The 154 running of the Belmont Stakes will take place Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
While the Triple Crown won’t be on the line, Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will be part of the eight-horse field.
Post time for the race is set for approximately 6:49 p.m. In last year’s edition of the race, favorite Essential Quality came in first place after skipping the Preakness Stakes.
Among the notable betting options are:
Win: Picking the winning horse
Place: Picking a horse to finish first or second
Show: Picking a horse to finish first, second or third
Exacta: Picking the top two horses in the exact order
Trifecta: Picking the top three horses in the exact order
Box: In wagers such as exactas and trifectas, covering all permutations of the picked horses
Here is Chris Fallica’s breakdown of every horse in the Belmont field with suggested plays and picks.
Note: Horses, with morning-line odds, listed in order of post position.
1) We the People (2-1)
Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset
Jockey: Flavien Prat
He’s getting a ton of buzz for a couple of reasons. First, he appears to be lone speed — although I’m not sure it will play out that way, as I think Nest and or Skippylongstocking will not let him get an easy lead. Second is a 10-length win in a Grade 3 over a wet, sealed track at Belmont last month. I tend to not be wowed and overreact to those types of wins. Remember, this horse was up the track at Oaklawn after going off 5/2 in the Arkansas Derby. Could the race play out where he gets a lead and keeps going? Sure. But I’m not betting on it and wouldn’t recommend taking what will be an overbet short price.
2) Skippylongstocking (20-1)
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.
Jockey: Manny Franco
I was a little surprised this one didn’t try to show a little more speed in the Preakness to at least stay in touch. Maybe post nine had something to do with it, maybe I’m reading the PPs wrong with him as well. There are a couple of things to like here. He went gate-to-wire in his maiden win — and maybe Saffie Joseph tells Manny Franco to just go. The other is a nice third-place finish in the Wood Memorial — run at a NYRA track — where the two horses that finished ahead of him were Preakness winner Early Voting and closer Mo Donegal. There’s no runner here as talented as Early Voting and if the pace doesn’t set up Mo Donegal, maybe he can pull off a stunner here.
3) Nest (8-1)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Todd Pletcher has won the Belmont with a filly before and I applaud him for taking a shot here in a short, weak field. At the very least, she could be a rabbit for Pletcher’s other runner, Mo Donegal, also co-owned by Mike Repole. I don’t think she’s beaten anything great in the filly races, so I would be surprised if she repeated what Rags to Riches did in this race, but it isn’t completely impossible.
4) Rich Strike (7-2)
Trainer: Eric Reed
Jockey: Sonny Leon
Speaking of impossible… that’s what the Derby winner was on paper prior to the race. He needed a scratch just to get into the race. His three main track Beyer Speed Figures were 64, 56 and 65. He was a $30K claim and had never been better than third for the new barn. He was 46-1 in a race he was beaten 14 lengths by Epicenter. None of that mattered in the Derby as Sonny Leon waited, made a move and found an opening on the rail to win the Derby in shocking fashion, posting a Beyer 17 points higher than anything he previously ran. Connections chose to skip the Preakness and a potential chance at Triple Crown immortality, which I didn’t think was good for the sport (and still don’t). I almost saw the move as a “go out on a high note with a Derby win,” so I am pleasantly surprised he’s running here. There’s a myth with the Belmont that it’s a closers race — it’s not. It’s a race for those with tactical speed, something I don’t think Rich Strike has, and grinders. He got a total pace collapse in Louisville and there will be nothing close to that here. There’s an adage many use when looking at shocking winners and the race after: “If you weren’t there for the baptism, you don’t want to be there for the funeral.” After winning at 81-1 in the Derby, I certainly can’t back a stone-cold closer at what will likely be the shortest odds he’s ever been. He can certainly hit the board, but I think a third-place finish is probably his ceiling based on his career prior to the Derby win and the projected pace in the Belmont.
5) Creative Minister (6-1)
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
He actually ran pretty well in the Preakness, grinding out a third-place finish after being supplemented to the race. He’s improved every start speed-figure wise and his running style suggests he can go 1½ miles. There’s no Early Voting or Epicenter in here and I’m hoping he’s forgotten about on the tote board as I think he has a huge shot here. If you’re looking for a reason to stand against, it would be the three races in five weeks angle, but it’s hard to ignore he’s one of three in here with a triple-digit Beyer and his second-best number is far better than the second-best number either We the People or Rich Strike have posted.
