METRODOME MADNESS: Minnesota 5, Detroit 1
Today at 5pm eastern, Detroit plays at Minnesota in a one-game playoff for the right to face the Yanks. Since September 8th, Detroit has gone 11-15. The Twins closed out the season with a 16-4 record, bridging a wide gap and tying the Tigers on the second to last day of the season with a great win over Zack Greinke.
Detroit had to pitch Verlander, their ace, on Sunday, and he's unavailable. They're playing on the road. Their bats are asleep, they're slumping, and they're up against the hottest team in baseball. This is a no-brainer; Scott Baker pitches a gem, and Minnesota wins 5-1 or 6-2. The Metrodome goes wild.
(PS- today is the first instance in '09 of a really fun phenomenon; meaningful afternoon baseball during the week. It's so rare to come home from work, turn on the tv, and settle down to watch a high-stakes game. It's a throwback. There's something nostalgic about daytime baseball that really strikes a chord with me, and when the playoffs are in the balance, I'm 300% on board. ((Of course, this particular game has to be played indoors, on ugly turf, in the shitties sporting facility in America, which goes a long way to nullifying that fresh autumnal feeling, but what are ya gonna do...)) )
NLDS: Philadelphia defeats Colorado, 3-1
Hamels and Lee. I trust them. Lee washed the stink of Cleveland off almost immediately after his trade to Philly, and aside from a few rocky starts has looked very good. Hamels has struggled mightily this season, but he's a World Series champion, and playoff experience will make a difference. I don't necessarily expect these guys to throw shut-outs, but they'll do enough to let the powerful Phillies lineup carry the day. The Rockies don't have the necessary pitching; containing those big bats is a few persimmons over their huckleberry. When Ubaldo Jimenez is your #1 option, thinks don't look awesome. Colorado steals game 3 at home, but that's it.
NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers defeat St. Louis, 3-2
This is my upset pick, and in my gut I'm wondering if this a really idiotic call. St. Louis has the best 1-2 pitching punch in the playoffs in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and I've heard around the block that this Albert Pujols fella has some pretty solid fundamentals. But Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw aren't anything to be sneezed at, and the Dodgers have home field. All they need to do is force a game 5, and suddenly anything can happen. Do I love this pick? No. Going with St. Louis in 4 is pretty tempting. But I've got a feeling, and it's barely, just barely, overriding the checks of common sense. The best record and run differential have to count for something, too. Dodgers win games 1, 3, and 5.
ALDS: Los Angeles Angels defeat Boston, 3-1
A huge factor in this series will be the complete inability of Boston catchers to stop anyone from stealing. Going against the team with the third-best running game in Major League Baseball (and best of all playoff squads), you can't tell me there won't be some serious headaches. Victor Martinez is miserable in the field. Jason Varitek is arguably the worst player in professional baseball, though he may not see an inning. The pitching match-up is more or less equal; Lester is probably the best of the bunch, but there are a lot of questions with Beckett, Buccholz is an average third starter at best, and after that, Boston may be forced to throw guys on short rest. Meanwhile, Lackey is a gamer with strong playoff experience, Weaver has had a great year, Kazmir has a 1.73 ERA since joining the Angels, and Saunders is 7-0 since coming off the DL. I think you have to call that the best 4-man rotation in the game right now; not a weak link in the bunch. Boston's lineup is a bit stronger, with a bit more power, but I think this is the year the Angels break the curse. Give LA games 2, 3, and 4.
ALDS: Yankees defeat Minnesota, 3-0, or Detroit, 3-1.
1st case) They don't have the pitching to hold us off. Competent pitching will be more than enough against the Twins. Andy hurls a gem in the Metrodome on Sunday for the clean sweep.
2nd case) Verlander wins game 2, but the Yanks take the rest against a meek lineup who fail to score more than 3 runs in any game.
PLAYOFF BASEBALL, BABY!!!!