As we are in the first days of October, I have this vision of Vin Scully out walking his dog, describing the beginning of fall. It goes something like this: “As the leaves turn, so does the chapter in this novel we call the 2010 Major League Baseball season.” I am sure his dog would be to busy trying to figure which tree to mark his/her territory to listen, but for me – it is poetry that I could listen to all day. Now this vision didn’t really happen, but October is here – so are the Divisional series. 8 teams remain and only 3 games stand between them and a trip to their respective League Championships series. But before we get too far ahead, let’s take a look each Divisional series:
New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins – When Boston beat New York yesterday, which team was happier – Minnesota or Texas? My money is on the Texas Rangers. In the 2000s, the Yankees have faced Minnesota in the ALDS 3 times – 2003, 2004 and 2009 with a record of 9-2. Game 1 will feature a pair of lefties – Francisco Liriano and C.C. Sabathia. After Game 1, the Twins will follow with Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn. The Yankees answer with Andy Pettite, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. Much of the Twins ability to knock off the Yankees will depend on the health of All-Star Joe Mauer. With Justin Morneau out for the season, the Twins cannot afford to lose their MVP for any part of this series. Games 1 and 2 take place in the spacious Target Field – the Yankees will have to rely on the feet of Granderson, Gardner and Jeter to engineer runs. Jorge Posada is slightly under 15% in throwing runners out – will the Twins put runners in motion to create chaos on the base paths?
Prediction : Yankees in 5 games.
Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays – When the Texas Rangers made the trade early in 2010 for Cliff Lee – they envisioned him being the horse that got them to the World Series. Game 1 will be that first step as Lee will face David Price. Bad new for the Rangers – the Rays have the second best W-L record when their opponent starts a left-hander. Texas starters for Games 1 and 2? Lefties. The Rays beat Lee three times this year – once when he was with Seattle. However – the Rays leader, Evan Longoria is battling an injury – will he be effective? The Rangers got a HUGE piece of their puzzle back with the return of Josh Hamilton. Not only is Hamilton their best player, he also provides protection for Vladimir Guerrero in the batting order. Rangers bullpen won 32 games during the season and was a key to the Ranger’s success during the regular season. Can their success carryover into the postseason? The Rays bats have disappeared at times during the season – having 2 no-hitters thrown against them in 2010. October is not the time for one of those slumps.
Prediction: A shocker – Texas in 5 games.
Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants – Bobby Cox’s retirement tour continues, and this makes the Braves dangerous. This series features 2 teams that rely heavily on their pitching as neither offense can be labeled with the title “juggernaut.” The Giants will send out Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez. That leaves former Cy Young winner, Barry Zito as the 4th option in their rotation. The Giants closer, Brian Wilson, has been dominant. The Braves send out playoff veterans, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson. Throw in Tommy Hanson and the Braves have a formidable starting 3. With injuries to Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, the Braves will rely on an aging Derrick Lee and rookie Jason Heyward to carry them to the NLCS. One name to watch in the Giants lineup – Buster Posey, possible NL Rookie of the Year.
Prediction: Atlanta in 5 games.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies – The surprise team against the hottest team in the National League. The Phillies, probably the favorite to win the World Series, will send a formidable starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Equally dangerous is two of those starters have not won a World Series – look for Halladay and Oswalt to pitch lights out in the playoffs. The Phillies lineup is healthy, but the key is Jimmy Rollins. When Rollins is healthy, he is the catalyst for a potentially dangerous lineup. The Reds have done of an amazing job of mixing youth with veterans to provide the right chemistry. Playoff baseball is back in Ohio!! The Reds will send youngsters Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. The Reds lineup features MVP candidate Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. If either team has a weakness, it is their bullpens. Can both hold up? Will rookie flame thrower, Aroldis Chapman provide stability in the Reds bullpen? Both ballparks are hitter friendly, so anticipate a high scoring series.
Prediction: Phillies in 3 games.
Got a Prediction? Let’s hear it!