The Major League Baseball playoffs are well underway, and that’s an understatement considering the stupidity that was last year’s playoff schedule when there was one or two days of rest in between each game.
With one week of postseason play in the books, the four division playoff series have been completed.
So far, I’m two-for-four in the predictions I made last week (not counting the Rays-Rangers series). I’ll start with the ones I got correct, as most people like to hear successes better than failures.
In the National League
The Philadelphia Phillies took out the brooms and swept the Cincinnati Reds out of their own ballpark. Philly did what they had to do and exposed the Reds for who they really are.
The Reds were no better than a seventh or eighth place team in the National League and here they were in the playoffs. Sure, everyone loves an underdog story, but here was a team that couldn’t hit, didn’t have pitching depth and had a manager who seems more interested in chewing a toothpick than leading a team.
The Phillies’ monster pitching trio of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels exceeded expectations. Everybody knows these guys are special, but they were phenomenal. Halladay’s no-hitter in game one was the glimpse to how the series was going to play out.
Phillies pitchers had an earned run average (ERA) of 1.00 for the series. Joey Votto, the Red’s leader in virtually every hitting category in the regular season, was held to a .100 batting average.
Cincinnati may be a year or two away from being a contender but the Phillies’ time is now.
The Giants-Braves series went just as I had predicted: Giants in four.
This series was a battle between teams who didn’t have much playoff experience and had a bunch of no namers and has-beens. The better team would’ve come out on top with no real surprises.
The better team was San Francisco and it showed, as they were able to hit in clutch situations and pitch when they needed it most. They were able to keep the Braves to a .165 average. Braves catcher Brian McCann did his part and didn’t disappoint, hitting over .400 for the series.
Tim Lincecum’s two-hitter in game one displayed the type of pitching that San Francisco has. His 14 strikeouts in that game is a Giants postseason strikeout record. The staff had a 1.55 ERA for the series, which I expected from one of the best in baseball.
In the American League
I didn’t have much luck with the series in the American League. The AL series was supposed to be more one-sided, but everything went wrong.
For one, the Twins were finally supposed to get over the pinstripe hurdle that has been tormenting them for years. A sweep in last year’s playoffs and a sweep this year for the Yankees suggest it didn’t matter who had home field advantage.
Everyone knows the potent hitters that the Yankees have, the reason they’re the Bronx Bombers, but the quality pitching they mustered was a surprise.
I expected the Yankees to implode because of the lack of pitching depth after ace CC Sabathia, but they proved they still have the pieces to compete. Phil Hughes was very impressive in game three pitching a four-hit shutout, compiling six strikeouts. Hughes outpitched Sabathia and veteran Andy Pettitte; this is nothing but good news for the Yankees.
There’s nothing much to say about the Twins. Their pitching gave up too many big hits on their way to an ERA of almost six. That is not going to get it done, especially with arguably the best hitter in the game in Joe Mauer not hitting like he’s expected to.
The Rays-Rangers series will be left on a cliffhanger for this story as game five will be played Tuesday.
Aces for both teams will be on the mound with David Price going for the Rays and Cy Young winner Cliff Lee for the Rangers.
The Rays are going to have to play smart-ball and small-ball if they want to beat a pitcher who’s gone 5-0 with 1.52 ERA in his career postseason starts. This translates into a hurler who will not make mistakes.
The same goes for the Rangers. Price usually gets back on track after a poor start and his bad start is already behind him.
On the other hand, Lee had an ERA of almost five against the Rays in the regular season; the guy has to break at some point.
The Phillies will head home to play the Giants and the Yankees wait on the Rays or Rangers.