The World Series dream is still alive for four teams, as the 2016 Major League Baseball Playoffs head to the Championship Series round with a pair of exciting matchups.

The Chicago Cubs used late-game heroics to get past the San Francisco Giants last round, but they will need to overcome a confident Los Angeles Dodgers team to win their first National League pennant since 1945. On the American League side, the Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays each enter their series looking stout from sweeps, but something will have to give in this matchup of opposing strengths.

Take a look below at the dates and the live-stream and television schedules for the championship series. A full playoff bracket can also be found at Continue reading for a breakdown and prediction for each series.



Cleveland Indians vs. Toronto Blue Jays


Opposite forces will collide in this series, as the high-octane Toronto offense will try to overcome a stifling pitching attack from Cleveland.

The Blue Jays lead the postseason in runs scored with 27 after four games. Yet, the Indians boast a tremendous bullpen that helped hold the Boston Red Sox, MLB’s top scoring offense in the regular season, to just seven runs in three games.

Pitching and the ability to generate early offense will be the key in this matchup.

Neither team boasts a substantially superior rotation, but Cleveland does have the matchup’s only true ace in Corey Kluber. The 2016 Cy Young candidate racked up an 18-9 record this season while posting a 3.14 ERA, but he is 1-3 in his career against the Blue Jays with a lackluster 5.34 ERA.

Kluber also has a shaky history against some of Toronto’s top sluggers, including Josh Donaldson, who is tied for the lead in these playoffs with a .500 batting average. 

In his only postseason start in 2016, Kluber beat Boston with seven scoreless innings. With him starting Game 1, Kluber could be available for two more starts, which could give Cleveland an edge if this series goes long. However, Toronto fared well with its own staff against the Texas Rangers, allowing a solid 12 runs in three games.

The Blue Jays can trot out three stout starters in Marco Estrada, who will start Game 1, J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman. This gives them a bit more depth in the rotation with Cleveland starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar injured, but this series could be decided by which team can score early.

The Indians have arguably the best bullpen remaining in these playoffs, with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Dan Otero highlighting a group that can carry the team to a win. They proved it against Boston, as Kluber was the only Cleveland starter to pitch more than five innings, while the trio mentioned above combined for zero earned runs in eight combined innings.

Yet, Cleveland could have trouble earning late leads against this Toronto offense. The middle of the Blue Jays lineup has been absolutely deadly this postseason. Jose Bautista, Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki have combined for six homers and 20 RBI while posting a .364 batting average in four games.

The Blue Jays bullpen has also been very good, as it only has allowed two earned runs this postseason. Cleveland outscored Toronto in the regular season, and it had no problem averaging five runs per game against Boston.

This matchup appears microscopically close, but Toronto earns the slightest of edges here. Cleveland’s bullpen is tremendous, but it may not get too many chances to win games with the Blue Jays having a strong opportunity to take advantage of the Indians’ rotation depth. Kluber‘s history also suggests he may get rocked at least once, which could give the Blue Jays enough of lead for their bullpen to hold on and close out this series.



Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 


The Chicago Cubs are certainly on a mission to end their title drought, as the World Series has eluded the franchise since 1908. While their wait is certainly the longest, the Cubs are not the only team remaining this postseason with a long streak of coming up short, per SportsNet:

Despite this morbid history, Chicago sports the most complete team in baseball and is undoubtedly the favorite win the 2016 World Series. This makes it surprising that the offense has sputtered so far this postseason.

The Cubs’ .200 team batting average was the worst in the Divisional round. It also does not help that pitcher Jake Arrieta is tied for the team lead with three RBI, but NL MVP candidate Kris Bryant has been excellent, hitting .375 with one dinger and three RBI. He also contributed several clutch hits in late innings, so the playoff spotlight has not been too bright.

Chicago’s lineup is strong all the way through, as Javier Baez, Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist are all dangerous hitters. The pitching staff is also fantastic, and it could be the difference.

Jon Lester will start Game 1 on plenty of rest since his eight-inning shutout win over the Giants in the opening game of last series. The team will likely follow that up with Kyle Hendricks, who led the majors in ERA this season, and Arrieta, who has the potential to be untouchable on the road this series, per Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s Christopher Kamka:

The Dodgers exhausted themselves to pull out a series win over the Washington Nationals, as closer Kenley Jansen pitched 2.1 innings in relief in Game 5 while Clayton Kershaw got the last two outs on a day of rest with two previous starts under his belt. Washington manager Dusty Baker speculated that this could be an issue for Los Angeles against the Cubs, per Southern California News Group’s J.P. Hoornstra:

This is a valid concern, especially considering the Dodgers lost four of their seven games against the Cubs in the regular season. The extended action will likely push Kershaw back to a Game 3 start at the earliest, and Rich Hill started Game 5 against the Nationals, which puts him on a similar time frame for his next start.

So who can the team rely on to earn wins at Chicago? Kenta Maeda was the only other pitcher to start for Los Angeles last series, and he was roughed up for four earned runs in three innings.

Julio Urias, a promising 20-year-old, could be an option after 15 starts this season. He pitched well in relief last series, allowing only one hit in two relief innings, but he had a 4.91 ERA against the Cubs this season, and he is an unknown in terms of this level of pressure in the postseason.

If the Cubs continue their immense struggles at the plate in the first two games at home against a depleted Dodgers team, then the offensive ineptitude would certainly become a trend and a massive concern. Yet, this lineup is too talented to be this mired forever, and Chicago should benefit from facing a less experienced side than San Francisco.

The pieces are in place for the Cubs to return to the World Series, and they should be heavily favored in this matchup.


Statistics are courtesy of unless otherwise noted. 

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