Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Playoff Preview: World Series

We are finally here! It's World Series time!

While Major League Baseball and most of its fans may have been salivating over the thought of a Dodgers versus Yankees World Series, an "I-95" series, as some have dubbed it, is definitely the better series from a baseball standpoint.

The Yankees and Phillies easily boast the best line-up in each of their respective leagues.

Headlined by Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees led the American League with 244 home runs this year, while Ryan Howard and the Phillies led the National League with 224.

Together, both teams have hit 468 home runs! That shatters the previous record for the most combined home runs by two teams playing each other in the Fall Classic.

There is also the aspect of one team trying to defend its title from the previous year, while another tries to claim what it believes is its rightful place in the sport.

Last year, Philadelphia rolled over the "Cinderella Story" Tampa Bay Rays in five games to win their first championship since 1980.

This year, the core of the team is the same. However, there have been multiple additions to the team since last October that make the Phillies even scarier than before.

While Philadelphia superstars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley did their thing batting third and fourth in line-up once again, the off-season addition of left fielder Raul Ibanez, and mid-season pickups Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez seemed to make the Phillies even more complete than last year.

Plus, the breakout seasons of Jayson Werth and catcher Carlos Ruiz didn't hurt either.

Up in the Bronx, the Yankees are finally looking like "The Yankees" again, returning to the World Series for the first time since 2003, and their 40th time in franchise history.

I would venture as far to say that last winter's addition of Mark Teixeira to the New York line-up was the smartest offensive signing that the Yankees have made since Reggie Jackson in 1977 (maybe even better, as Teixeira doesn't carry any extra baggage along with his big bat).

Despite his .205 average in the playoffs this year, Teixeira's MVP-caliber season was one of the chief reasons why the Yankees have returned to the playoffs in 2009 after a brief hiatus in 2008.

And while the old guard of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte have gotten their share of the postseason spotlight, the ALDS and CS were all about two players for the Yankees: CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.

While CC Sabathia ended up being granted the ALCS MVP Award, most believe that both men equally deserved it, as Rodriguez managed to hit .429 with three home runs in the series.

If they can carry their positive play into the World Series, then it is going to be very hard to beat New York. Especially if Sabathia pitches on short rest, as he did this past week.

The keys to victory for both teams are as follows:

For Philadelphia, the bullpen, which struggled mightily in the regular season, must continue to display the dominance that it has in the postseason.

Closer Brad Lidge, who blew 11 saves during the regular season, has been a perfect three for three in save opportunities during the playoffs.

In addition, relief pitchers such as Chan Ho Park, Chad Durbin, and Scott Eyre, have made it exceedingly difficult to score on the Phillies in late innings.

If the Phillies have any hope of taking home another trophy this year, the 'pen must continue this trend against the Yankees, who have proven to be the comeback kids of 2009.

The Philadelphia line-up must also continue to stay consistent when it comes to getting on base. With the exception of Jimmy Rollins, each of the Phillie's big bats are hitting over .300 during the postseason.

As for New York, AJ Burnett must continue to turn in decent starts.

While he has not been anywhere near dominant during his three postseason starts, he has given the Yankees a chance to win each time he has gone out to the mound.

However, the reason why Burnett is so important to New York goes beyond just giving a good effort. It is because he has the chance to truly set the tone for the series in Game Two.

All assumptions are that CC Sabathia will be able to out-duel Cliff Lee in Game One. If this happens to be the case, Burnett has the opportunity to put the Yankees in prime position with a 2-0 series lead.

But, if Sabathia is defeated by the potent Phillie line-up in Game One, Burnett could decide if the Yankees go to Philadelphia in a 0-2 hole, or tied 1-1.

It is also important to note that manager Joe Girardi has stated that Jose Molina, who has become Burnett's personal catcher during the playoffs, will not be a guarantee to be Burnett's catcher. Particularly if Burnett is called on to pitch Game Five in Philadelphia, where the line-up will already be weakened by the pitcher's spot in the order.

In addition, the Yankee bats must wake up and deliver with runners on base.

It has been easy to overlook the failure of the New York line-up to both get on base and drive runners in with Alex Rodriguez carrying the offense on his back. However, many of the Yankee starters have been in a bit of a slump. Melky Cabrera is the only other Yankee starter hitting over .300 for the postseason.

