In what was probably the wildest divisional series ever, with all four series decided by a fifth game for the first time, picking a World Series winner seems infinitely harder.
St. Louis survived after being down 6 runs early in Game 5 and down to their last strike twice against the Washington Nationals, who led the majors in wins. San Francisco came back from a 2-0 deficit, a first in National League history, against the Cincinnati Reds, who had the second most wins in the NL.
New York gained all the momentum in Game 5 on perhaps another Jeffrey Maier Yankees-Orioles call in the playoffs, on Nate McLouth’s foul ball home run, but advanced with an anemic offense. The Oakland Athletics, the MLB’s Cinderella this season, failed to overcome Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers, getting blown out in their decisive Game 5.
All the calls for a beltway World Series and Bay Bridge World Series can now be thrown out of the window, for neither of those are possibilities anymore.
St. Louis vs. San Francisco
National League Championship Series
St. Louis just owns the postseason. They have a never-say-die attitude and more lives than all your neighborhood cats combined. For the second straight season they were down to their last strikes for playoff life, and made improbable comebacks. For this to lead to another World Series title, they must get through a San Francisco lineup that looks intimidating.
These two teams knocked off the top two in the National League, three if you count St. Louis’ win over Atlanta in the wild card game, but San Francisco is leaps and bounds beyond St. Louis.
Both teams come in with offenses that are firing on all cylinders and rotations that saw struggles in their Division Series but were lockdown during the regular season. San Francisco must rest its hopes on catcher Buster Posey and the top of their line rotation.
St. Louis is the ragtag bunch of the National League and while there are few big name players on their payroll, they can still pack a punch. San Francisco is really riding their momentum though, and it showed in Game 5 when they came out and put up a 6-spot against the Reds’ vaunted rotation.
With both teams having tons of playoff experience under their belt, expect a battle of the bullpens in tight, close games. San Francisco’s specialty pitchers excel in these situations and manager Bruce Bochy takes advantage of that.
Games are won and lost with the bullpen, and this series will be no different. St. Louis has a one game lead after a 6-4 win on Sunday night, exploding for an early six runs against a depleted San Francisco rotation.
Prediction- Giants in 6
New York vs. Detroit
American League Championship Series
New York is living life on a thread and unless they are able to throw C.C. Sabathia out there every game against Detroit, their offense needs to pick up. By now everyone has heard the complaints about Alex Rodriguez and his dismal post-season, but it’s the entire Yankees lineup that’s struggling. Many of their top sluggers are batting below .250, and coming off facing a weak Baltimore rotation, Detroit’s will not be easier.
Detroit has one of the toughest lineups in the American League. Facing Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder is a smaller modern day Murderer’s Row. Follow that up with a rotation that can go against any in history with Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, and this one seems all but wrapped up for Detroit.
The bullpen is important, and after seeing it nearly blow game one to the Yankees, makes this series a little harder to decide. The offense and starting pitching of Detroit is honestly too much for the Yankees to overcome, the Yankees barely scratched the surface against Doug Fister on Saturday. They are too old and overpaid to win another World Series.
Prediction- Tigers in 5
San Francisco vs. Detroit
Finally a year that the American League will show the world that it is the top division again, because Texas won’t be able to choke it away. The advantage of carrying an extra slugger in the designated hitter spot is too much for many National League teams to overcome. (The topic of no DH in the NL is for a later column)
This will come down to offense and who is able to produce more against two of the top rotations. While San Francisco does have Buster Posey, who else do they have to produce behind him in a pinch? They lack the prototypical slugger in their lineup and will have to rely on the National League model of scoring runs by getting on base and smart base running. Against a flame throwing team like Detroit, that is something that will not work.
The cool night air in San Francisco will keep some of Detroit’s bigger bats contained, but as we saw in the division series, Fielder and Cabrera don’t have to carry the weight of the team. A Detroit team that goes into a series on fire will be something that is unstoppable.
This is Detroit’s year to shine and nothing is going to stand in their way. Sneaking their way into the playoffs in the last week, overcoming Oakland and New York, San Francisco will just be a small hurdle to their second ring since 2006.
Prediction- Tigers in 4
***Correction- The Detroit Tigers did not win the World Series in 2006. A trip to the World Series will be the Tigers second since 2006.***