Chicago Cubs (92-70) vs Washington Nationals (97-65)
Cubs key to winning: Offensive numbers have been down from 2016, both pitching and hitting. However, their bullpen has been very consistent with the many weapons in it. Talent wise this is a toss up series, so the Cubs will need to milk that edge they have in the pen to win this series.
Nats key to winning: From the beginning, Washington has been dominant. But, like last season, injuries have kept them from 100-win status. Considering the injuries and lack of production from Werth, Harper and Wieters, they may not be able to keep up with Cubs offensively. So, the major and obvious keys to winning is home field advantage and getting the most out of the two Cy Young candidates in Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer.
Prediction: Cubs 3-2
Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69) vs Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)
D-backs key to winning: No matter what, the chances of beating the Dodgers in a Game 5 in LA against Kershaw (potentially) is highly unlikely. So, Arizona is going to have to keep the fire going in the lineup and come right out by punching LA in the mouth. Or at least get it done in game 2 since Kershaw goes game 1. The D-backs are 11-8 vs Dodgers this year and have hit well against them. Robbie Ray is the X-factor, as he is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 31 innings with 53 K’s vs LA this season.
Dodgers key to winning: Having played .414 ball in September including that extremely cold streak, LA needs to find a way to get back to that fire they had in July and beginning of August. LA needs to find a lineup that works and stick with it, considering the Dodgers are the deepest team in the majors. Right now the Dodger offense can’t match the D-backs, so the Dodgers’ rotation needs to shut them down. Needing Kershaw to perform better in the playoffs than previous years goes without saying, but a dominant strikeout heavy start from Darvish in game 3 would only help.
Prediction: Dodgers: 3-1.