6) Mo Donegal (5-2)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Like Rich Strike, he’s pace-dependent, but he’s shown he can stay a little more in touch. He was likely compromised in the Derby from the rail draw and then a 10-wide trip. His two stakes wins have been by a neck and a nose, so if he does get there, it won’t be without a sweat. He’s likely going to be shorter than he should be as well. My hunch is he’s best used for second and third, but I can’t fault anyone who lands on Todd Pletcher and Irad Ortiz Jr. at Belmont.
7) Golden Glider (20-1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Dylan Davis
There was a bit of buzz about this horse leading up to the Sam F. Davis, but he was no match for Classic Causeway at Tampa. I have some interest here for a variety of reasons. Trainer Mark Casse won this race in 2019 with a horse that really wasn’t very accomplished (Sir Winston). His last two races can be somewhat forgiven, or a better word might be understood or explained. He ran second to a daylight, lone-speed winner (We the People) in the Peter Pan and that could have simply been a prep or test run for this race. The Blue Grass was devoid of speed and they tried to press that day and ultimately finished six lengths behind Zandon, who would likely be odds-on in here. Maybe he’s not good enough and he’ll plod around the track, but at the price he will be, I would certainly use him on top, as the Derby showed basically anything can happen on a given day in racing.
8) Barber Road (10-1)
Trainer: John Ortiz
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Like Rich Strike, he ran for a $30K claiming price, but unlike Rich Strike he wasn’t claimed. It’s strange, because this one showed some speed in those sprint races last fall and since stretching out has shown no speed at all, opting for the one-run closer path. Blinkers come off, so who knows what effect that will have, as blinkers usually come off a horse to cause them to relax and settle back — something it doesn’t appear Barber Road has had a problem doing. Trainer John Ortiz is another who hasn’t had a ton of success finding the winners’ circle in graded stakes races, but this one looks a little bit like 2016 Belmont winner Creator on paper. He’ll need some pace help, but I’m a Joel Rosario fan, even if he didn’t have the best of Preakness trips on Epicenter. He wouldn’t be a shock at all, but I’d stick to the lower parts of the tri and super with him.
Suggested ways to bet the Belmont
Adjust depending on your budget
$2 exacta box 2-5-6-7-8 ($40)
$2 exacta 5/all ($14)
$2 exacta 8/all ($14)
$2 exacta 5/1-2-6-7-8 ($10)
$1 exacta all/5 ($7)
$1 exacta all/8 ($7)
$1 exacta 1-2-6-7-8/5 ($5)
$1 trifecta 5/all/all ($42)
$1 trifecta all/5/all ($42)
$1 trifecta all/all/5 ($42)
$1 trifecta 8/all/all ($42)
$1 trifecta all/8/all ($42)
$1 trifecta all/all/8 ($42)
$10 win-place 5, 8 ($40)
Other Saturday stakes picks
Acorn: Echo Zulu didn’t run poorly in the Kentucky Oaks, the distance was just too far for her. She should bounce back here nicely at the one-turn mile distance at the site of a seven-length win in the Frizette last October.
Just a Game: It’s hard not to think Speak of the Devil wins right back for Flavien Prat and Chad Brown with a very similar trip to what she got at Churchill last month.
Brooklyn: Warrant should bounce back from beaten favorite in the Ben Ali, where he kind of was stuck in a tough spot and faded. Expect an effort much closer to the one he gave in the Santa Anita Handicap — and maybe closer to that price as well.
Woody Stephens: Jack Christopher may prove to be the best 3YO out there. He got a slow start to 2022, but it could pay off in the end as he crushed the Pat Day Mile field in his first start of the year. I’d expect he moves forward off that race and remains undefeated.
Ogden Phipps: Letruska is the most accomplished runner and she should be able to make her own pace here and repeat as the Ogden Phipps winner.
Jaipur: Hoping one of the bigger fields of the day yields a price with Whatmakessammyrun. He broke his maiden at Belmont and the sprint stakes tries haven’t been bad at all. The last two races offer strong angles here, as in the Turf Sprint he was hung out in post 13 (of 13) and had no chance in his first race off a 10-month layoff. In the Oceanside last year, he was a beaten favorite in the one-mile race, where again he was up against it in post 11 (of 12). If someone can do the dirty work and soften up the Wesley Ward runner, we should have a big shot here.
