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  • Writer's pictureWyatt Bose

From Scherzer’s Rangers to Verlander’s Astros: Who is best suited for October?

The trade deadline was crazy once again. Ambivalent teams like the Dodgers had their eye on Nolan Arenado and wound up with Enrique Hernandez and Amed Rosario, while decisive ball clubs like the Rangers plunged early and often.

Texas traded for veteran closer Aroldis Chapman on June 30, an entire month before the trade deadline. Additionally, when it was time to plunge on July 31, the Rangers traded for Max Scherzer and Jordan Montogomery to fill out a star-studded rotation alreadly headlined by Jacob DeGrom and Nathan Eovaldi. Chapman’s velocity at the back-end of that bullpen will be invaluable in October, as he and Will Smith will likely split the 8th and 9th innings of most playoff games.

All things considered, the Rangers’ pitching staff used to be the team’s weak link. Texas sent five position players to the Midsummer Classic this year: Corey Seager (SS), Marcus Semien (2B), Jonah Heim (C), Josh Jung (3B), and Adolis Garcia (LF), all of whom started the All Star Game. Nathan Eovaldi was also named an All-Star.

With Scherzer, Montgomery, and a soon-to-be healthy DeGrom returning to the mound, Texas’ pitching staff rivals the best in the league. A 256-mile battle for the AL West is in full effect, as the newly Rangers look to maintain their marginal lead in front of the defending World Series Champions.

The Astros are back, along with a familiar face from last year’s championship run. Houston traded for Justin Verlander on July 31, leaving Mets fans in utter despondency, while Astros fans rejuvenated and rejoiced in the return of an old friend. The Astros have managed an impressive season thus far, despite the absences of both Jose Altuve and Yordan Alvarez. Fortunately for Houston, both stars returned to action a few days ago, and the team looks to push for another AL West division title.

Houston relied on its pitching throughout the 2022 postseason, and they look to do the same in 2023. Christian Javier, Justin Verlander, and Framber Valdez headline the starters, and Rafael Montero, Kendall Graveman, Bryan Abreu, Ryne Stanek, and Ryan Pressly fill out an impressive bullpen. Most notably, Framber Valdez threw a no-hitter this season, making him the first lefty to accomplish the feat in Astros’ history. Once again, the defending champs will be a tough out in October.

Tampa Bay, the final component to the three-headed monster in the AL, have been overlooked, bypassed, and disregarded all year long. The Rays will have to battle the Orioles for the AL East division title, but if they come out on top, Tampa will pose the same threat as Texas or Houston.

The Rays, led by Randy Arozarena, the postseason Paladin, are consistently the toughest out in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has a complete roster, headlined by four all-stars: Wander Franco (SS), Yandy Diaz (1B), Randy Arozarena (LF), and Shane McClanahan (LHP). Yandy Diaz has an AL second best .314 batting average this year, and Shane McClanahan is a finalist for the Cy Young award. While the Rays have their hands full with Baltimore, I wouldn’t count them out come playoff time.

In the NL, the Braves have taken everyone by storm. With the MLB’s best record, Atlanta didn’t need to make a splash at the deadline, but they did anyway. The Braves signed reliever Brad Hand to complement AJ Minter and Raisel Iglesies in the bullpen.

On offense, there was no room for improvement. Atlanta sent a league leading eight all-stars to the Midsummer Classic, six of whom are position players. The list includes NL MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuna Jr (RF), Sean Murphy (C), Matt Olson (1B), Ozzie Albies (2B), Austin Riley (3B), Orlando Arcia (SS), Spencer Strider (RHP), and Bryce Elder (RHP). Yes, the Braves’ entire starting infield made the all-star team.

Superstar Ronald Acuna Jr looks to make history with a 40-40 season. The outfielder already has 51 steals and 25 homeruns, so with the 40-40 mark already at a high probability, Acuna has an outside chance at a record-setting 50-50 season. The Braves (70-37) sit atop the NL East with a 12-game lead ahead of the Phillies, as they look to preserve that #1 spot overall.

All in all, from the one-man race in the NL to the three-headed monster in the AL, the MLB playoffs will have everything from unforeseen darkhorses to championship shoo-ins, as the race to October picks up pace.

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