Championship Series Preview

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American League:
Texas Rangers v New York Yankees

 

Cliff Lee pitched a complete game last night to beat the
Rays in game 5 of the Division series, and will likely start two games of the
Championship series. Last year when he was with the Phillies he pitched two
games against the Yankees in the World Series and won both games – New York of
course won the other four.

 

After hitters have seen the same pitcher for a while they
can often lock into them, as they know roughly where the pitcher is likely to
throw and what they’ll be throwing. That’s not the case with Lee, who paints
the corners of the strike zone with unnerving consistency and has ice where
blood should be, all of which is to say that there’s no reason he can’t
dominate the Yankees just as effectively this year as last.

 

After Lee, Texas has two very good starters in CJ Wilson and
Colby Lewis…very good but inexperienced and totally unproven at this level.

 

The Yankees will start game one in Texas with ace CC
Sabbathia, who is not usually unhittable, but will surely take advantage of the
Rangers’ hyper-intense vibe in evidence before Game 5 against the Rays. Really,
the reason they won that game was lackadaisical work by the Rays defense and a
terrible umpiring decision that denied the Rays a double-play and gifted the
Rangers a run.

 

If Wilson and Lewis can keep the Rangers in games, they have
enough hitting to get past the Yankees, but if Yankees’ no.3 starter Phil
Hughes keeps up his recent dominant pitching form he may be the
difference-maker.

 

The Yankees fully expect to win, whereas the Rangers hope to
win and are ecstatic to just be there. The teams are so evenly matched that the
difference may come down to that.

 

Prediction: Yankees in 7

 

National League:
Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants

 

Phillies’ current leadoff hitter Shane Victorino recently
joked that he’d go to the plate for his first at -bat against Tim Lincecum on
Saturday without a bat. The Giants’ ace was that dominant against the Braves in
the previous series that with 14 strikeouts, his performance was at least as
impressive as Halladay’s no-hitter.

 

mlb_g_dochalladay_668.jpg

Even so, Lincecum struggled a little with the strike zone
early in that game, and Halladay is prone to giving up runs…well, a run
anyway…in the first inning, so the spoils may go to the team who can scratch
out a run against the opposing ace. The Phillies have more team speed, and they
have (considerable) home field advantage, so they have the edge there.

 

The Giants’ biggest long-ball threat is ex-Phillie Pat
Burrell, but with a swing as long as the golden gate bridge, he’s getting
nothing to pull and shouldn’t be a factor. So the Giants are going to have to
scratch and claw for any runs, whereas the Phillies should be able to pull
through on the strength of their far more potent lineup. Chase Utley, with 5
homers in last year’s World Series and a knack for the big hit, may be the key
to the series for the Phillies, especially as Ryan Howard’s high fly balls will
likely all be blown back into the field this weekend by the predicted chilly
winds.

 

Prediction: Phillies in 6

 

In closing, and in the
spirit of accountability, here’s what I said last week would happen versus what
actually happened:

 

Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants

My prediction: Giants in 5; Actual: Giants in 4

Neither team could hit, but the Giants starting rotation of
Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner were the difference.

 

Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies

My prediction: Phillies in 3; Actual: Phillies in 3

H2O (Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt) and just enough hitting was
more than enough for a rabbit-in-headlights Reds team whose fielding miscues
doomed whatever slight chances they may have had.

 

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees

My prediction: Twins in 5; Actual: Yankees in 3

Two things in mitigation here: one, I basically admitted to
being an idiot when I predicted this, and two, I couldn’t have known that the
Twins would forget to turn up.

 

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays

My prediction: Rangers in 4; Actual: Rangers in 5

The Rangers became the first team in history in win a
playoff series in which the road team won every game. Of more interest to Texas
though was the fact that this was the first postseason playoff win in franchise
history.

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