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The 2022 MLB playoffs begin Friday afternoon, debuting a new format with 12 teams hoping to raise this year’s World Series trophy.

The Dodgers — who enter October with MLB’s best record and a franchise record number of wins — look to add another title to prove their 2020 championship was no fluke. Meanwhile, the Braves have hopes of becoming baseball’s first repeat champions since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000. The Yankees, on the other hand, will try to return to their early-season form and make a run at the Fall Classic from the No. 2 seed in the American League.

Who will win each round? And which squad will be the last standing at the end of the postseason? We asked more than 30 of our MLB experts — from ESPN.com, TV, Stats & Information and more — to give us their predictions.

Below are their picks for wild-card winners (two teams will make it out of each league), division series winners, league championship series winners and World Series champion.

Everything you need to know | Bracket | Watch on ESPN, ABC


American League Wild Card Series

ALWC: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cleveland Guardians

Cleveland Guardians 19

Tampa Bay Rays 12

While the Guardians are the favorite, you picked the Rays. How do they come out of wild-card weekend triumphant? The Rays might be the best organization at perennially outpunching its weight in terms of regular-season record and playoff runs, with execs spread all over the league to prove I’m not the only one who believes this. I normally give then the benefit of the doubt in a toss-up, but I think the Rays are a better team because of the superior depth of their rotation and lineup. That said, I see these risks in this pick: Guardians relievers James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase scare me if the Rays fall behind, and Rays ace Shane McClanahan hasn’t been that great of late. — Kiley McDaniel

ALWC: Seattle Mariners vs. Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays 18

Seattle Mariners 13

Our voters are almost split between the Mariners and Blue Jays. Why do you think Toronto will prevail? The Mariners-Blue Jays series is a jump ball. I’ll take the Blue Jays partly because they are at home. Rogers Centre is a loud place. “It will be crazy,” Blue Jays center fielder George Springer said. Only the Yankees scored more runs in the American League this year than the Jays. They are swinging it really well these days, especially Bo Bichette, who had 48 hits in September. Plus, the Jays have Alek Manoah going in Game 1. He has been one of the best pitchers in the league, totally fearless, totally oblivious to the pressure. The Mariners are really good, have won seven of 10 and can win this series, but home-field advantage means the Jays win in three. — Tim Kurkjian


National League Wild Card Series

NLWC: Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals 19

Philadelphia Phillies 12

A fair number of our voters went with the Phillies. Why did you choose the Cardinals? In a short series, I’m going to trust their defense — especially in a park as spacious as Busch Stadium — and the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Albert Pujols to do what’s necessary to advance. The Phillies certainly seem to have a major advantage with their starting pitching, but I think the Cardinals have it, perhaps to a lesser extent, in the bullpen. And I think having all three games at home will be a major advantage. — Alden Gonzalez

NLWC: San Diego Padres vs. New York Mets

New York Mets 27

San Diego Padres 4

Why do you think San Diego can pull of the wild-card upset against the 100-plus-win Mets? When it comes to the Mets, the conversation rightfully almost always starts with Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. But when the Mets were really rolling this year, it seemed Starling Marte was in the middle of everything good going on in their lineup. Now that there is a very real chance New York will have to start the postseason without their dynamic outfielder — and that could be enough of a difference to tip the scales in a best-of-three series. On the other hand, if the Mets do get through the opening weekend and Marte comes back playing like the star he is at any point this month, this is a Mets team that could still make a lot of noise this October. — Dan Mullen


American League Division Series

ALDS: Winner of Rays-Guardians vs. New York Yankees

New York Yankees 21

Cleveland Guardians 9

Tampa Bay Rays 1

A majority of our voters picked the Yankees. Why do you think the Guardians can win? There’s no doubt it would be an upset for the $68 million Guardians to knock off the $246 million Yankees. But upsets happen in October, and I like the way Cleveland’s pitching staff stacks up against the Yankees. Since around the first week of August, this has been arguably the best staff in baseball. Both the rotation and the bullpen have contributed to that, but the relievers in particular have gone to another level.

The Yankees have the firepower to simply club the Guardians into submission. But if games stay tight and terse into the late innings, the pendulum swings in the direction of Cleveland. You might think the Guardians’ AL Central-heavy schedule accounts for some of their lofty numbers. But here’s a stat: After the All-Star break, if you remove games against any AL Central team from the numbers, only the Dodgers and Astros had a better team ERA than Cleveland, and the Guardians were just a tick behind the Astros for No. 2. — Bradford Doolittle

ALDS: Winner of Mariners-Blue Jays vs. Houston Astros

Houston Astros 28

Seattle Mariners 2

Toronto Blue Jays 1

What makes the Astros the overwhelming favorite? These Astros are a little different from recent Houston powerhouses in terms of lineup depth and the dynamism of an offense that is still very good. But what really sets this version of Houston apart is the depth and versatility of a pitching staff ideally situated for the October tournament. The Astros have a classic big rotation three in Framber Valdez, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. They have excellent options when a fourth starter is needed in Jose Urquidy, Luis Garcia and Cristian Javier.

