It has taken a while, but baseball has finally produced an evenly matched World Series.
Tonight, the New York Yankees, representing the American League, will host the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies from the National League, in Game 1 of what should be a long, competitive series.
New York finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, winning 103 games. They ran through the Minnesota Twins in the division series and worked their way past the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the championship series.
Philadelphia had a similar path, defeating the Colorado Rockies before dispatching the Dodgers relatively easily in the NLCS.
Both teams played nine games in order to reach the fall classic.
Everyone knows that pitching wins in the playoffs, but what happens when both teams pitch well? That is where defense and clutch hitting make all the difference.
If you look at these two teams on paper, they look similar. Possibly the only team in baseball with as powerful a lineup as the Yankees would be the Phillies.
New York leads off with Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, then bring power with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. The Yanks just set a franchise record for home runs in a season with 244.
Philadelphia counters with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Jayson Werth, who totaled 167 home runs between the five of them.
Obviously both teams have a ton of power.
So let’s take a look at pitching. New York went out last winter and bought two of the best free agent pitchers on the market: C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Both pitchers have had solid performances in the postseason.
The Yankees follow that with Andy Pettitte, who has won four World Series titles with New York.
Philadelphia made some moves of their own, trading for Cy Young winner Cliff Lee before the deadline. Therefore, they have two accomplished lefties at the top of their rotation with Lee and last year’s World Series MVP Cole Hamels.
Hamels has struggled during the playoffs this year but has been known as a big-game pitcher in the past. Following Hamels, the Phillies could go with rookie J.A. Happ or the veteran Pedro Martinez.
Maritnez was a member of the 2004 Red Sox team that defeated the Yankees in the ALCS on their way to sweeping the Rockies to win the World Series.
It is established that both teams have strong starting pitching. So what about the bullpens?
New York has had a strong bullpen all season long but has struggled in the playoffs. Relievers Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes have been hit around and are not throwing strikes. However, New York still has the greatest closer in postseason history in Mariano Rivera.
Going into the playoffs, the bullpen was supposed to be the weakest part of this Philadelphia team. On the contrary, the pen has pitched really well, especially at the back end.
Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who struggled all season, is 1-0 with three saves so far in the postseason. When he locates his fastball the way he is right now, he can be as tough as anyone.
This series is what I call a mirror match-up. Both teams have star names, strong pitching and well-rounded hitting. The difference will be found in the tightest moments, when the pressure is on.
This year, New York has moved swiftly through the playoffs but have not hit well with runners in scoring position. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has been crushing the ball in those instances.
New York has hit a ton of home runs, but most of them were solo shots. The Phillies are hitting two and three run home runs, creating big innings.
I look for this to continue, as baseball fans will witness the power of these lineups. The ballparks these games will be played at are extremely conducive to home runs, so we should see a high-scoring series, with the defending champions capturing another title.
Get ready Philadelphia fans; you will be celebrating another parade after your Phillies defeat the Yankees in seven games.