Let’s try this again, shall we?
Our rankings ahead of the baseball postseason went as well as things did for the three teams that won 100 games or more during the regular season. As the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Baltimore Orioles crashed out of the playoffs, so did our previous version of these rankings, as those were our top-three teams coming into the dance.
But we forge on, hoping for redemption story of our own. But if you think these rankings are wrong? Well, given history, you might be right.
Take solace in that, Arizona fans.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
Coming into the MLB playoffs, speed was the one factor people pointed to when making the case that Arizona could make a run.
But through both their Wild Card series against the Milwaukee Brewers, and their stunning sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, their hitting has been just as big of a story. Arizona’s team OPS of .877 leads all playoff teams, as does their team slugging percentage of .530. Their 13 home runs also lead the majors this postseason.
However, do not sleep on what their staff did against the dangerous Dodgers lineup. Diamondbacks pitchers held Los Angeles to a team batting average of just .177, and silenced MVP candidate Mookie Betts along with talented hitter Freddie Freeman. The two went a combined 1-for-21 in the series, with Betts painfully admitting “I did absolutely nothing to help us win.”
The odds will remain long, and they’ll have to play their next two games at Citizens Bank Park, which seems like one of the toughest places to play as a road team in the game today.
But they are one of the last four standing, and there are 26 other teams — including the 100-win Dodgers — who cannot say that.
3. Texas Rangers
There are a number of reasons to believe the Texas Rangers will win the World Series.
First off, they are scorching hot right now. The Rangers are 5-0 in the postseason, having rolled through a pair of AL East opponents. Texas swept the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Series, winning two games by a combined score of 11-1, both of which came on the road. Then after a one-run win at Camden Yards in the ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles, they won the next two game by a combined score of 18-9.
As a team the Rangers are batting .282 in the playoffs, the best batting average of any team remaining. Their team slugging percentage of .865 is ahead of the Houston Astros, who they will face in the ALCS.
Beyond that, their pitching has been tremendous in the playoffs. Texas starters have a 2.22 ERA, and their bullpen has a 2.16 ERA so far in the postseason. As a staff the Rangers have posted a WHIP of 1.09 in the playoffs. If that was not enough, they might get Max Scherzer and/or John Gray back for the ALCS, and they’ll have their rotation set up on full rest.
Oh, and they might have the backing of a “Higher” calling.
The biggest obstacle perhaps? The team they’ll face Sunday, as the Rangers went just 4-9 against Houston this year, including a 2-8 mark after they took two of three games back in April. Still, the ALCS feels like a series destined for seven games, that will likely come down to the final pitch.
2. Houston Astros
This has been a … strange season for the defending World Series Champions.
Houston found themselves down by as many as 6.5 games to the Texas Rangers in late June, and after an 17-11 August they went just 12-14 in September. But they were able to do enough to catch the Rangers in the AL West — including a three-game sweep of Texas at Globe Life Field at the start of September — and now will have home-field advantage throughout the ALCS.
The lineup remains punishing, Houston pitchers held opponents to a .198 batting average in the first two round of the playoffs, and this is an experienced team that’s been through the playoff battles before.
And to top it all off, they went 9-4 against the Rangers this season, with the only series loss coming back in April. That is what gives them the edge going into this series, as far as these rankings go.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
Would you want to face the Phillies right now? Because they certainly feel like a team of destiny.
But for those who believe things like destiny and momentum are only as good as the next game’s starting pitcher, here are some more reasons to believe in Philadelphia.
After Philadelphia lost in heart-breaking fashion in Game 2 of the NLDS to the Atlanta Braves, they came roaring back. Make what you will of “AttaBoyGate,” but after losing that game the Phillies came back in Game 3 and routed Atlanta 10-2, with Bryce Harper homering twice.
Philadelphia then closed out the series Thursday night with a 3-1 over Atlanta to punch their ticket to the NLCS.
The Phillies offense has been punishing, but their pitching has been equally impressive. Philadelphia has gotten two wins from Aaron Nola, and a pair of quality starts from Zack Wheeler, so far in the postseason. As a staff their postseason ERA of 1.64 is tops among all playoff teams, and opponents have hit just .195 against them this postseason, which is the best mark among pitching staffs in the playoffs.
The other thing working in their favor?
Now they get home-field advantage in the NLCS. Getting to play four games at CBP could be huge for the Phillies. And if they get a shot at redemption against Houston, Game 7 — if necessary — would be at home as well.