Houston also has a quality group in the bullpen, including Ryan Pressly, Hector Neris, Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero, Will Smith and Bryan Abreu. Then they have the added layer of being able to use Urquidy, Garcia and, especially, Javier to fill in the gaps between as elite bridge guys. On top of all that, rookie Hunter Brown lurks as a huge possible X factor as a multi-inning bullpen option if they can make room for him on the playoff roster. It’s going to be hard to score on this group, especially as it’s backed by terrific defense. And with all that depth, no one has to be overworked during an unusually compressed playoff schedule. — Doolittle


National League Division Series

NLDS: Winner of Phillies-Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves 26

St. Louis Cardinals 4

Philadelphia Phillies 1

What makes the Braves the favorite here? As much as I would like to see the Phillies extend their season, the Braves are simply too strong. Frankly, they might be the favorite regardless of foe, including the Dodgers and Astros. The Phillies have two starting pitchers and a questionable bullpen. The Braves have no such concerns. — Eric Karabell

NLDS: Winner of Padres-Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers 27

New York Mets 4

How can the Mets upset the Dodgers to advance? Short playoff series aren’t about depth — they’re about starting pitching, offensive heroes and bullpens. The Mets have just enough of all three to beat the Dodgers, in a short series. The Dodgers’ depth simply doesn’t come into play like it did over 162. This is no sure thing — nothing in the playoffs is — but the Mets have the right combination of players to pull off the upset. — Jesse Rogers


American League Championship Series

Houston Astros 25

Seattle Mariners 2

New York Yankees 3

Toronto Blue Jays 1

Houston is the overwhelming favorite here. How can the Yankees pull this off? The Yankees picked things back up after a weak August and should be getting key players back on the roster, such as Matt Carpenter, Frankie Montas, Clay Holmes and Wandy Peralta. This is an experienced team that has a lot of depth on both offense and the pitching staff. If the lineup can get hot like it did in the first half, this will be a tough team to stop, regardless of how up and down the second half of the season was. I try not to factor in regular-season success too much into postseason predictions because, as the Braves proved last year, it’s often about hitting your stride at the right time. The Yankees have all the pieces to do just that. — Joon Lee


National League Championship Series

Los Angeles Dodgers 15

Atlanta Braves 13

St. Louis Cardinals 2

New York Mets 1

Why did you pick the Braves to win the NLCS over the Dodgers? Choosing against a 111-win juggernaut that scored the most runs in baseball and allowed the fewest would seem to be a galaxy-brained maneuver, and perhaps it will be. But consider: Over the final 112 games of the season, the Dodgers went 78-34. And over the final 112 games of the season, the Braves went … 78-34. Los Angeles outscored opponents 573-351. Atlanta outscored opponents … 582-386. These are incredibly evenly matched teams, each with a dynamic, star-filled offense, ample starting-pitching options and solid defense.

The Braves, however, separate themselves in a vital area for playoff baseball: the bullpen. Yes, the Dodgers have the best relief ERA in the National League at 2.87 and a cornucopia of options from both sides: right-handers Evan Phillips, Chris Martin, Yency Almonte, Brusdar Graterol and Tommy Kahnle, left-handers Alex Vesia and David Price – all of whom theoretically could close in lieu of the deposed-but-still-around Craig Kimbrel. And if Dustin May and especially Blake Treinen return from injuries, they could be game-changers. But Atlanta’s array of relief options – closer Kenley Jansen, longtime-closer-elsewhere Raisel Iglesias, right-hander Collin McHugh, left-handers A.J. Minter, Dylan Lee and Tyler Matzek – are all, with the exception of Lee, proven veterans or playoff-tested. This is the sort of series that could come down to one inning a game, a true toss-up between two truly elite teams. There is bound to be a loser if they face off, but really we’re all winners for the possibility. — Jeff Passan


World Series

Los Angeles Dodgers 12

(Joon Lee, Brianna Williams, Tim Kurkjian, Ben Ward, Kyle Peterson, David Schoenfield, Dan Mullen, Bradford Doolittle, Alex Rodriguez, Enrique Rojas, Matt Marrone, Joe DeMartino)

