Ellie Kinney, asst. sports editor: Red Sox and Braves
American League: The Boston Red Sox were the clear underdog coming into the postseason, but they showed just how dangerous they can be when they battled their way past the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays in the first two rounds of the playoffs. After finishing last in their division in 2020, very few expected them to have success this year — but a couple of key offseason pickups, including outfielders Kiké Hernández and Hunter Renfroe, as well as the acquisition of slugger Kyle Schwarber at the trade deadline, made all the difference. The main reason I believe that this team will reach the World Series is their relentless fight and refusal to give up in every single game they play. It is the kind of mindset that is necessary to win a championship, and the Red Sox have played with that intensity all season long.
National League: I’ll give a hot take — it will not be the winner of tonight’s matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants that will reach the World Series, but the Atlanta Braves. The starting pitching trio of Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson was electric to start the postseason, and I believe they can shut down whichever of the high-powered California offenses they face in the National League Championship Series. On the hitting side, first baseman Freddie Freeman and third baseman Austin Riley have been unstoppable all season, and outfielder Joc Pederson has started to step up in clutch situations. Much like the Red Sox, this team has a lot of fight in them; they have not taken a trip to the World Series in over 20 years, so they will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.
Ben Barrett, asst. sports editor: Red Sox and Giants/Dodgers
American League: My prediction is that the Red Sox will come out of the American League and compete in the World Series. They have had the hardest road to the Championship Series out of any team. They had to face the Yankees for a Wild Card game, then they had to face the top-seeded Rays in a five-game series. Alex Cora is also back for the Red Sox. They won the World Series with him as a coach in 2018, and the team always looks significantly better under his leadership. The adversity they have already faced as an underdog team, plus the coaching of Cora, gives them a real shot at the World Series.
National League: Tonight, Oct. 14, 2021, the Giants and Dodgers face off one last time to see who will go home, and who will advance to the Championship Series. Whichever team is able to come away with the win tonight will be the National League team heading to the World Series. Both teams have very strong pitchers, hitters and fielders who have stepped up big time in the past few games. The series has been so close and very exciting to watch — it would be hard to say that whichever team comes out with the win tonight wouldn’t make it to the World Series.
Chris Benis, asst. sports editor: Astros and Dodgers
American League: The Houston Astros have the player experience to claim a (legitimate) World Series this season. Only the Dodgers have played in more playoff games since 2015 (70) than the Astros (63), and they boast an impressive run differential of +205, good for second in the American League. The Astros have also had success this season against good teams, which is a promising trend for a deep postseason run. Honestly, the biggest knock against them might simply be their schedule; to win the championship, they’ll have to finish off the White Sox, then likely play the Rays before reaching the World Series. But combine the Astros' consistent bullpen with their strikeout rate (a mere 19.4 percent) and Houston makes a strong push to represent the American League in Major League Baseball’s most important series.
National League: The Dodgers are fully capable of defending their title, especially given the strength of their roster. Their current pitching trio of Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urías is the best in the league, and each one of those players would be the number one pitcher on most MLB teams. On top of that, the Dodgers are playing hungry despite coming off of a title run last season; plenty of baseball fans view their championship win with an asterisk due to the shortened season. They’ll be without Clayton Kershaw this postseason, thanks to a left elbow injury, and Max Muncy’s health is questionable, but the Dodgers have one of the highest player payrolls for a reason. If Chris Taylor can continue to contribute as a utility man, and Cody Bellinger rebounds to replicate last year’s postseason, then the Dodgers' repeat buzz is justified.