National League Playoffs
Reds (91-71) versus Phillies (97-65)
The Phillies have three aces at the top of the staff -- Halliday, Oswalt, and Hamels -- and have managed to earn the best record in baseball despite injuries and below-average years from most of their players. Given the strong pitching and the always likely regression toward the mean, the Phils are the smart pick here. Then again, with sure-thing NL MVP Joey Votto steady and productive, it could be that a brilliant postseason from just one pitcher (Edinson Volquez) and one hitter (Jay Bruce) knocks out the favorite. But I don't think so. Phillies in four.
Braves (91-71) versus Giants (92-70)
The Braves would be the sentimental favorite to go deep into the playoffs, given that Bobby Cox (2503 wins, 5 pennants, 1 championship) is in his final season. But after Tim Hudson, I don't see any other pitcher who matches up with the Giants' big three of Lincecum, Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez. Neither team has particularly strong offenses, so if you like pitching a defense, this is the series to watch. Giants in five.
The Phillies have the pitching to meet the Giants' arms, and there's no comparison between the hitting of these teams. Unless Lincecum and Cain suddenly turn into the second coming of Koufax and Drysdale, I have to pick the Phillies in six.
American League Playoffs
Rangers (90-71) versus Rays (95-66)
This matchup is the hardest to figure out, as the Rays appear to have much more consistent pitching, and the Rangers have a fearsome offensive lineup, led by my choice (not that anybody's asking) for AL MVP, Josh Hamilton. Aces David Price for the Rays and Cliff Lee for the Rangers cancel each other out, so I think the Rays slim edge in the rotation picks up that third win they need somewhere along the way. Also, BJ Ryan has finally started to come out of his season-long snooze, and there's no way Carlos Pena doesn't do a little bit more damage in the playoffs than he has been doing all year. Rays in four.
Yankees (95-67) versus Twins (94-68)
Although the Yankees have been a little wobbly in the last few weeks, I am mindful that they play in the ruthless American League East, and they are, as ever, stocked with veterans who have done it before, and so forth. I like CC Sabathia for two wins in a short series, and I don't see the Twins starters handling the Yankees hitters as well as the Yankees entire staff handling the Twins' bats. I say it goes to the Yankees in five, with a memorably cold and rainy clincher played deep into in the Minnesota night.
If the Rays can make it past the Rangers, then I'm going to take them over the Yankees. Joe Maddon will figure out a way to beat the Yankees, and Carl Crawford will, of course, be auditioning for a job with the very team he'll be playing against. Rays in six.
So we'll have a rematch of the 2008 World Series, and this time around it will be a much better contest than the last time the Rays and Phillies met to settle the championship, when the Phillies won Game 5 over two nights, due to a suspension of the game due to inclement weather. This time around, the Rays players will be ready to go, with better pitching -- including David Price, who will outpitch everyone -- but it won't be enough. Winning their second World Series in three years, it'll be the Phillies in seven.
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