Kluber for the AL Cy Young is Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale, who has a 17-7 record, 300 strikeouts and a 2.75 ERA.
Cleveland’s potent offense also contributed to their win streak. The Indians scored five or more runs 14 times over the course of the 22-game span. Third baseman Jose Ramirez has been a catalyst for the Indians lineup, leading the Indians in batting average. Other key players in the Indians’ offensive prowess are shortstop Francisco Lindor, who has a .277 batting average and 33 home runs, and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who leads the team with 37 home runs.
As it stands, the Indians have the best record in the AL and are the AL Central Division champions. Joining the Indians in the AL playoff are the Houston Astros (the AL West champions), as well as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, both of whom are still vying for the AL East pennant. The Minnesota Twins claim the final wild card spot and are five games ahead of the next best team, the Los Angeles Angels.
In the National League (NL), the Los Angeles Dodgers have undoubtedly been the strongest team. They have a 99-57 record and have given up less than 600 runs over the season. Powerhouse pitcher Clayton Kershaw made mincemeat of his opponents, delivering a Cy Young-worthy performance with an 18-4 record, 200 strikeouts and a 2.21 ERA. Along with Kershaw, the Dodgers have received ample production from third baseman Justin Turner, who has a .321 batting average, second in the NL to Colorado Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon. Also benefiting the Dodgers offense is rookie sensation first baseman Cody Bellinger, who has 39 home runs.
With the powerful combination of Kershaw and Turner, the Dodgers have earned themselves the NL West pennant. Other teams to clinch playoff spots in the NL include the Washington Nationals, who won the NL East, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, who nabbed a wild card spot. In the NL Central, the Chicago Cubs are a game away from winning the division. The final wild card spot is currently a three-team race between the Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.
The MLB shattered its single season record for total home runs in a season this year, making it a special year for power hitters. Two of the year’s most entertaining players are Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge. Both players have adopted the home run as the crux of their game and are first and second in the MLB in home runs, respectively. Stanton has smashed 57 home runs, 31 of which have come after the All-Star break. Also a prominent home-run hitter, Judge has hit 50 home runs of his own. This mark set a record for most home runs by a rookie in a single season. Judge did much of his damage before the All-Star break, hitting 30 of his 50 home runs. On a national stage, Judge used his six-foot seven-inch frame to showcase his power as he won the Home Run Derby. Although Judge cooled off substantially after the All-Star break, he has reemerged in September with 11 home runs and a .284 batting average.
Stanton’s and Judge’s power symbolize this exciting MLB season. With the AL and NL Wild Card games Oct. 3 and 4, respectively, teams have less than a week to secure their entry to the 2017 postseason.