MLB playoffs picture: Astros, Dodgers, Yankees vs. everyone else

The three superpowers are favorites in the final sprint to win baseball's Fall Classic.
Image: Astros Yankees
The powerhouse New York Yankees enter the playoffs with 27 World Series titles to their name. Adam Hunger / AP file

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By David K. Li

Runaway division winners the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros and New York Yankees will headline Major League Baseball's postseason field, with hopes of extending the game's recent run of super-team World Series winners.

If one of those three powers, or the 101-win Minnesota Twins, hoist the Commissioner's Trophy next month, it'll mark the fourth straight Fall Classic captured by a team with at least 100 regular-season victories, following the 2018 Boston Red Sox, 2017 Astros and 2016 Chicago Cubs.

There have been two such streaks of 100-win World Series champs. The 1939 and 1941 Yankees, 1940 Cincinnati Reds and 1942 St. Louis Cardinals won it those years with at least 100 regular season triumphs. Cincinnati's Big Red Machine (1975-76) and the Bronx Zoo Yankees teams (1977-78) also won at least 100 regular season games before capturing the title.

As of Monday afternoon, oddsmakers had made Houston, Los Angeles and New York the favorites to win this year's World Series, at 2-1, 3-1 and 9-2 odds respectively, according to Fanduel Sportsbook.

The next most-favored teams in the MLB playoff field are the Atlanta Braves (8-1), Twins (15-1) and Cardinals (16-1).

Wildcard entrants the Washington Nationals (17-1), Milwaukee Brewers (28-1),Tampa Bay Rays (29-1) and Oakland A's (22-1) have to win one-and-done games Tuesday and Wednesday to reach the National or American League Division Series.

Here's a look at the ALDS and NLDS matchups.

The Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka, of Japan, pitches to the Houston Astros' Alex Bregman in the first inning of a game in New York on June 22.Frank Franklin II / AP file

Yankees vs. Twins

MLB teams hit more home runs in 2019 than in any other season, with New York and Minnesota leading the way.

The Twins walloped 307 long balls and the Yankees 306, both eclipsing the previous record of 268 set by the Yanks just last season.

The 27-time champion Yankees dethroned 2018 World Series champ Boston in the AL East despite a season filled with injuries to top players. But the Yankees' two most feared sluggers, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, are healthy and producing.

Once dubbed the "Evil Empire" for spending whatever it took to sign top talent, the Yankees still pack a powerful checkbook but not like they used to under owner George Steinbrenner. The Yankees haven't had baseball's top payroll since 2012, with the Dodgers and Red Sox now taking over as MLB's biggest spenders.

The Twins are one of baseball's biggest surprises in 2019, rebounding from 78 wins last season to triple digit victories this year.

New York and Minnesota have met in the playoffs five times since 2003, with the Yankees winning each time.

Astros vs. A's or Rays

Houston, the 2017 world champs, have won 100 or more games in three consecutive seasons with a core of young talent collected from six consecutive losing campaigns in 2009-14.

The franchise is credited, and in some circles derided, for its "tanking" strategy — tolerating losing so as to acquire the best young players in MLB's annual amateur draft that rewards the worst teams.

Soothsaying "Sports Illustrated" crowned the Astros as 2017 World Series champs — way back in 2014, in an article explaining the team's lose-by-choice strategy.

Houston will face the perpetually over-achieving A's and Rays, who keep winning while no one notices.

They were 24th and 29th in per-game attendance this season, respectively out of 30 teams, despite playing winning baseball in America's eighth and 11th biggest TV markets.

Dodgers vs. Nationals or Brewers

The two-time-defending NL champion-Dodgers, who last won the World Series in 1988, enter postseason play with the biggest chip on their shoulders.

Los Angeles has racked up 302 victories these past three seasons and has had just six losing years in the 31 campaigns since 1988. Yet somehow the Dodgers have failed to lift the Commissioner's Trophy since Ronald Reagan sat in the White House, Mikhail Gorbachev was firmly in control of the Soviet Union and VCRs were the biggest force in American entertainment.

It's a title-less streak so inexplicable that all the other teams in this year's playoffs, aside from the Brewers, expansion Rays and relocated Nationals, have won a World Series since 1988.

The Nationals lost the face of their franchise this past winter when Bryce Harper was lured away by the Philadelphia Phillies with a 13-year, $330 million deal. But thanks to 20-year-old Juan Soto, one of baseball's most exciting young stars, Washington improved from last year.

The Brewers lost MVP candidate Christian Yelich, best known in pop culture for his resemblance to "Saturday Night Live" funnyman Pete Davidson, to injury on Sept. 10. But Milwaukee went on a season-ending tear to win a wildcard spot and nearly catch St. Louis in the NL Central.

Braves vs. Cardinals.

The "Baby Braves" could be on the verge of a yearslong championship run with youthful stars like outfielder Ronald Acuña, 21, and second baseman Ozzie Albies, 22.

The Braves are in their third year at SunTrust Park, their spacious new suburban home in Cobb County, about 10 miles north of downtown Atlanta.

St. Louis has already won two World Series this young century, trailing only Boston and San Francisco, each with three titles.