Met Mile: In racing circles, this is the most anticipated race of the day, as is it features two of the best older colts in training — Flightline and Speaker’s Corner. I’m just going to sit and enjoy.
Manhattan: Gufo is pace-dependent, but should get a fair pace to close into here. If you’re playing multirace wagers, I’d also suggest using In Love on your ticket.
Friday stakes picks
Bed O’ Roses: I don’t like Bella Sofia in here, but am torn between Obligatory and Glass Ceiling as to who is my top pick.
Belmont Gold Cup: Strong Tide had to check out when the real running began in the Louisville Handicap. He has had some decent turf tries despite the lesser-known connections and was 10-1 in this race last year. If you don’t like Abaan, he’s as good as anyone in here.
True North: I have no interest trying to beat Jackie’s Warrior here. And even if I did, I don’t know who I would put on top.
New York: Bleecker Street is the unbeaten Chad Brown runner in here, but I think her stablemate Rougir will get the jump on her and find the winners’ circle.
Intercontinental: It doesn’t look like there will be a hotly contested pace, but I don’t want to take a short number on Wesley Ward, so I’ll hope there winds up being a bit more of a pace presence than it appears and land on Flower Point, who is back in New York after a “meh” effort at CD in a route race. Hoping the turn-back in distance is a big plus for her here. — Chris Fallica
Anita Marks’ picks
3) Nest (8-1)
Win; exacta box (3, 1, 6)
In horse racing you always want to find value, and in this year’s Belmont, the best value you will find is betting the filly to beat the colts Saturday. Nest is owned by Michael Repole — Mr. Vitamin Water — trained by Todd Pletcher and will be ridden by Jose Ortiz. This ownership group would not race Nest if it were not uber confident she could win, and specifically saved her for this race due to the distance (1½ miles) and her pedigree — she’s a descendant of Curlin, who was known for distance. Nest won the G1 Ashland, but came in second to Secret Oath in the Kentucky Oaks. She can sit forward, and has the ability to make an early run. Another horse who has a chance to win Saturday is We the People, who has become the “wise guy horse.” He won the Peter Pan Stakes on this track — going wire to wire. This is a race that doesn’t have a lot of speed, so he is it. His pedigree is for distance as well — his sire was Constitution, descendant of Tapit. Five of the past eight Belmont winners have had Tapit bloodlines. Last but not least, I will throw in Mo Donegal to round out my exacta box. Another Todd Pletcher horse, the jockey is Irad Ortiz, and Mo comes in with a win over the Preakness winner Early Voting.
Sad Beautiful Tragic: Bottom 10 jumps on the Taylor Swift bandwagon
Inspirational thought of the week:
Is taking its sweet time erasing you.
And you’ve got your demons
And darlin’ they all look like me.
‘Cause we had a beautiful magic love there …
What a sad beautiful tragic love affair.
— “Sad Beautiful Tragic,” Taylor Swift
Here at Bottom 10 Headquarters, located in the storage room where Jesse Palmer keeps his emergency supplies of arch supports and joint liniments for the contestants on “The Golden Bachelor,” we spent our September standing in line outside football stadiums around the country, not waiting to see football games or to see Taylor Swift, but to see Taylor Swift seeing football games.
Are Tay-Tay and Travis Kelce dating? We don’t know. But they seem to be, and at first blush the girl who grew up in Temple Owls territory and the former Cincinnati Bearcat might seem like an odd pairing. So might involving T-Swizzle, whose current tour has earned a reported $2.2 billion, in the Bottom 10. But look at the woman’s lyrics, why don’t you?
“It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s me.”
“And if I get burned, at least we were electrified.”
“I’m still a believer, but I don’t know why. I’ve never been a natural. All I do is try, try, try.”
Do those not sound like the cries of the teams of the Bottom 10? Heck, during this very tour Taylor even threw up an “L” sign!
— Taylor Swift Facts (@blessedswifty) April 22, 2023
With that in mind and with Arrowhead Stadium lathered up into a sequin-covered frenzy, we are going full Swiftie, finding Miss Americana’s songs that best fit every “Anti-Hero” on this list.
