1. Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
One of the best rivalries in all of sports and a rematch of last season’s NLDS… A Cubs-versus-Cardinals series in the NLDS not only has a decent chance of happening this season, but it would be a ton of fun to watch. Prior to 2015, the two teams had never faced each other in the postseason. The Cubs beating their hated rival to head to the NLCS was not only big for the team but also for their fans.
2. San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Another one of the best rivalries in the game, like the Cubs and Cardinals, the Dodgers and Giants have experienced a few postseason meetings. The two teams actually faced off in the 1889 World Series, but given that the cities, team names, and a huge amount of the game itself have all changed, we don’t really count that matchup. This season, the Giants had as much as an eight-game lead on the Dodgers in the NL West, but now they trail them by three games after going 20-33 in their last 43 games played.
Both teams have a chance at making the postseason, and as it stands the Dodgers would play the Washington Nationals in the NLDS while the Giants would need to knock out the Cardinals in the wild-card game to get a chance to take on the Cubs in the first round. If both teams won those matchups, we’d get to see the first modern playoff matchup between the two — with the ultimate payoff being that the winner heads to the World Series.
3. Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians
This matchup isn’t set in stone either, but there’s a good chance it will happen. If the Toronto Blue Jays hold onto their slim lead over the Boston Red Sox in the AL East and the Texas Rangers maintain the best record in the American League, Toronto and Cleveland will play in the ALDS. They don’t exactly boast some of the bigger names in the game, but the starting rotations of both teams make the matchups in this series extremely tantalizing.
Corey Kluber versus Aaron Sanchez? Danny Salazar versus Marcus Stroman? Two of the best offensive teams in the American League? There’s really no rivalry here, but these are the factors that make for great MLB playoff matchups. Also relevant to the series: The lack of playoff success for both teams; the Indians have been in the ALDS just once since 2001, and last season was the first time the Blue Jays made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 1993.
4. Chicago Cubs vs. Boston Red Sox
This matchup was once a possibility — all the way back in 2003. Both teams lost their seasons painfully that year, and went into 2004 with a real chance at matching up with each other in the World Series. The Red Sox held up their end of the bargain, but the Cubs did not. Boston ended their 86-year title drought and have won it twice since then. The Cubs have had just three trips to the playoffs and one playoff series win since that fateful 2003 NLCS loss.
But this year represents yet another chance at a Cubs-versus-Red Sox matchup. The odds of that happening are low as it currently stands; the Red Sox need to win the wild card, ALDS, and ALCS while the Cubs need to win in the NLDS and NLCS rounds. But it would be a blast to see these two historic franchises — both well known for long title droughts — play each other in the fall classic for the first time in 98 years (since the Red Sox beat the Cubs 4-1 in the 1918 World Series).