Major League Baseball Division Series Previews and Predictions

By Akiva Wienerkur   October 7, 2021 

Major League Baseball Division Series Previews and Predictions

Major League Baseball Division Series matchups are set, and should feature plenty of unique matchups. The Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, and Milwaukee Brewers feature dominant pitching staffs while the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays never struggle to put runs on the board. 

The defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers are also still in the mix, and they don’t really have many weaknesses offensively or on their pitching staff.  Here is a look at how the four division series matchups should shake out.

Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros

Oct 3, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (10) celebrates with teammates after hitting a game-winning RBI single during the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park. Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox got a big sigh of relief when they found out first baseman Jose Abreu, who missed the last game of the regular season with an illness, did not have COVID-19. Abreu can now travel to Houston for the Division Series and should be available. 

That’s great news for a White Sox team that will need all the offense it can get against a Houston team that led all of baseball in runs scored. Don’t overlook Houston’s pitching, though. The Astros open the series with Lance McCullers Jr and Framber Valdez in back-to-back games. Chicago counters with Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito. Any team would be thrilled with either pair as their top two in a five-game series. 

Chicago has a stronger bullpen, but the Astros have a significant advantage when it comes to playoff experience. Even with several players from their championship team gone, Houston is trying to reach the ALCS for the fifth straight season.

One interesting matchup in the series will be between the managers. Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker are both in their 70s. LaRussa was brought in specifically to add his championship experience to a young but talented Chicago team. Baker has had a great career, but has yet to win a World Series.

Prediction: The Astros always seem to find a way to win in the postseason. Astros win the series 3-1.

Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays

Oct 1, 2021; Bronx, New York, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan (62) pitches against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

A cold streak late in the season had Boston’s playoff hopes in peril, but they turned things around in the Wild Card game with a win over the New York Yankees to set up a Division Series matchup with another division rival, Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox at one time led the AL East before Tampa Bay pulled in front and then away, winning the division by eight games. Boston went 8-11 against Tampa Bay this season, with most of those wins coming in matchups early in the season. Boston swept the Rays in the first month of the season but Tampa won 11 of the next 16 games between the two teams.

Tampa Bay plans to start Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz in the first two games of the series. Boston has announced Eduardo Rodriguez as the game one starter but hasn’t decided on game two yet as of October 6.

The Rays enter the playoffs playing well, with seven wins in their last 10 games. Boston pulled off an impressive win over the Yankees and ace Gerrit Cole, but they have been just 5-5 in their last 10. 

Tampa Bay is trying to get back to the World Series for a second straight season, and would be doing so without key contributors from that team.

Prediction: The Rays have deeper pitching and their offense has been more potent this year than last season. They’ll win this series 3-1.

Atlanta Braves at Milwaukee Brewers

Sep 28, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff (53) pitches during the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves were within one game of making the World Series last season. They’ll start their attempt to make it all the way there against the Milwaukee Brewers in the Division Series.

Atlanta has to play, as they have been much of the season, without star Ronald Acuna Jr, but they’ve been able to adjust. They’ve found enough other power sources in their lineup and the pitching staff has stabilized after some early-season struggles.

Charlie Morton, who helped Tampa Bay to the World Series last year and has significant playoff experience with Houston, will pitch in game one.

The teams split six matchups this season. Milwaukee has lost four straight entering the playoffs, but their top two pitchers are as good as just about any team in baseball. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes are both Cy Young candidates. In a short series, that 1-2 punch is a nightmare.

Prediction: Milwaukee’s pitching will be too much. Brewers win the series 3-2.

Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants

Oct 6, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate the walk-off two run home run hit by left fielder Chris Taylor (3) against the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium. The Los Angeles Dodgers won 3-1. Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have been the two best teams in baseball all season. The Dodgers, the defending World Series champions, finished second to the Giants by one game in the NL West standings.

The Dodgers had a tough time making it back to the Division Series. Los Angeles and St. Louis were tied in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Wild Card game. Chris Taylor hit a walk-off two-run home run to keep the Dodgers in the hunt for a championship.

To get there, though, they’ll have to beat a team that they haven’t been able to surpass much of the season. The Giants are built on strong pitching and they’ll have two good ones going in the series. Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman will start the first two games of the series, and both have been dominant and consistent all season.

Complicating matters for the Dodgers is the fact that Max Scherzer pitched in the Wild Card game, so he likely won’t be available again for a few days. Walker Buehler also wouldn’t be available until at least game two on Friday after he pitched in the regular season finale. 

The Giants won 10 games against the Dodgers during the regular season and Los Angeles won nine. I don’t think anyone will complain about a few more playoff games featuring the two most complete teams in the league this season.

Prediction: The Giants are a great story this season, but the experience of Los Angeles will pull them through. Dodgers in five games.

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