With apologies to Lawrence Taylor, Aaron Taylor, D’Andre Swift and Steve Harvey, here’s the Post-Week 5 Bottom 10.
1. No-vada (0-5)
“I Did Something Bad”
I’m not great at math — my accountant and every teacher I ever had can tell you that. But I do know that there are 133 FBS football programs. I also know that the Wuf Pack currently rank 131st in points for and 130th in points against. I also know that if you can’t score and you can’t keep the other guys from scoring, that’s bad. Like, as bad as I normally am at math.
2. U-Can’t (0-5)
“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”
On paper, a one-point loss to a Utah State program that goes bowling pretty much every winter doesn’t seem that bad. But when you realize the Huskies had a 17-point lead but lost when a would-be game-tying PAT was blocked with 40 seconds remaining, you realize that “on paper” is actually one of those newspapers that Jason Bourne likes to hide behind as he punches you in the face.
3. Sam Houston State We Have Problem (0-4)
In the Battle of FBS Newbies against Jacksonville State, the Bearkats seized an eight-point lead with 1:11 remaining, but immediately surrendered an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in less than a minute as well as the 2-point conversion to force overtime. Not only did the Kats lose in OT, but we had a certified Bottom 10 moment when the overtime coin toss had to be redone because during the coin flip, the coin hadn’t actually flipped.
Ref asks for redo after OT coin toss flub
Before Jacksonville State and Sam Houston start overtime, the official tries to flip the coin, but it doesn’t actually flip.
4. Akronmonious (1-4)
“The Moment I Knew”
Speaking of math, we have spent a disproportionate amount of time this fall watching the MCU — the #MACtion Cinematic Universe — to see who among the one-and-something teams would make a statement that they were ready to break away. When our friends the Zips lost to the then-second-ranked Buffalo Bulls Not Bills — and did so via a blocked field goal in overtime, then, like my college girlfriend throwing all of my stuff out her 10th-floor dormitory window, that statement had been made.
5. UC(not S)F (3-2)
The Fightin’ Guses of UCF were up 35-7 in the third quarter before surrendering 35 unanswered points to Baylor. Even so, they still had a chance to win the game but missed a 59-yard field goal attempt as time expired. It was the biggest comeback in Baylor history and the biggest collapse in Orlando since I tried to do that “drinking around the world” thing at Epcot.
6. UMess (1-5)
“Right Where You Left Me”
Remember way back in the day, like, two weeks ago, when Arkansaw State was atop the bottom of these rankings and looked like a runway Red Wolf of a favorite to win the Bottom 10? Then the Wolves beat Southern Missed. Then they beat these guys, the team that even way-er back in the day, like five weeks ago, started the season as the top bottom team in the preseason Bottom 10, but opened the season with a promising win … and haven’t won since.
7. You A Bee? (1-4)
“You Need to Calm Down”
Trent Dilfer has always worn his heart on his sleeve, as witnessed by his emotion this week ahead of UAB’s annual Children’s Harbor Game supporting children battling illness. But if you saw him just a few days earlier, “discussing” a substitution infraction with his coaching staff, then you also know he wears slobber and seething bile on his sleeve like that Blazers mascot logo that spits fire.
Trent Dilfer incensed on the sideline after a costly penalty
Trent Dilfer erupts on multiple assistant coaches after UAB draws a costly illegal substitution penalty.
8. UTEPid (1-5)
“Back to December”
The Minors registered their fourth straight loss and fifth of the season, with their only victory coming against Incarnate Word of the FCS. That means they are one loss away from getting back to another December without bowl eligibility.
9. Charlotte 1-and-4’ers (1-4)
There were so many T-Swizzle options here. We could have gone with “Sweater” or even “Dress” or perhaps even “Cold As You” because as October temperatures fall and the Niners‘ keep piling up losses, maybe it’s time for Biff Poggi to try coaching a game in something with sleeves. The cutoff shirts are becoming like the fungus on the shower shoes of Nuke LaLoosh.
10. Stanfird (1-4)
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
As the season nears its halfway point, we have also officially entered the “oh dang, we won’t be playing again?” portion of the 2023 pre-realignment season. See: Stanford and Oregon, who have played 87 times dating back to 1900, including the current run of nearly uninterrupted annual meetings that reaches back to 1951. Next year this game will be replaced on the Cardinal‘s and Ducks’ schedules by the likes of Wake Forest and Michigan State — turning what used to be a Poulan Weed Eater Independence or Redbox Bowl matchup into a conference game.
