Four teams remain the MLB Postseason. In the American League, the New York Yankees swept their Division Series against Minnesota with ease to advance to the Championship Series. Their opponents, the Texas Rangers, recovered from two straight losses at home to win Game 5 against the Tampa Bay.
In the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies swept Cincinnati behind dominant starting pitching, including a no-hitter by Roy Halladay. They face the San Francisco Giants, who won a series against Atlanta in which every game was decided by one run.
Which two teams will claim their league pennant and advance to the World Series? The Tech’s Sports Staff weigh in, with department bragging rights on the line…
The Yankees will get the job done
Irrespective of the umpiring woes that plagued the division series, let’s be clear: the Yankees and Rangers both deserve to be here. Phil Hughes’s performance in the series-clinching Game 3 had to be reassuring to Yankees fans concerned about the viability of the rotation over a seven-game series. Aside from the installment of Hughes in the third spot of the rotation over the unreliable AJ Burnett, this Yankee team is largely the same as the one that defeated the Phillies in last year’s World Series. In the American League Championship Series, they face a team that strongly resembles last year’s Phillies in the 2010 Texas Rangers. Once again, they’ll have to face a dominant Cliff Lee twice in the same series. Why do I expect the Yankees to go 4-1 and 4-0 in the games in which they don’t have to face Lee? Texas closer Neftali Feliz didn’t inspire much confidence with his performance (3 walks and 2 hits allowed in 1.1 IP) during the division series. C.J. Wilson and his Boise State-blue glove will be challenged by a focused Yankees lineup that gave him some trouble during the regular season.
The last reason is one that sounds quaint to Yankees fans, ignorant to quantitative minds, and arrogant to those outside A.L. East country. No matter how you slice it, this reason is readily apparent to Red Sox fans. The Yankee mystique and championship aura have both re-emerged. The inevitability of a second consecutive AL pennant is enough to suffocate the entire city of Boston. You have to listen to the games on radio to understand. On television, you miss the underlying trends and the logic that leads the game to unfold as it does. You see just how close the runner was to beating out the throw and trick yourself into thinking that some aspect of the outcome of the game was a fluke. On radio, the listener is made to interpret the game through the facts and insights carefully chosen and presented by sage announcers who have seen everything in the game of baseball. The announcers remind the audience of the score at regular intervals, tempering dreams of impossible rallies from tremendous deficits or expectations of an easy victory in the midst of a tight game. Radio forces you to fill in the silences of the broadcast with self-assessment of your own outlook on the game and the relevant teams. This is all to say that after the Yankees clawed back against the Twins to take the lead late in Game 1 of the Division Series, I turned off the radio and went to bed. With Rivera already in the game for the eighth inning, the Twins’ cause was lost. This Yankee team will finish whatever task put to them until the task is indisputably overwhelming; that is, if you only kind of think the Rangers can beat the Yankees, the Rangers are not going to win this series. The Rangers are not overwhelmingly great, and the Yankees will take care of them in [# of games Cliff Lee starts + 4].
Prediction: Yankees in 6
Rangers lack competitive pitching
The Yankees caught a huge break with the Rays extending their series with Texas to five games, since now they’ll only face Cliff Lee a maximum of twice in the series. Sadly for Texas, their other starters are very hittable. The Rangers’ righty-heavy lineup will be able to do some damage against Pettitte and fare better than most against CC Sabathia as well, but fortunately for the Yankees, Texas doesn’t let its players run wild on the basepaths like the Rays would have (Elvis Andrus being their only real stolen base threat). Since Jorge Posada can barely throw out anyone, will the Rangers give the green light to more players on the basepaths and try to manufacture some runs, or stick to their patented long-ball strategy? Either way, it won’t be enough to oust the defending champs.
Prediction: Yankees in 5
Yankees, a no brainer
This is a no-brainer. The reigning champion New York Yankees will take the American League Pennant. New York’s hard-hitting lineup and hot pitching will be able to take down their opponent. The Rangers will win one game against the Yankees (whichever one A.J. Burnett starts) to avoid a sweep, but they don’t have the ability to do much more than that. And, I guess growing up less than 10 miles from Yankee Stadium makes the call a bit easier for me.
Prediction: Yankees in 5
Weak bullpen and lack of Lee seals fate for Rangers
The Rangers finally won their first postseason series by going 0-2 at home but 3-0 on the road. Considering they have home-field advantage in the ALCS, this does not bode well for the Rangers. In addition, by needing ace and postseason hero Cliff lee to clinch Game 5, the Rangers will only enjoy a maximum of two Lee starts (if they can make it to Game 7). Squeezing two wins out of their other starters (CJ Wilson? Tommy Hunter? Colby Lewis?) and their weak bullpen will be a tall order for Texas. While the Yankees’ starters will have to prove their solid outings against the Twins weren’t flukes, their offense will tee off on Rangers pitching and provide them with more than enough runs. With a 28th championship in their sights, the Yankees just simply perform at a higher level in the postseason, and an upstart Rangers team will not be able to stop them. As much as I hate to admit it, the Yankees will be going, once again, to the World Series.
Prediction: Yankees in 6
Rangers will outlast Yankee’s hot streak
Texas will continue to make history as they reach uncharted territory in the postseason. With both Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler on fire offensively (three homers each in the division series), look for the Rangers to slug it out some more. The Yankees to win their games when ace Sabathia takes the mound, but otherwise, Texas will get to the Yankees’ pitching. Cliff Lee will not be matched up against Sabathia, all but guaranteeing wins in the games he starts. From an offensive standpoint, while the Rangers will continue to rack up the hits, the Yankees will cool down after their excellent performance against the Twins. The Yankees’ experience might win them a couple of games, but not enough to defeat the Rangers in a 7-game series.
Prediction: Rangers in 7
Root for David, not Goliath
It is impossible not to root for the underdog of this matchup, especially since these two teams are practically the David and Goliath of baseball; the Rangers just won their first port-season series ever, while the Yankees have more World Series titles than any team in the MLB (including one last year). While the lack of post-season experience may hurt the Rangers, they have a lot more momentum going into the series thanks to an exciting game 5 win over the favored Rays. Rangers ace Cliff Lee is a strikeout monster, with 21 in the 16 innings pitched this postseason, and Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz have both been hot offensively, each batting over .400 with 3 homers a piece. Enough said.
Prediction: Rangers in 6