Even Derek Jeter, who posted excellent numbers in the ALDS, struggled a bit in the ALCS, batting .259 (7-27).

While Girardi continued to keep the same line-up on the field for the entire ALCS, it will be interesting to see if he makes any moves involving players such as Nick Swisher or Robinson Cano, who have slumped for the majority of the postseason.

In the end, I expect the New York to persevere and defeat Philadelphia due to two words: Mariano Rivera.

A great challenge will be constructing a bridge from the starting pitcher to Mo each game, but if this can be done, the chances for the Yankees go way up.

Prediction: New York Yankees over the Philadelphia Phillies in seven games.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thhhheeeee Yankees Win!

Well, the Yankees made it official last night. They are going to the World Series for the first time since 2003, when they lost the championship to Josh Beckett and the Florida Marlins.

I, myself, was actually at the game last night. I was able to see my beloved Yankees finally overcome their demons and beat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the playoffs for the first time, first hand.

I, for one, was actually surprised at the ease in which the Yankees overtook Los Angeles.

That is not to take anything away from the Angels. They were a very formidable opponent.

However, in many instances, the Angels beat themselves more so than they were beaten by the Yankees. The usually defensively sound Angels committed eight errors during the six game series - many of which led to damage.

CC Sabathia was awarded the ALCS MVP for his two absolutely dominant pitching performances in Games One and Four.

Sabathia went 2-0 while pitching 16 innings over the two games (eight innings in each). In addition, he fanned 20 while surrendering only two runs.

Consideration for the award also went to the rejuvenated Alex Rodriguez, who went 9-21 in the series with three home runs and six runs batted in, including his memorable game-tying homer in the 11th inning of Game Two.

Other noteworthy ALCS performances would include those of Mariano Rivera (7.0 IP, 2 SV, 1 ER), Johnny Damon (9-30, 2 HR, 5 RBI) and Melky Cabrera (9-23, 4 RBI, 3 BB).

For Los Angeles, Vladimir Guerrero batted .370 (10-27) with a home run and five runs batted in, while Angel ace John Lackey pitched 12.1 innings and posted a 3.65 earned run average.

New York will now go on to play the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.

Philadelphia easily handled the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team with the National League's best regular season record in 2009, by putting them away in five games during the NLCS.

The Fall Classic is scheduled to start on Wednesday night, though the time of the first pitch is yet to be determined.

Every World Series game can be seen on Fox.

I will be back either later tonight or tomorrow to preview this year's World Series, which should prove to be an excellent match-up between two teams which both possess a power-laden lineup and a dominant starting pitching staff.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Playoff Preview: Championship Series

After a division series round which featured three sweeps and one four game series win, the real fun will begin tonight, as the NLCS between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers will open at Dodger Stadium. That will be followed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium to kick of the ALCS tomorrow night.

I cannot begin to describe how excited I am for both of these series.

Yes, it would have been nice to see another epic Boston versus New York ALCS, however, it is my belief that the two matchups that his year has dealt to us could not have been chosen any better.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

For those of you with a short memory, this will be a rematch of last year's NLCS. The Phillies would take care of the Dodgers quite convincingly in five games and go on to win the World Series in 2008.

However, this year should be entirely different for one reason, and that is the maturity of the Dodgers.

Last year, the whole team basically tried to ride Manny Ramirez's bat through the playoffs and to the World Series. That plan did not end up working out very well, as Ramirez's bat proved to be nowhere near enough to counteract the Philadelphia lineup and dominant, young pitching.

This year, the rest of the starting lineup has managed to make itself heard. While a few of the team's established veterans appeared to regress, including the previously mentioned Ramirez, the Dodger youngsters did a great amount of speaking with their bats.

Outfielders Andre Eithier (coming off an impressive NLDS performance) and Matt Kemp, the future core of the organization, both had career years. Each hit for about a .300 average with over 25 home runs and 100 runs batted in. 25-year old first baseman James Loney and 26-year old catcher Russell Martin managed to turn in solid years as well.

Turning attention to the starting rotation, manager Joe Torre announced that he plans to have young phenom Clayton Kershaw, who went 6.2 innings while giving up two runs during his NLDS Game Two start, start Game One of this series.

