By JOEY MERKEL
Don’t get too involved in football yet, because postseason baseball is just kicking off. After 162 games, 163 for the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins, the playoffs are finally set and it literally came down to the last game. So much in fact that there had to be an extra last game.
In a stunning pitcher’s duel on Tuesday night, the White Sox were able to claim first place in the American League Central Division and secure their spot in the playoffs.
The one-game playoff for the playoffs was played on account of a regular season tie after Monday’s White Sox-Tigers make-up game. Because of the White Sox win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday night, the make-up game had to be played as the Sox were just a half game back but had played one less.
Now that the playoffs are set, we can start to look at the teams that actually matter, sorry, I don’t think that’s going to include the White Sox. But don’t feel bad, fans, it wouldn’t have included the Twins either.
In the Tampa Bay Rays-Chicago White Sox series (that’s right, I said Tampa Bay Rays), I see the Rays winning in four but a sweep in entirely possible. The Rays have the best rotation in the any of the American League playoff series, and in the end pitching is what counts.
Tampa’s big three of Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza have been more than solid all year and look to continue their great seasons with their first ever playoff appearances. Don’t forget about 2007 first-round, first-overall pick David Price who is lurking in the bullpen.
The Boston Red Sox-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim series should be one of the best series during the playoffs including the World Series. Both teams have clutch hitting, hot starters and dependable bullpens. If this series doesn’t go five games, it will be disappointing. After game five is over, I predict it will be the Halos that are celebrating on the field after the game, not the Red Sox.
Since coming to the Halos, Mark Teixiera is hitting a smoldering .358 and has an on-base percentage of .449. It doesn’t hurt that Vladimir Guerrero is hitting in front of him. Unless Josh Beckett can come back and pitch game two or game three, I see the Red Sox going home early this year.
It was an exciting finish at Miller Park on Sunday. After the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Chicago Cubs, they remained a head of the New York Mets in National League Wild Care race. Champagne bottles popped and flags flew as the team huddled together in the clubhouse and watched Mets leftfielder Ryan Church fly out to Cameron Maybin in centerfield to end the game. To wrap up the regular season Brewers lefty C.C. Sabathia started three games in the final seven games of the season, including a complete game on Sunday afternoon.
Now comes the sad part. The Brewers gave it all they had, honestly. But unless C.C. can pitch all five games, the Brewers aren’t making it out of the division series. I would have said they were among the favorites coming in to the playoffs on fire, but after Ben Sheets went down with a broken arm, so did the Brewers hopes of winning the playoffs.
The Brewers also go into the series with no proven closer, even after giving Eric Gagne $10 million in the offseason. Salomon Torres has tried to pick up the slack but is inconsistent and has an ERA of 12.46 since September 8. Not to mention Yovani Gallardo, the game one starter has only made one start in the last five months.
The Phillies have one of the best all-around teams in baseball this year, including arguably the best closer this year. With a line-up of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, the Phillies are going to be a force during the playoffs. With Cole Hamels and Brett Myers taking the hill in games one and two respectively, they overshadow who could be the key to the Phils’ postseason: Jamie Moyer. Moyer quietly had one of his best years, at age 45.
Moyer compiled a 16-7 record with a terrific 3.71 ERA and he barely throws over 81 miles per hour. As long as these guys go at least six innings, J.C. Romero and Brad Lidge will shutdown any one in their paths. In case you’re unfamiliar with Lidge, he was the National League Comeback Player of the Year after converting all 41 of his save opportunities this year with an ERA under 2.00. Phillies take it in four after C.C. shuts it down in game two.
Am I the only person that thinks the Chicago Cubs intentionally waited exactly 100 years to have an amazing team just so that it would be really dramatic when they won the World Series? Yea, probably.
This series has the potential to get very interesting. Like the Rockies last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers come in to the playoffs HOT. The Dodgers have been mowing down opponents, thanks to Manny Ramirez’.396 batting average and 17 home runs since switching coasts. I don’t think that the Dodgers will actually pull off the upset simply because the Cubs this year are just too good. Ryan Dempster refuses to lose at home, the “Big Z” Carlos Zambrano is fairly fresh off his no-hitter and Rich Harden, when healthy, is a top five pitcher in the Major Leagues.
So from the American League we have the Angels and the Rays representin’ and from the National League the Cubs and the Phillies will be set to do battle. Tune in next week to see how the predictions turned out and for Championship Series predictions.