Olney: The 10 most important matchups of the MLB division series

  • Senior writer ESPN Magazine/ESPN.com
  • Analyst/reporter ESPN television
  • Author of “The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty”

Nobody in Major League Baseball’s central office could have planned or hoped for better matchups in these MLB playoffs than what has landed in the laps of fans in the four division series — which, for this year, could be renamed The (Hated) Division (Rival) Series.

The last time the Rays and Yankees played, Aroldis Chapman nearly beaned Tampa Bay’s Mike Brosseau, and Rays manager Kevin Cash suggested the New York coaching staff had lost control of its players. When Houston and Oakland played this year, former Astro Ramon Laureano charged the Astros’ dugout — a move a lot of his teammates would probably like to attempt, given Houston’s sign-stealing success and how the A’s believe their complaints of cheating were ignored. The Dodgers were livid in mid-September when the Padres’ Trent Grisham, one of San Diego’s many young players, stood and posed after blasting a home run off L.A.’s most cherished teammate, future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw. And the current relationship between the usually mild-mannered Braves and Marlins is framed by the fastball that Jose Urena bounced off the head of Ronald Acuna Jr. two years ago. There is history in all of these series, a lot of it contentious.

With that in mind, here are the 10 most important duels in the division series.

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