Kershaw will be followed by Vincent Padilla in the rotation.

Padilla pitched seven shutout innings during Los Angeles's clinching game over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.

The combo of Kershaw and Padilla should give the Dodgers an excellent one-two punch to open up the series. Power arms are something that is extremely valued when it comes to October baseball and these two can really blow the opposition away if they are on their game.

Randy Wolfe, who lasted only 3.2 innings during his Game One start in the NLDS, will get the Game Three start. And as for Game Four, look for the Hiroki Kuroda to get the start over the unreliable Chad Billingsley if the Dodgers are down in the series.

However, if the Los Angeles is up, I would definitely not be surprised to see Billingsley in there, as he has the ability to deliver electric stuff from the mound.

On the other side of the diamond, there is really not much to say. The power-packed lineup of the defending World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies is quite a site to behold.

Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jason Werth, and Raul Ibanez, the heart of the Phillie lineup, hit for a combined .367 batting average against the Colorado Rockies in their NLDS. And while the Dodger pitching is a step above that of Colorado, cooling the bats of these four down is a very hard task to accomplish.

If leadoff man Jimmy Rollins can get his bat going, and Shane Victorino continues to deliver in the two-hole, setting up Utley and Howard, the lineup will be even more dangerous.

Cole Hamels, who shut the Dodgers down in last year's NLCS, will start Game One. And Cliff Lee, coming off of a very impressive performance during the NLDS (16.1 IP, 2 ER) will start Game Two.

Ultimately, I expect this series to come down to the bullpen, and in that department, Los Angeles has the upper hand.

While Philadelphia closer Brad Lidge seems to have found a grove (for now), and the rest of the bullpen was not terrible during the first playoff series, their regular season stats (44 SV in 66 SVO this season - good for last in the majors) do not paint a pretty picture.

To compare the Phillie bullpen to a mediocre bullpen would be hard to do, nevermind the Dodger bullpen, which is one of the best in the league. And if the past has taught us anything, it is that, most of the time, the team with the best bullpen goes the farthest.

I would say that the starting rotation among the teams is about even, and would give the Phillies a slight edge in the starting lineup.

But the disparity between the two 'pens will ultimately give Los Angeles the series.

Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers over Philadelphia Phillies in seven.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. New York Yankees

Wow. This was unexpected.

Just as Yankee and Red Sox fans were getting the war paint ready yet again, the Angels threw both respective fans a curveball (no pun intended).

I must admit, I expected the Angels to finally get that huge monkey off their back and beat Boston this year. But, I did not expect it to happen in three games! With the clincher being in Fenway Park!

If you were to tell me that you expected the Angels to wrap the ALDS up in as neatly a little package as they did, I would laugh in your face and make some kind of comment about your pants being on fire.

The Angels barely gave the Boston a chance to breathe in Games One and Two and came back to win Game Three in the ninth inning against the all-mighty Jonathan Papelbon. Not even Nostradamus saw that one coming.

Yet, I digress. That is now the past, and I can't help but smile from ear to ear thinking about what the next week of baseball has in store for us.

While Red Sox-Yankees would have been fun for the Northeast, believe me when I say that Angels-Yankees is going to be a better series.

I personally think it would have taken the Yankees five games to get past the Red Sox.

Now, we've got major drama. Two totally different types of forces colliding: the New York Yankees, who can basically bludgeon a team to death with their offense, versus the Los Angeles Angels, who have the ability to "steal" a series right out from under their opponent.

The teams went 5-5 against each other in regular season play this year. And while the Yankees were swept by the Angels during their first visit to Angels Stadium in July, New York managed to salvage the final two games of a three game series during their second visit to the West Coast in September.

Most believe that those two games will prove to have worked wonders for the Yankee psyche in the long run. However, the Angels still play a brand of baseball that the Yankees are very uncomfortable with and not used to seeing.

For example, Los Angeles can manufacture a run by a Chone Figgins slapping a base hit to the opposite field, stealing second base, moving to third base on a groundout to the right side by Bobby Abreu, and scoring on a deep fly ball by Torii Hunter. They play like this very consistently.