Waiting List: FA(not I)U, R.O.C.K. in the UTSA, EC-Yew, The Pitt and the Pendulum, UVA Tech, Muddled Tennessee, the MCU (#MACtion Cinematic Universe), San No-sé State, Rod Tidwell’s alma mater, LSU’s feaux D, all the old angry guys who tweeted at me about Deion Sanders last week and will tweet at me about Taylor Swift this week
Why the Oilers will win the Cup, and predictions for every NHL team’s finish in the 2023-24 season
The Edmonton Oilers are going to win the 2024 Stanley Cup.
Granted, I predicted that the Oilers would win the 2023 Stanley Cup, which they very much did not. In fact, my preseason championship prognostications have become something of a curse.
As is tradition, I reached out to the general manager of my Stanley Cup champion-in-waiting to let him know what’s coming.
Me: “I’m picking you to win the Stanley Cup again. I’m sorry.”
Ken Holland, general manager of the Edmonton Oilers: “Oh boy.”
And that was the extent of it.
My logic last time was that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are generational talents on the same team, and that eventually that kind of partnership leads to a Stanley Cup win. Like it did for Gretzky and Messier, for Mario and Jagr, for Sakic and Forsberg and for Crosby and Malkin.
I still believe that to be the case for Connor and Leon but now have an additional reason to believe this is the year: They’ve reached a point of utter disgust over falling short in the playoffs.
Look at Draisaitl’s reaction after being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights last season. Hood up. Eyes filled with rage. He’s over it. I see in him what I saw in Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche before they won the Stanley Cup: I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.
At the NHL Players Media Tour, I asked Draisaitl whether he has reached that MacKinnon Moment.
2023 MLB playoffs: Our predictions from the wild-card games through the World Series
The 2023 MLB playoffs kick off on Tuesday afternoon, with 12 teams hoping to raise this year’s World Series trophy.
The Braves — who enter October with MLB’s best record — look to win their second World Series title in three years, while the Phillies will try to take down their NL East foe to return to the Fall Classic — and win it this year. The Astros, on the other hand, want to become baseball’s first repeat champions since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000. And the Orioles hope to ride their momentum from the regular season all the way to their first title in 40 years.
Who will win each round? And which squad will be the last standing at the end of the postseason? We asked more than 25 of our MLB experts — from ESPN.com, TV, Stats & Information and more — to give us their predictions.
Below are their picks for the wild-card winners (two teams will make it out of each league), division series winners, league championship series winners and World Series champion.
American League Wild Card Series
Toronto Blue Jays 17
Minnesota Twins 10
Our voters seem to be split between Minnesota and Toronto. Why do you think the Twins will prevail? This is a tight matchup between two franchises really starved for some postseason validation. The Twins’ offense has been better than Toronto’s in recent weeks, which is not something you’d guess just looking at the names of who has been available. The rotation matchup is fantastic, and a lot hinges on Pablo Lopez against Kevin Gausman in Game 1. When and if it goes to the bullpen, I really like the way Minnesota’s current pecking order stacks up, with Chris Paddack back on the mound, Kenta Maeda able to work the middle innings and, of course, Jhoan Duran waiting at the end. The margins are somewhere between small and invisible, but I like the Twins in three. — Bradford Doolittle
Tampa Bay Rays 22
Texas Rangers 5
How do the Rangers come out of the wild-card series triumphant against the 99-win Rays? When the Rangers’ lineup is whole — which it is again — it is the most potent in the AL. Corey Seager and Josh Jung both missed extended time because of injury, but this team went 50-31 and averaged 5.5 runs/game when they both played. That, for me, is the tiebreaker in what is practically a coin-flip series. — Paul Hembekides
National League Wild Card Series
Milwaukee Brewers 24
Arizona Diamondbacks 3
The D-backs are the overwhelming underdog in our voters’ eyes. How do you think they pull off the upset? The Brewers have the best pitching staff in the NL, and quite possibly the entire postseason. They are really hard to score runs against, and if anyone other than the Braves is going to be representing the NL in the World Series, I think it’s going to be the Brewers. But that’s where what Arizona does best comes into play. The D-backs stole the second-most bases in baseball and struck out fewer times than all but three teams. They put the ball in play and they manufacture runs. This kind of approach has a better chance against Milwaukee than an all-or-nothing home run-oriented offense, and, especially in a short series, that could add up to just enough scoring to pull off the upset. — Dan Mullen
