Underdogs look to take the MLB Championship Series

Image Courtesy of stevethehump.com

Image Courtesy of stevethehump.com

T.J. Hummel, Sports Editor

With the MLB Playoffs coming closer to the World Series, two unlikely teams are making a splash during their respected playoff runs. The Tampa Bay Rays have played nothing short of stellar baseball this year, both in the regular season and the playoffs. The Atlanta Braves have been tearing up their competition in the National League side of the playoffs. Both teams are in the Championship series against two former champions; the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros.

The Tampa Bay Rays have come a long way in the previous two seasons, putting together a roster full of high impact players, while also enhancing their farm system. The Rays went to Game 5 of the ALDS against the New York Yankees, a team that was heavily favored to win the World Series this year. One player who has had a sensational postseason so far is rookie left fielder, Randy Arozarena. Arozarena is batting an astonishing .462 avg along with 4 home runs and 5 runs batted in.

The team has also had lights out pitching performances from veteran Charlie Morton and Blake Snell. The two pitchers have a combined 3.94 ERA and 26 strikeouts. Kevin Cash, the Rays manager, has played a key role in his team’s success. He knows what relief pitchers to throw at exactly the right time. To add to the team’s success, there have been some web-gem defensive plays made by 3-time Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier and right fielder Hunter Renfroe.

The Atlanta Braves have a star-studded lineup full of a pleasant mix of young and veteran talent. Travis d’Arnaud and Dansby Swanson come to mind instantly in terms of veteran performances. d’Arnaud has batted .346 this postseason while adding 2 home runs and 8 runs batted in. Dansby Swanson has been lighting up the playoffs this year. He’s batting .259 with 2 home runs and 6 runs batted in.

The Braves also have had some solid pitching performances to help propel them towards the World Series. Ian Anderson has been lights out on the mound during this run, posting a 2-0 record, no earned runs average, and 22 strikeouts. The Braves have also had the closer position on lockdown with veteran Mark Melancon. Melancon has 6 games played, 2 saves, and no earned runs. He also has given up only 1 hit and fanning 5 strikeouts.

The opponents, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros, have struggled so far against these 2 teams. Jose Altuve, the starting second baseman, has committed 4 errors in the ALCS, which resulted in 5 Rays runs scored. His play, both batting and fielding, has been a shocker to witness. The Astros have also seen struggles from their bullpen, and other star batters such as George Springer and Alex Bregman. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have had a similar start to the NLCS. They have had pitching struggles from Walker Buehler, who has allowed 8 hits and 4 earned runs. Clayton Kershaw has also been off to a rough start in which he’s been dealing with back spasms.

The Tampa Bay Rays look to advance tonight as they could win game 4 and move onto the World Series. The Atlanta Braves look to take a 3-0 series lead tonight in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.