Conversely, the Yankees have the ability to easily get that run back with a 450-foot Alex Rodriguez home run.

But with the Angels constantly showing off their wheels, the Yankees are going to have to make sure that they keep the mistakes to a minimum, no matter how many home runs they are capable of hitting once they get their turn in the box.

Overthrows, pass-balls, and walks would ultimately lead to New York's demise. And with the Angel ability to "make things happen", sloppy play by the Yankees is not out of the realm of possibility.

As expected, CC Sabathia will start Game One for New York, followed by AJ Burnett and Andy Pettitte in Games Two and Three, respectively. Yet, in a curious move by manager Joe Girardi, Sabathia will most probably start Game Four instead of Joba Chamberlain or Chad Gaudin.

While I prefer seeing Chamberlain stay in the bullpen and I do not trust Gaudin in a big spot, Sabathia's previous track record starting on short rest in the playoffs is not anything to speak of. Although, the Yankees did not ask Sabathia to pitch on short rest to finish up the regular season as the Milwaukee Brewers did last year.

Still, it is still a risky move by Girardi.

Angel manager Mike Soscia did a little tinkering with his rotation as well. Most notably, Scott Kazmir, who owns a 2.74 career ERA against New York and is used to pitching against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium from his days with the Tampa Bay Rays, will not start in either Game One or Two in the Bronx, but in Game Four back in Anaheim.

While the move may seem a little confusing, Los Angeles still will send out two legitimate starting pitchers in John Lackey and Joe Saunders, who had a very solid year of his own.

Both rotations stack up pretty evenly against each other. And if, as I mentioned earlier, the Yankees can keep the Angels under control on the basepaths, the lineups should stay in tune with each other as well.

Once again, as is the case in the NLCS, the ALCS, in all likelihood, will be decided by the bullpen. And in that department, New York is greatly favored.

If any Yankee starter is able to make it through six innings, the game will be turned over to a bullpen which include the extremely talented young arms of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Dave Robertson.

And, of course, there is Mariano Rivera.

The Angel bullpen has been week this year. And while Brian Fuentes is an All-Star caliber closer, he has shown a tendency to be soft in big spots.

That, mixed with the fact that the Yankees have 16 walk-off wins this year, does not bode for Los Angeles.

Yes, the Angels are going to give the Yankees a very hard fought effort, but New York's modern day "Murderer's Row" seems to be destined to make it to the World Series this year.

Prediction: New York Yankees over Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in seven.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Weekend In Review

Well, I gave my opinion on each of the four Division Series last week, and so far, I have been right on two of three of them (though I was off in the games).

By 10:30 last night, we had three division series in the books. Each series being a sweep.

The first series to wrap up was the Dodgers and Cardinals on Saturday night, in which the Dodgers swept the Cardinals with ease.

I am sure that I am not alone in saying that this greatly surprised me. However, Joe Torre and his squad managed to do it again.

While the celebration on Saturday night was kept to a minimum, the Los Angeles took care of St. Louis in impressive fashion.

The Dodgers barely gave the Cards a chance to breath during Games One and Three, taking early leads. And, aided by a huge Matt Holliday error, were able to come back to snatch Game Two in the bottom of the ninth inning due in large part to the clutch performances of role players Ronnie Belliard and Mark Loretta.

While St. Louis got two above-average performances from Cy Young candidates Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in their respective starts, the lack of pop in the Cardinal lineup was badly exposed.

Joe Torre made it a point that he would pitch around Albert Pujols at the beginning of the series. However, Matt Holliday made the decision to do so that much easier by hitting just .167 while batting behind the Cardinal first baseman.
The rest of the Cardinal lineup managed to hit .272 overall, which is not terrible. Yet, they were unable come up with the big hit at the right time, which should reiterate the point to the Cardinal front office: Albert Pujols simply cannot do everything!

In addition, while Holliday's previously mentioned dropped fly ball in left field would be inexcusable for a high school athlete, nevermind a major league player, what was also inexcusable was closer Ryan Franklin's inability to shake off the play and continue to do his job.
Great closers are able to put everything else out of their mind and focus on the task at hand. Franklin could not do this, further providing evidence for why he should be considered both a failed starter and closer.

