We’re only two league championship series away from the World Series. Who will wind up in the Fall Classic? Keep reading to find out…
ALCS: New York Yankees at Texas Rangers
Well, I got this one wrong. I really thought the Twins and Rays would small ball their way to the second round. Oh well. The good news is that I think this is the best possible match-up.
The Rangers aren’t afraid to play NL style ball. They bunt, sacrifice and take the extra base. They have one of the better defensive catchers in the league in Bengie Molina, a second baseman, Ian Kinsler, who has already hit three postseason homers, and an outfield brimming with power and rocket arms. They have a top-notch left-handed ace in Cliff Lee whose success has overshadowed two other great pitchers, C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. They also have a bullpen with the lowest ERA in the AL and a closer, who despite being a rookie, posted 40 saves this season. That this team has come this far is no fluke.
The Yankees don’t control the running game very well, but that’s the only weakness they’ve shown so far this postseason. MVP candidate Robinson Cano plays a superb second base and shortstop Derek Jeter is a terrific playoff hitter. Combine that with the power of A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher and it is no wonder Minnesota didn’t stand a chance. The Yankees are going with a four-man rotation for this series, which means that second half slumper A.J. Burnett will join CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte, who each pitched well in the Division series. Game four could be scary for Yankee Fans. But, as always, with Mariano Rivera closing games, ninth-inning comebacks will be tough for Texas.
The Yankees have the edge in experience, but the Rangers seem to be relishing their underdog status. Some might think that not having Cliff Lee until game three is bad news for the Rangers, but I don’t. Just think of what a safety net it would be if they happen to drop the first two games at home. Or what a boost it will be to steal a game from the Yanks in the Bronx with their best pitcher on the mound.
Prediction: Not that this should surprise anyone, but I’m still picking against the Yankees. Rangers in six.
NLCS: San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies
This is the match-up I was praying for and the one I predicted. I am totally psyched for this series to get underway.
The defending NL champion Phillies finished the regular season 27-9, swept the Reds outta town in three games, including a no-hitter, and look pretty unstoppable. Their trio of aces, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels is one no team wants to face. Except maybe the Giants that is; the big three posted a 6.12 ERA against San Francisco this season. To make up for that the Phillies will need timely offense and their usual smothering defense. Shane Victorino has been a huge spark and should continue to be. Add in a solid bullpen, a big game closer and of course, some of the most intense fans in the game, and this team has a really good shot at its third World Series in a row.
The Giants didn’t get as much attention as the Phillies, but their pitchers led the NL in ERA this season and went 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA against their NLCS opponent. Tim Lincecum proved his worth against the Reds, registering 14 strikeouts and rookie catcher Buster Posey had no trouble in the spotlight, hitting .444 in the division series. Veterans like Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez and Pat Burrell helped San Fran come from behind twice against Atlanta and hand leads over to their wild and wacky closer Brian Wilson.
The Phillies are the easy pick here, but they also faced a weaker opponent in the first round, got very little from shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and are under more pressure as two-time NL Champions. San Francisco seems to be playing fun and loose and they were really challenged by Atlanta and still came out on top.
Prediction: Expect a bunch of close well-pitched games in this season. And expect the unexpected. San Francisco in 7.