After six months and 162 games, the teams playing in the MLB postseason has finally been decided. The field seemed to be all be set at the beginning of September, with all six division leaders and both Wild Card teams holding comfortable leads. The Red Sox, for example, had a 9-1/2 game lead at one point, and our “Your New Home Team” article published Sept. 9 declared that it would take a historic collapse for the team to miss out on the playoffs.
Apparently we jinxed the Sox, because that’s exactly what they did, winning only five games the entire month. Their lead disappeared as the Rays drew even with one game left; the next day, a ninth-inning meltdown coupled with an improbable Rays comeback made the Sox collapse complete. In the National League, the Wild Card-leading Braves suffered a similar fate, blowing a nine-game lead and being overtaken by the Cardinals on the final day. Those two Wild Card winners, along with the Yankees, Tigers, Rangers, Phillies, Brewers, and Diamondbacks, began the first round of the postseason on Friday. Here’s a look at the matchups and some predictions by Tech sports staff.
National League Division Series
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers
There seems to be magic in Miller Park as the Brewers have achieved a fantastic regular season record at home. This streak seems to be continuing as the Brewers put up a solid Game 1 win against the Diamondbacks, with Fielder hitting a two-run homer and Gallardo keeping the Diamondback offense at bay. The Brewers may not be “what made Milwaukee famous,” but it seems as though they at least have what it takes to make it to the next round. Prediction: Brewers in 4.
This is one of the more interesting matchups of the Divisional playoffs. Both teams come in after winning two very tough divisions. The Brewers have more heavy hitters, but the Diamondbacks will keep the series close due to their superior starting rotation. This series should go the distance and ultimately the home team will win the series. Prediction: Brewers in 5.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals
102-60. I rest my case. But seriously, the Phillies had an absurdly good regular season. They achieved the most wins in club history and there seems to be no signs of them letting up. They have a great bullpen starting with Lee and Halladay. Lee, who was part of the Phillies’ 2009 World Series team, was re-acquired from the Rangers in the offseason and looks to play in his third World Series in as many years. It is hard to make a case against that happening. Prediction: Phillies in 4.
The Cardinals come into the playoffs as miraculously as the Rays, earning the wild card spot after the Braves squandered a 7.5 game lead. However, St. Louis is simply outmatched in this contest. Philadelphia’s starting rotation will easily dominate all teams in the postseason as it did all year. There is a reason the Phillies have the best record in baseball and the Cardinals squeaked in due to Atlanta’s ineptitude. Prediction: Phillies in 3.
American League Division Series
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
The Rangers have a fantastic offense with plenty of big hitters, but are hurting in the bullpen, especially with the recent loss of relief pitcher Mark Lowe. They look to redeem themselves after a heartbreaking loss in the 2010 World Series, but they face stiff competition from the Rays who (if you haven’t repressed it from your memory) you’ll recall won three games in a row over the Yankees to knock off the Red Sox for the Wild Card spot. These two teams are fairly evenly matched, but partially for sentimental reasons, I say the Rangers will pull through. Prediction: Rangers in 5.
The Rays come into the playoffs in the most unlikely fashion, squeaking past the Red Sox on the final game of the season after being nine games behind in the Wild Card at the beginning of September. However, the Rangers are a much better team than last year and Texas’ pitching depth is much more impressive than Tampa’s. Without an ace pitcher for either team, this series will be dictated by power hitting, a category that the Rangers dominated all year long. The Rays will keep the series close but the Rangers will ultimately prevail. Prediction: Rangers in 5.
New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers
It has been a rough couple of years for Detroit sports fans, or for that matter, Michigan sports fans in general. On the bright side, the Lions have already won more games this year than in 2008 and 2009 combined! Jokes aside, it is great to see the Tigers back in serious playoff contention after their 2006 World Series appearance. Unfortunately, this year’s team lacks some depth and seems to rest on the shoulders of starting pitcher Justin Verlander. He has his work cut out for him, though, as the Yankees have some big hitters and are very good at getting guys on base. I don’t think Verlander will be enough to carry the Tigers past the Yankees, but for the sake of Detroit sports fans, I would be happy to be proven wrong. Prediction: Yankees in 5.
When the rain wiped out the Game 1 matchup of Verlander vs. Sabathia, the Tigers lost their best chance of taking an early lead in the ALDS. These two will meet again in Game 3, but by that point the Yankees are likely to be up two games in the series. Verlander will extend the series, but the Tigers can’t keep up with the Yankees’ high-powered offense. Prediction: Yankees in 4.