Meanwhile, on a Sunday afternoon in New England, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were busy doing something that they had never done in their history: beat the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs.

I was stunned to see Boston, whose 56-25 record at home in 2009 was good for second in baseball, actually drop a playoff game to the Angels in Fenway Park, nevermind lose a series there.

However, victory in Fenway did not come easy to Los Angeles.

After starters John Lackey and Jered Weaver utterly dominated the Sox in Games One and Two, Los Angeles new-comer Scott Kazmir struggled, giving up five runs over six innings.

However, with a 5-4 lead and on the brink of elimination, Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon came in during the eighth inning to close the game out.

After Boston added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning to push the score to 6-4, Papelbon promptly served up three runs to the Angels in the top of the ninth. The "key" at bat being Angel right fielder Bobby Abreu's double off the Green Monster to make the score 6-5.

Boston went quietly to follow up, failing to put a runner on in the bottom of the ninth, thus handing the series over to Los Angeles.

Later that night, in Minnesota, the Twins lost to the Yankees in what could be considered one of the most unlucky playoff series in the history of baseball.
Minnesota had two glaring weaknesses in this series. Firstly, failing to score with runners in scoring position became a bit of a trend for the club, exemplified by the 17 runners left on base during Friday night's heart-breaking Game Two loss.

Secondly, Twin closer Joe Nathan, easily one of the top five best closers in the league, was unable to resemble the dominant force that we have all grown so accustomed to seeing.

During Nathan's lone appearance in the series, he gave up a game tying two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of Game Two which would send the game into extra innings.

And while Mark Teixeira's walk-off home run won the game for New York, the play of the game that will forever live in infamy was catcher Joe Mauer's "foul ball" called by third base umpire Phil Cuzzi. In actuality, the ball should have been a ground-rule double that, in all likelihood, would have allowed Mauer to score on a base hit later on in the inning.
However, that just seemed to be the way things went for the Twins this past week.

In addition to the atrocious call on Friday night, the Twin base-running was absolutely putrid, as a handful of rallies were killed by a dumb move on the base-path.
Finally, the Cinderella story has come to an end.

The one series still being played features the Colorado Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Philadelphia leads that series 2-1, with Game Four coming tonight at 6:07.

I should be back with an Championship Series preview similar to my Division Series one once the remaining series is decided.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Playoff Preview: Division Series

It is finally here! October baseball!

While some match-ups look to be very exciting, others could prove to be a little lopsided.

Here is my breakdown. Leading off, the National League:

Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies

This may be a more exciting match-up than it appears.

The Phillies may be favored, but Colorado has proven in the past that you can never count out a "Cinderella Story."

Philadephia has both the better starting lineup and starting rotation. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard once again proved in 2009 why they are arguably the scariest offensive right side of the infield. Raul Ibanez also had a pretty solid first year in the City of Brotherly Love, while Jason Werth had a career year with 36 home runs and 99 runs batted in, while swiping 20 and walking 91 times.

If Jimmy Rollins can break out of the funk that has seemed to plague him all season long (.250 BA, .296 OBP - both career lows), then the Phillie lineup will be absolutely lethal.

Out on the mound, Philadelphia's mid-season acquisitions of southpaw Cliff Lee and the always entertaining Pedro Martinez make the starting rotation extremely solid.

Lee should get the Game One start with Cole Hamels in Game Two and Pedro in Game Three. Rookie J.A. Happ would probably get the nod in a Game Four, should the series come down to that.

On the contrary, Philadelphia's weakness comes in the bullpen. Closer Brad Lidge who went a perfect 41 for 41 in save opportunities last season managed to blow 11 saves this season (leading the majors).

As a whole, the Phillie bullpen has blown 22 saves this season, so a lead in late innings does not mean a guarunteed win for Philadelphia.

Colorado had started the year off terribly under manager Clint Hurdle, going 18-28 under their former skipper. However, the team has since seemed to turn it around since the arrival of new manager Jim Tracy.

The Rockies have compiled a 74-42 record since Hurdle's departure.

In addition to claiming the National League Wild Card, Colorado even made a run at the National League West Division, keeping Los Angeles fans biting their nails until the second to last day of the regular season.

