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Breaking Down the MLB Playoffs

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Sports fans across the nation, it’s that time again! 

October baseball is back and now we have separated the contenders from the pretenders and are now down to the final four teams that still have a shot at winning the World Series: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

As the MLB post-season has already proven to us, no other sport matches the drama and suspense of playoff baseball and the League Championship Series will be no different. Let’s take a look at this year’s LCS matchups…

American League: Los Angeles Angels vs. New York Yankees
The Yankees are coming into this series looking stronger than they have in several years. Their lineup is as deep as it gets -- led by Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Jorge Posada in their ALDS matchup against the Minnesota Twins, whom they swept. These three sluggers combined for a .406 batting average in that division series. The Yankees pitching was nothing short of spectacular in the ALDS as well. The entire staff combined for a 1.55 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 29 innings.

The Angels bring their own set of strengths to the table as well. Not only do they have solid hitters such as Vladimir Guerrero, but they also have dynamic base stealers in Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, and Torii Hunter. These two teams have the makings of an intriguing series that has the potential of going six or seven games if both clubs are at the top of their game. Game 1 in New York is Friday night, first pitch at 7:57 ET.

National League: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Game 1 was played last night and resulted in a 8-6 victory for Philadelphia. Both teams experienced rather disappointing performances by their starting pitchers on Thursday, but Phils starter Cole Hamels fared slightly better than Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw took a shutout into the fifth inning, but then things began to unravel. He allowed a 3-run home run to Carlos Ruiz, followed by a two-run double by Ryan Howard later that inning. That five-run fifth inning marked the end of young Kershaw’s first career NLCS start.

In the bottom half of the fifth, Hamels gave up a 2-run blast to none other than Manny Ramirez. Raul Ibanez also homered, in the eighth, to give the Phils an 8-4 lead. A late surge by the Dodgers in the bottom of the eighth off of Ryan Madson was not enough to take the lead, and closer Brad Lidge entered in the ninth inning to record the save.

In a relatively evenly matched game, the variable between these two teams seemed to be starting pitching: Hamels lasted just a little bit longer than Kershaw. Both teams were able to showcase their offensive capability, which should make for a very excited and action-packed NLCS. Well, now that the Phillies have take Game 1, they in-effect have stolen home field advantage from the Dodgers. First pitch of Game 2 is Friday, 4:07 ET out west in L.A.