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Division Series done, Championship to come

by Matt Smith

MlbPostseason2014The Division Series round of the 2014 postseason was brought to a close on Tuesday.

The San Francisco Giants’ closer Sergio Romo got the Washington Nationals’ Wilson Ramos to ground into an out to finish off a 3-1 series victory for the NL Wild Card winners.

It came a few hours after the St. Louis Cardinals completed their own 3-1 series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The National League Championship Series lineup was therefore set two days after the American League version with both the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals completing swift sweeps over the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels respectively.

As there were a potential 20 games to enjoy from the four best-of-five series, seeing it all wrapped up within just 14 was a tad disappointing. It’s the quickest that the division series round has been completed since the 13 games of 2009 and is the first time since then that there wasn’t at least one series that went the distance.

We were definitely spoiled by the four 3-2 thrillers in 2012.

Looking through the Division Series match-ups of recent years was a reminder that this year’s NLCS has a very familiar feel to it.

The Cardinals and Giants faced each other at the same stage in 2012 as San Francisco prevailed 4-3 on their way to a second World Series in three years. St. Louis had won the Fall Classic the previous year and have now made it to four consecutive NLCS appearances. Both teams know what it’s like to play in these pressure games and that could make it all the more difficult to split them.

Meanwhile it couldn’t be more different in the ALCS. Never mind a Championship Series, the Royals hadn’t been anywhere near a playoff game since 1985 before making their Wild Card bow a week ago. The Orioles were dumped out of the Division Series by the Yankees two years ago, but had last made the playoffs before that in1997.

In short, there’s is a series full of players on the big stage either for the first time or only the second. Based on the quick work the two teams made of their Division Series opponents, they are revelling in their new-found status.

So far the only Championship Series start times confirmed are from Friday and Saturday, as follows in BST:

Friday 10 October
01.07. KC at BAL (early hours of Saturday for us) *ESPN

Saturday 11 October
21.07. KC at BAL *BT Sport 2
01.07. SFG at STL *ESPN

At this stage of the postseason, there really is little to choose between the teams so predicting the winners is a guessing game. I had Baltimore and Washington as my World Series picks heading into Division Series, so I’ll stick with Baltimore and then San Francisco as the team who knocked out the Nationals.

Let’s hope the Championship Series makes up for the brief Division stage with two contests going either six or the full seven games.

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