Atlanta Braves 10

(Eduardo Perez, Phil Orlins, Paul Hembekides, Jeff Passan, Gregg Colli, Tristan Cockcroft, Buster Olney, Clinton Yates, Rachel Ullrich)

Houston Astros 8

(Eric Karabell, Michael Kay, Jesse Rogers, Kiley McDaniel, Alden Gonzalez, Liz Finny, Tim Keown, David Flemming)

New York Yankees 1

(Jeremy Willis)

The Dodgers were our most popular pick. Why did you go with Los Angeles here? I’m actually a little surprised the Dodgers were the most popular pick because it seems like everyone has been trying to find reasons to pick against them. Foremost: the bullpen and the lack of a defined closer. Well, the Dodgers finished with the second-best bullpen ERA in the majors (2.87). Also: Cody Bellinger didn’t have a good season, and Joey Gallo hit .162 with the Dodgers. Well, the Dodgers scored the most runs in the majors. And: Walker Buehler is injured, and Tony Gonsolin has pitched just two innings since August. They still have Julio Urias (2.16 ERA), Clayton Kershaw (2.28 ERA) and Tyler Anderson (2.57 ERA). They outscored their opponents by a whopping 334 runs — the highest differential since the 1939 Yankees. I’m not going to overthink this: The Dodgers are the best team in baseball. — Schoenfield

A Braves repeat was right behind the Dodgers. Why do you think they’ll pull it off? Because home runs are baseball’s most valuable currency, and the Braves have that market cornered. Since June 1, they own the best record in MLB (78-34) behind a plus-72 home run differential (highest in majors). Teams are 156-26 (.857 win percentage) in the postseason when outhomering their opponent since 2016. — Hembekides

I consider the Braves the most well-rounded team, especially on the pitching side, where their relief depth should provide a substantial advantage in a postseason short on rest days. The two biggest threats to them in my estimation, the Dodgers and Mets, have dealt with rotation injuries, a shaky ninth-inning picture (Dodgers) and the extra round throwing their rotation out of whack due to losing the division (Mets). The Braves seem better set up to withstand the 12-games-across-15-days whirlwind that is the division and championship rounds, and they’ll be the ones with the extra rest heading into the World Series. No one is set up better to mix and match on the pitching side. — Cockcroft

Make your case for why you think the Astros will win: Houston can win in so many different ways. That will come in handy over the course of three rounds of the postseason. The Astros are balanced and have experienced pitching and a solid bullpen. And unlike a year ago, they have Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers healthy for a full postseason. Ranking fourth in home runs while striking out the second fewest times in MLB says it all about the Astros’ offense. It’s loaded. They’re just better than everyone. Sometimes it’s that simple. — Rogers

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Reds extend Dodgers’ skid to 5; Ohtani at ‘90%’

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Reds extend Dodgers' skid to 5; Ohtani at '90%'

The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of their longest losing streak since 2019, but first baseman Freddie Freeman has no doubt that there’s no concern.

“It’s May, it’s baseball,” Freeman said. “Two weeks ago, we were winning every game. I don’t think anybody needs to question in our lineup. We’ll be fine.”

The Cincinnati Reds finished off a sweep of the Dodgers with a 4-1 victory Sunday, extending LA’s slide to five games — it’s longest since dropping six in a row April 8-13, 2019.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani went 3-for-12 in the series while dealing with a bruised right hamstring. He batted second Sunday and went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter, reaching on an infield single while scoring the Dodgers’ only run.

“It’s right around 90%,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Ohtani’s hamstring. “Assuming it will keep getting better, I feel confident that he can play smart and not push it. Talked to him about not trying to steal a base. Be smart. The value of having him in the lineup is everything.”

Los Angeles’ lineup has been hampered by inconsistency. The Dodgers scored six times in the series opener, and then scored two more over the next two games.They have been shut out twice this month while scoring two or fewer runs six times.

“When you’re not hitting, it certainly seems lifeless,” Roberts said. “Seems like we’re running cold. I know it’s not from care or preparation. Bottom line, it’s about results and we’re not getting them right now. They outplayed us this series and won three.”

Roberts hinted at a couple of changes to the lineup when the Dodgers begin a three-game series against the New York Mets at Citi Field.

“Some guys might be pressing a little bit,” Roberts said. “Every time I write the lineup, I feel good that we’re going to put up some runs. It’s not a big picture-type thing. It’s certainly been two weeks where it hasn’t been good.”

Jonathan India and Nick Martini each drove in two runs for the Reds, and Brent Suter, Nick Martinez, Carson Spiers and Alexis Diaz combined for a five-hitter.

Martinez (2-3) pitched 4⅓ innings of one-hit ball on a bullpen day for Cincinnati, and Díaz got two outs for his 10th save.