Philadelphia Phillies 25
Miami Marlins 2
The Marlins surprised everyone by even making the playoffs. What makes you think they won’t get past Philly? It’s not so much a problem with the Marlins; it’s that the Phillies continue to feel like a team that is built for October, especially while playing in front of their own rowdy fans. Bryce Harper will find his moment at some point. Trea Turner went ballistic for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and is scorching hot yet again. And overall, the top part of their roster is significantly more talented and seasoned than that of the Marlins — and that really matters in small, pressure-filled October sample sizes. — Alden Gonzalez
American League Division Series
ALDS: Winner of Blue Jays-Twins vs. Houston Astros
Houston Astros 23
Toronto Blue Jays 3
Minnesota Twins 1
The Astros are our voters’ favorite here, but you chose the Jays. Why do you think they can win it? I’m not sure why so many people grant the Astros automatic entry into the ALCS. This isn’t the 2022 team — the Astros posted a middle-of-the-road 4.31 ERA from July forward, enjoyed no home-field advantage at all (they were three games under .500 at home, after being 29 over last year) and dropped all three games in Toronto against the Blue Jays’ top three rotation members in June. I think the Blue Jays caught a break with the silly no-reseeding rule, getting to face the Astros in the division series rather than the Orioles, against whom they were 3-10 in the regular season. — Tristan Cockcroft
ALDS: Winner of Rangers-Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles 15
Texas Rangers 1
Tampa Bay Rays 11
Make the case for the Orioles: When the Orioles came somewhat out of nowhere to win 83 games last season, people thought they were ahead of schedule. With a blistering 101-win pace this year, a young team that doesn’t know any better won’t be afraid of a battle-tested Rays team. The Rays’ top pitcher, Tyler Glasnow, posted an 8.22 ERA against the O’s in three starts this season. And guess who stopped the Rays’ streak of 36 consecutive scoreless innings in September? You guessed it: Baltimore. Home field will be huge here. — Clinton Yates
Make the case for the Rays: It almost doesn’t matter who the Rays play. The pitching staff generally overachieves, especially in the bullpen, and they’ll open the first few games with high-end, strikeout guys. Watch out for rookie Junior Caminero. The Rays boast plenty of power and maneuverability, and most members of the team are playoff experienced. — Eric Karabell
National League Division Series
NLDS: Winner of Diamondbacks-Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers 20
Milwaukee Brewers 7
What makes the Dodgers a threat in October? My theory about the playoffs is that they are about proven star performers and not making mistakes due to institutional continuity and excellence. Ronald Acuna Jr., Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman would be the top three for the former, and the Braves, Dodgers and Astros would be the top three for the latter. I’ll bet on the Dodgers and Braves to beat anyone until they go head-to-head. — Kiley McDaniel
How can the Brewers upset L.A. to advance? The Brewers will send the Dodgers home this season, and they’ll do it in the most teeth-grinding way possible. Short on offense but absolutely stacked in the bullpen, the Brewers will win four games by scores of 2-1 or 3-2. There might be bunts involved. One reliever after another — Hoby Milner, Bryse Wilson, Abner Uribe, Joel Payamps and finally Devin Williams — will make nine innings feel like five or six. The Dodgers are the second-best offense in baseball, so it’s a tall task, and an admittedly preposterous idea, but the Brewers will win because bullpens win this time of year, right? — Tim Keown
NLDS: Winner of Marlins-Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves 22
Philadelphia Phillies 5
The Braves were upset by the Phillies in last year’s division series. Why do you think Atlanta has it in the bag this time around? Philadelphia pitchers will have a hard time keeping the Braves in the ballpark. Aaron Nola gave up 32 home runs — the sixth most in baseball this year — but the Braves can take anyone deep. This time, they’ll do exactly that to the Phillies. They will out-homer a good home-run-hitting team and move on to the NLCS. — Jesse Rogers
American League Championship Series
Houston Astros 9
Baltimore Orioles 9
Tampa Bay Rays 7
Toronto Blue Jays 1
Texas Rangers 1
