If the regular season was any indicator, what a postseason we should have in baseball!!
Think about it. The AL West went down to a 3-game series between the Angels and Athletics…..just after the Rangers fell out of the race. In the NL West, if the Giants swept the Dodgers….we’d be playing a one-game playoff Monday. San Fran won Games 1 and 3. They lost Game 2 on a walk off grand slam from Steve Finley. But, the Giants were still alive for that one game playoff if the Astros lost to the Rockies. That’s right…the Astros!!!! Houston won….and the Giants are home.
One of the true adages in postseason baseball is that the hot team usually becomes champ. The last two champions have been Wild-card teams [and 3 of 4 World Series teams]….and the thinking is that the wildcard teams have been playing pressure baseball over the last month just to get in the playoffs. The division winners usually coast into the playoffs. Well, what about this year?? Really, only the Cardinals solidified their spot a while back. The Yankees pretty much knew they were in, but still had to fight back the Red Sox for the East crown [which brings home field]. The Twins and Braves both had a comfortable leads. But the Dodgers and Angels won their divisions on the final Saturday of the season. Houston came out of nowhere to steal the wildcard from the Cubs, Giants, Marlins and Padres.
So, here we are. The postseason. The divisional playoffs. Let’s see what will be in store.
HOUSTON ASTROS VS ATLANTA BRAVES. This is a match up of the two hottest teams in the National League. The Astros were dead around the All Star Game. The Braves were written off as a team on the decline. Oh, how both turned it around. Houston has won 37 of 47...and 18 straight at Minute Maid Park. Atlanta took charge of a murky NL East race and pulled away. These teams have met three times in the postseason in the past 7 years….with the Braves winning all three, including 9 of the 10 games played. Houston is trying to become the 2nd straight World Series champion that had fired a manager mid-season. I’m going to pick the ASTROS to win this series. Mainly because they have better pitching and just a little more pop in their bats.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS VS ST LOUIS CARDINALS. St. Louis has the better team. Their lineup is solid…with Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds and Walker. Their pitching staff doesn’t have those great names…but they do have four 15-game winners….for the first time since 1944. They play great defense, have a great closer and a playoff-tested coaching staff. But, LA is nothing to sneeze at either. They, too, play great defense. They, too, have a great closer. They are 32-16 in one-run games [best in the majors]. They also house the home run king in Adrian Beltre. As it is in most postseason series…pitching is the major key. And the Cards are a little better there [even without Carpenter]. This could be a classic…but I’ll pick the CARDINALS to advance.
MINNESOTA TWINS VS NEW YORK YANKEES. The classic Big Market vs. Small Market series. The Yanks win with big time players….the Twins win by big time effort. Theory says that NY should win. Their lineup is powerful, with Jeter, Williams, A-Rod, Sheffield, Posada, Olerud, etc. There is NO easy out. The Twins must rely on their advantage, pitching. And, as we saw in last year’s World Series…good pitching can beat good hitting. And the Twins have the best pitcher out there in Johan Santana. He will pitch games 1 and 5. Brad Radke and Carlos Silva are pretty good pitchers in their own right. Add that great pitching to a very good defense….and the Twins could surprise. However, I will have to pick the YANKEES to advance. While the Twins seem to have every advantage in the starting pitching….the bullpen is clearly the Yankees strong suit. They have tons of experience. Just too many bats for the Twins to deal with.
BOSTON RED SOX VS ANAHEIM ANGELS. 1986 anyone?? The early innings will be key, especially for the Red Sox. The Angels have one the best and deepest bullpens in the majors. And it is tough to beat them after the 6th inning….if you are trailing. The Sox have solid starters with Schilling, Pedro and Lowe…and a bruising lineup. Of course, Pedro is up and down. Both teams have MVP candidates, Vlad Guerrero and Manny Ramirez, who are all around great hitters. But, the Sox have better hitters surrounding him. All-in-all…this is the ANGELS series to lose. I think they will win Games 1 and 2 at home…which will break the Sox.