“It starts with our pitchers,” Reds manager David Bell said. “They’re ready to take the ball. Starting with Brent Suter, who did his job. That’s where it starts. Nick Martinez took over. Nick continues to show when he executes his pitches how good he is. To pitch so well against this team really says a lot.”

Freeman hit an RBI double in the ninth, stopping a 0-for-22 slide for the Dodgers with runners in scoring position. Freeman then advanced on defensive indifference, but Díaz struck out Teoscar Hernandez and Andy Pages swinging.

The start of the game was moved up from 1:40 p.m. EDT to 12:10 p.m. due to the threat of severe storms that arrived in the sixth inning. The teams then waited through a delay for just over an hour.

Cincinnati scored four times in the third off Yoshinobu Yamamoto (5-2). India had a bases-loaded single, and Martini’s bloop hit scored two more.

Yamamoto allowed six hits, struck out eight and walked two in five innings.

“They found a way to fight with two outs and find some outfield grass,” Roberts said. “They stayed inside the baseball. When you fight, you get those breaks sometimes. Outside of that, I thought Yoshi was fantastic. He was one hitter away from going five scoreless.”

UP NEXT

Dodgers: Right-hander Gavin Stone (4-2, 3.60 ERA) will oppose Mets right-hander Tylor Megill (0-2, 3.00 ERA) on Monday in the opener of a three-game series.

Reds: Left-hander Nick Lodolo (3-2, 3.34 ERA) will come off the injured list to start the series opener against the Cardinals on Monday. Lance Lynn (2-2, 3.68 ERA) starts for St. Louis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

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Tigers blow 5-run lead, rally with 3-run HR in 9th

DETROIT — Matt Vierling homered twice, including a tiebreaking, three-run drive off Jordan Romano in the ninth inning that gave Detroit a wild 14-11 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday after the Tigers wasted a five-run lead and recovered from a two-run deficit.

Vierling had four hits and tied career highs with two homers and four RBIs.

“My brother and I in the back yard, we’d always be doing situations like that,” Vierling said. “It’s kind of cool when it actually happens.”

Carson Kelly hit a three-run homer and Spencer Torkelson hit a solo shot for Detroit, which led 5-0 after three innings, 8-3 after five and 9-5 after six. The Tigers set a season high for runs and tied their high with 17 hits.

Torkelson had three hits and scored three runs.

“He’s really easy to root for,” Torkelson said of Vierling. “To see him come through, we had all the faith in the world and confidence he’d get the job done there. That’s exactly what he did.”

Toronto’s Isiah Kiner-Falefa homered in the seventh off Tyler Holton, and the Blue Jays took an 11-9 lead with a five-run eighth when Bo Bichette hit a two-run single off Jason Foley and Daulton Varsho hit a three-run homer.

Toronto manager John Schneider drew some consolation by the way his team kept fighting back.

“It’s easy to kind of quit after that and the guys did the exact opposite,” he said. “Chipped away and came back with huge hits from Bo and Varsh.”

Mark Canha tied the score with a two-run single against Yimi Garcia in the bottom half, his third hit.

Vierling, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Zach Pop, drove a full-count slider from Romano (1-2) over the left-field wall for his first big league walk-off hit. A two-time All-Star, Romano has allowed three homers this year, half his total last season.

“I was ready for that pitch that he threw me 3-2,” Vierling said. “I was kind of looking for it 2-2, as well, but it was low and I was able to check my swing enough. The next pitch was the same pitch, just a little more up.”

Mason Englert (1-0) pitched a hitless ninth for the Tigers (26-27), who won the last three games of a four-game series against the last-place Blue Jays (23-29).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had his second four-hit game of the season for the Blue Jays.

Detroit starter Casey Mize gave up three runs and eight hits in 4⅓ innings. Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi allowed five runs and eight hits in three innings. Mize and Kikuchi are 0-3 each in their six starts.

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Braves’ Acuna leaves game with knee soreness

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Braves' Acuna leaves game with knee soreness

PITTSBURGH — Ronald Acuna Jr. left the Atlanta Braves8-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning Sunday with left knee soreness after his knee appeared to buckle.

The reigning National League MVP led off the game with a double to right-center field off Martin Perez. With Marcell Ozuna at the plate, Acuna started toward third on a stolen base attempt and his left knee appeared to buckle. He remained down for several minutes while being treated, pointing at his left leg before walking off under his own power.

Acuna, a 26-year-old outfielder, is batting .250 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 49 games. The four-time All-Star hit a career-best .337 last season with 41 homers and 106 RBIs.

Adam Duvall shifted from left to right in the bottom half, and Jarred Kelenic entered the game in place of Acuna and played left.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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