Houston, Baltimore and Tampa Bay all received a similar number of votes. Why are the Astros your pick? The AL can be won by five, if not six, teams. I’ll take the Astros because of the way they have played since being swept at home by the Royals. They went to Seattle and won two out of three in front of loud, huge crowds. Then they went to Arizona and swept the Diamondbacks to win the AL West. Houston’s experience this time of year cannot be overstated. It doesn’t have the same depth of veteran starting pitching that it had last year, but that lineup is tremendous now that Michael Brantley is back and Yordan Alvarez is crushing. It’s corny and a cliché, but never underestimate the heart of a champion. — Tim Kurkjian
Why are the Rays yours? The Rays lost three-fifths of their rotation. They lost their entire middle infield. And yet here they are, still with a representative enough pitching staff and deep enough lineup to capture the pennant. How? Because they never stray from who they are and what they do well. Tampa Bay survived the injuries through depth — the sort of depth that, in October, plays particularly well. The depth to play platoons correctly. The depth to deploy relievers in leverage moments. Depth isn’t sexy. But in the case of the Rays, it’s enough to make up for all they lack. — Jeff Passan
National League Championship Series
Atlanta Braves 21
Philadelphia Phillies 5
Los Angeles Dodgers 1
The NL is a little more clear-cut, with the Braves the overwhelming favorite here. But you chose the Phillies. Why? It’s an upset pick. I have no illusions about that. I just really like the Phillies’ roster in a postseason context. No team can match the Braves in terms of sheer firepower, but the Phillies are in the mix for the top of the next tier. Philly’s rotation is deep and stacks up well against Atlanta’s battered group, no matter how things go in the wild-card round. The tipping-point factor to me is the Phillies’ bullpen, which has vicious stuff coming from both sides of the plate and from more than one reliever. Once we get to the LDS round and there are some built-in off-days, I think that group could carry the Phillies all the way. I can’t say the same thing about the Atlanta bullpen. — Doolittle
Atlanta Braves 21
(Matt Marrone, Jesse Rogers, Matthew Stupienski, Brianna Williams, Alden Gonzalez, Tristan Cockcroft, Karl Ravech, Enrique Rojas, Liz Finny, Michael Kay, Dan Mullen, Tim Keown, Jeff Passan, Tim Kurkjian, Peter Lawrence-Riddell, Brendan DeAngelis, Kiley McDaniel, Rachel Ullrich, Clinton Yates, David Fleming, Gregg Colli)
Philadelphia Phillies 4
(Buster Olney, Eric Karabell, Paul Hembekides, Bradford Doolittle)
Los Angeles Dodgers 1
Baltimore Orioles 1
The Braves were our most popular pick. Why did you go with Atlanta here? I typically pick some series winners that aren’t favored or don’t have the best regular-season records because the playoffs are always more random than you think. But I just can’t pick against the Braves, even though that’s the chalk answer. Their offense is so overwhelming and they have Spencer Strider as their ace, not to mention a strong back end of the bullpen. Pair that with some rest and the know-how in navigating the playoffs and you’ve got a recipe for a World Series title. — McDaniel
What makes you think the Phillies can come away with the title this year? In many respects, they are better prepared for a long run through October than they were last year, when they came so close from an 87-win season to winning the whole thing. Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh, Alec Bohm and other young players on the team now have the experience of playing in the postseason, and the Phillies’ pitching staff is deeper and maybe better. They’ve also got stars who can carry the others through a big spot — Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. Look, the Phillies have to play one more round than the Astros, Braves and Dodgers, and with that, there might well be injuries and worn-down pitchers. But this is a really dangerous team. — Olney
You were our only pick for the O’s. Explain how Baltimore wins its first World Series since 1983. The Orioles have been the AL’s most consistent team all season, winning 101 games in the toughest division. They’ve played their best baseball over the final two months, with the second-best record behind only the Dodgers. They went 51-39 against winning teams, best in the AL. They play defense and run the bases, and their lineup is better than you realize (fourth in the majors in runs on the road). Would I feel better about this prediction with a healthy Felix Bautista? Yes, but the bullpen hasn’t skipped a beat without him. Given the pitching concerns with the Braves, Dodgers and Rangers, it’s Baltimore’s year. Let the dynasty begin. — Schoenfield
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