MLB Playoff Breakdown: ALDS/NLDS winners and losers
Yankees vs. Tigers / Twins
The New York Yankees will be resting and glued to the television during today’s one-game playoff for the American League Central crown between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins. The winner will be the AL Central champ, but the reward will be a flight to the Bronx to face the Yanks in the ALDS, and eventually, the Yankees will win in four games.
It really doesn’t matter who the Evil Empire plays because the pitching and hitting will be too strong for the Twins and Tigers.
The Tigers and Twins each have solid pitching rotations, but those rotations will not be rested against the Bronx Bombers. The Tigers have the least chance of beating the Yanks because their ace Justin Verlander has been overworked trying to get his team into the playoffs. The Twins don’t have an ace like Verlander, but they have decent starting pitchers. But decent pitchers aren’t going to cut it against a Yankee team that just set a club record for bombs in a season.
The Yankees are loaded up and down the lineup with the captain leading things off. Derek Jeter has an on base percentage of .406, and that creates RBI opportunities for the power hitters.
In the middle of the order the Yanks have arguably the best 3-4-5 hitters in all of baseball. In his first year as a Yankee, Mark Teixeira proved that he deserved all the money he got from the Steinbrenners. Teixeria led the AL in both RBIs (122) and home runs (39). Behind Teixeria is Alex Rodriguez, who is getting hot at the right time (he had a 7-RBI game in the season finale Sunday). This postseason, A-Rod isn’t going to have the pressure of being the Yankees’ No. 1 threat. That honor goes to Teixeria, and that will make Rodriguez more comfortable at the plate.
Detroit and Minnesota have good hitters, but they’re not as good as New York’s, and they will struggle against CC Sabathia and the rest of the Yankee pitching staff. Detroit’s offensive star, Miguel Cabrera, has been struggling at the plate and has been having off-the-field issues as well. The Twins are led by MVP candidate Joe Mauer and could give the Yankee starting pitchers trouble. But the Yankees also have a lights-out bullpen with Mariano Rivera closing.
There are just too many obstacles for the Twins and Tigers to overcome to beat the Yankees.
Red Sox vs. Angels
The question with this series is: Will history repeat itself? The Red Sox are 4-0 all-time against the Angels in the postseason. Recently, Boston knocked the Angels out of the playoffs in 2004, 2007 and 2008. During those three series, Boston won 10 of the 11 games played.
Due to the history, Boston will probably be favored, despite being the wild card. The Angels won their division with a 97-65 record, two games better than the Red Sox. They also won the season series from Boston, 5-4. However, they can’t rely on that. Last year, they won eight of nine against Boston and were still taken out.
What will make this year different for the Angels will be the late addition of Scott Kazmir. They already had Lackey at the top of the rotation, followed by Jered Weaver, who has pitched well against the Red Sox of late. But having a guy who is already extremely familiar with Boston (coming from his time with Tampa Bay) gives the Angels a third starter they can count on.
A big part of my belief that the Red Sox will not get it done this year is the health of their starting rotation. Josh Beckett has not been himself the last two months, ever since he suffered an injury midway through the season. Daisuke Matsuzaka missed most of the year with injuries as well, and it’s not certain that he will even be in their rotation for this series. As everyone knows, pitching is what wins in the playoffs.
This will be a very close series, with all five games being nail-biters. Look for the Angels to finally slay the dragon and defeat the Red Sox three games to two.
Dodgers vs. Cardinals
There is no secret about it — it’s the elephant in the room feeling.
The Dodgers’ Achilles heel the last couple of seasons has been the Cardinals, point blank. And after amassing 95 victories this season and boasting the National League’s best record, the Blue is sure to be the underdog in this series, beginning Wednesday at Chavez Ravine.
Of the seven times these two have played, the Cards have won five, including three of four in St. Louis and two of three in LA.
For all the talk of the Cards’ two-headed monster of pitchers Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (and they have been dominant — the Dodgers have lost all four times they have faced the two Cards’ aces) the Dodgers’ top half of the staff is not getting its due respect.
The Dodgers’ counter-attack of lefties Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw have also faired well against St. Louis. The first time Wolf faced the Cards, he matched Carpenter in St. Louis for six innings, giving up two runs.
When it came to Kershaw’s turn, he blanked St. Louis for eight innings and out-dueled Joel Pineiro. Kershaw’s performance was masterful — he struck out seven. Even Chad Billingsley has had success against St. Louis (as long as he doesn’t go past the fifth inning, because for some reason he implodes in the sixth). In August he notched a 7-3 win at home.
Of the seven games so far, two have gone into extra innings. And if that doesn’t prove how tight their games have been, then just look at the two losses the Dodgers had at home to the Cards — by a combined two runs.
The Cards have the power arms and the NL’s best right-handed slugger. But the Dodgers have home field advantage and the deeper bullpen and bench. They will have to scrape and claw for every run. The road to the World Series goes through the Cardinals.
Dodgers in five.
Phillies vs. Rockies
The Colorado Rockies the hottest team in the National League will go toe to toe against the defending champs the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.
Baseball playoffs are all about the pitchers. Remember someone named Brad Lidge? The first closer in Phillies history to be perfect in regular season saves. Lidge closed out the 2008 World Series, and went 7 for 7 in post season saves.
Now he stinks! Lidge is a totally different person this year, and his stats back it up. His record this year is 0-8 with 11 blown saves.
Fortunately the Phillies have a lineup that is capable of giving them big leads to have no use for Lidge.
The Rockies are the clear underdogs. However, no one should underestimate this team. They may not have names like Ryan Howard, but they do play as a unit.
People lets not forget what the Rockies did in 2007 winning 21 of 22 games all the way to the World Series but this is 2009 and the Phils have the one two punch of Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
The Rockies have had some magical streaks this season but there pitching and hitting isn’t as good as the Phillies. Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton could give Philadelphia some trouble and make this series intresting.
Phillies win in five ending the Rockies magical run to the playoffs