Following the AL and NL Wild Card wins by the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants, respectively, the MLB playoff bracket is officially set, and both the ALDS and NLDS are about to kick off and begin the road to the World Series.

There are intriguing matchups galore on both sides of the bracket, such as the continuation of the rivalry between the Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, as well as Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona facing his former team in the Boston Red Sox. Also, the favored Chicago Cubs will look to hold off a Giants team that is seemingly unbeatable in October.

The 2016 MLB playoffs have already been filled with drama, and they have all the makings of a classic postseason. Before the start of the ALDS and NLDS, here is a look at the full bracket and predictions for how each series will play out.


MLB Playoff Bracket (via MLB Network)


Blue Jays vs. Rangers

There is no shortage of history and bad blood between the Blue Jays and Rangers, dating back to last year’s ALDS when Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista’s bat flip after a key home run in Game 5 led to a war of words and dust-up between the two teams.

That carried over to the 2016 regular season when Bautista and Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor fought after Bautista slid hard into the bag, as seen in this photo courtesy of SportsCenter:

Despite the obvious issues between the teams, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre insisted the Blue Jays don’t get under Texas’ skin and that the main focus is to simply beat Toronto and advance to the ALCS, according to Scott MacArthur of TSN:

They don’t frustrate us. I don’t care how other people or teams act. Our job is to find a way to beat them. That’s the bottom line. They’re a really good team, there’s no doubt about that but I don’t think we care about how they act and the swagger they have.

I think sometimes we go back to it because you guys ask and you guys make a big deal out of it. These guys over here, obviously we know what happened. There’s no denying that. There was an altercation. It’s in the past and our job is to make sure all those guys in the clubhouse are thinking about finding a way to beat those guys.

While the Rangers came close to knocking off the Blue Jays last season, they may be even better equipped to do so this year.

Toronto boasts a remarkable lineup headlined by Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson, but Texas has as good of a one-two pitching punch as anyone in the playoffs with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.

Darvish wasn’t available for the Rangers last postseason, but he could be the X-factor this time around, especially since he may pitch two games should it go the distance.

Great pitching tends to beat great hitting in the playoffs, which is why the Rangers have the advantage and will reach the ALCS.


Red Sox vs. Indians

The Indians once appeared built to make a run to the World Series, but due to key injuries in their starting rotation, they enter their series with the Red Sox as underdogs.

Neither Carlos Carrasco nor Danny Salazar are available due to injury, which shifts the pressure toward Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber to carry the team on their backs from a pitching perspective.

Bauer will be the Game 1 starter, and Francona believes the former reliever is very much up to the task, according to’s Jason Beck:

Kluber is the undisputed ace of our staff. Everybody knows what he’s been through, and it’s easier for him to pitch in Game 2. I don’t think anybody has any trepidation about letting Trevor pitch in Game 1. I think he’s been waiting for this his whole life. And we also think he can bounce back and pitch on short rest and do just fine.

Bauer struggled after the All-Star break and had an ERA of 6.39 in September and October. He has also been dominated by the Red Sox over the course of his career, going 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA in two starts and three appearances overall.

Unless Cleveland manages to sweep the Red Sox, it will most likely need Bauer to pitch twice, which doesn’t seem to be a recipe for success against Boston’s dominant lineup.

The Red Sox wear out pitchers with the likes of David Ortiz, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts, and their merciless approach at the plate will take them one step closer to the World Series.


Giants vs. Cubs

The Giants and Cubs will essentially be a clash of opposites, as San Francisco has won three World Series since 2010, while Chicago hasn’t done so since 1908.

Although the Cubbies were Major League Baseball’s best team during the regular season and enter the playoffs as the prohibitive favorites to win it all, there is reason for concern regarding the Giants’ recent history of playoff success.

As pointed out by Jim Rome of CBS Sports Radio, San Francisco has a penchant for coming through on the biggest stage:

Even so, the Cubs may have an advantage due to the fact that the Giants had to use ace Madison Bumgarner in the NL Wild Card Game. That means he won’t be available for Game 1 of the NLDS.

The Cubs have great pitching in their own right with a rotation that features Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. That type of depth is hard to come by, and it ensures that Chicago will have a legitimate chance to win every game.

In addition to that, Cubs pitching handled Giants hitting without much of an issue during the regular season, per’s Carrie Muskat:

The Cubs also have a clear advantage in terms of their lineup, as big hitters such as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell come at opposing pitchers in waves.

Chicago is the definition of a complete team, and even though the Giants have postseason magic on their side, it won’t be enough to overcome the Cubs’ top-to-bottom excellence.


Dodgers vs. Nationals

The NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals is perhaps the most overlooked series of the playoffs, but everything is in place to make a highly competitive affair that could go the distance.

With Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer set to clash in Game 1, pitching will undoubtedly be the talk of the series. As pointed out by Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, no two pitching staffs dominated opposing hitters more than L.A. and Washington during the regular season:

Both teams are fairly evenly matched in the pitching department, but the depth of the Nats lineup is what could set them apart and decide the series.

The loss of catcher Wilson Ramos due to injury hurts, but Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner are a tough run of hitters to handle, even for a rotation as solid as what the Dodgers boast.

Murphy essentially put the Mets offense on his back last postseason and carried them to the World Series, and while a repeat performance isn’t likely, look for his heroics to be the biggest difference in a Washington win.


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