Simply put, while the Rockies do not have the talent of Philadelphia, they come into the playoffs riding a hot streak, just as they had in 2007 when they appeared in the World Series.

Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies over Colorado Rockies in five games.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Back in April and May, most people already had Los Angeles penciled in as the National League Champions. Now, that is not the case.

With a shaky starting pitching staff and their biggest slugger, Manny Ramirez, in a painful slump, Los Angeles has stumbled a bit down the stretch.

As mentioned, the Colorado Rockies almost managed to steal the division away from them in September.

In addition, many experts have pointed out that the Dodger core may just be too young to truly take the team all the way. While players such as Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier, and James Loney each had very good years, they may not have the discipline required to take a team to the World Series.

On the other side of the diamond, the Cardinals have, arguably, the best 1-2 punch in baseball, with starters Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright serving as a very formidable two-headed monster.

And of course, the Cardinals lineup contains some guy named Albert Pujols, who, after starting the year on fire, has appeared to slow down. However, protection from newly acquired left fielder Matt Holliday makes St. Louis's power threat very legitimate.

While I would expect this series to be much closer than most people are making it seem, the St. Louis pitching staff will probably prove to be too much for the stumbling Dodgers to handle, even under the guidance of manager Joe Torre.

Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals over Los Angeles Dodgers in four games.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Boston Red Sox

This has become a classic post-season rivalry, even if it has been grossly one-sided over the past five years.

Since 2004, the Red Sox and Angels have faced each other in the ALDS three times. Boston has won all three of those series, sweeping Los Angeles in two of the three.

This year, the Angels come into post-season play as the American League West Champions, while the Sox come in as the Wild Card.

Both teams appear to be very even, especially on the mound. On paper, both pitching staffs would appear to be equal, however, Angel ace John Lackey has not been himself this year and a good part of the rotation has been injured for a good portion of the year.

Boston, on the other hand, has their post-season magician in Josh Beckett going for them in Game Two, with 15-game winner Jon Lester set to go in Game One.

Conversely, the offenses could not be more different.

The Red Sox boast a power-packed, patient lineup. It features on-base machines the likes of Jason Bay, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, and even 5'7" second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Don't forget about Big Papi either. The average may have been down this year, but the ability to change the game with one swing of the bat is still very much there.

The Angels are built on speed and aggressiveness. Not only did they lead the American League in stolen bases for 2009 (148), but they also lead the league in moving from first to third on singles.

It is that aggressive nature that could make the Angels a nightmare for the Red Sox, especially for the Boston pitching staff and catchers. Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez have thrown out an extremely unimpressive 14.5% of base-stealers.

In addition, the Angels can answer Boston's power with the always dangerous Vladimir Guerrero, the surprise of the year Kendry Morales, and the always versatile Bobby Abreu.

Call me a bias Yankee fan, but I believe that this may finally be the year that Los Angeles gets the best of Boston.

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over Boston Red Sox in five games.

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees

Well, it meant overcoming unbelievable odds, but the Minnesota Twins will make it to the post-season for the fifth time in the last eight seasons.

Minnesota's comeback from seven games down with 26 left to play in early September came to a climax earlier this evening, as they beat the Detroit Tigers 6-5 in a one-game tiebreaker.

Now they turn to their attention to the well-rested boys in the Bronx.

The Yankees have been sitting pretty for a solid week and a half now, clinching their division and home field advantage on September 27th.

New York has also won the luxury of setting up their pitching rotation exactly the way that they want it, with CC Sabathia starting tomorrow and A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte to follow in Games Two and Three, respectively.

Meanwhile, the exhausted Twins will send rookie starter Brian Duensing, who has never pitched in the Bronx before, to the mound for tomorrow's 6:07 start.

While Minnesota has shown that it certainly has fight, going up against the New York lineup may prove to be a daunting task for a team that hasn't known the meaning of the word "rest" for a good three to four weeks now.

One thing the Twins could claim to have on their side is momentum. One of baseball's greatest cliches is that winning in the playoffs largely has to do with who is hot at the right time. However, this may not be enough to counteract against the power-laden Yankees.

The fact is that in addition to not having the talent that the Yankees have, the Twins may soon run out of gas, as well - especially after the 12 inning classic they participated in tonight.

In addition, the Yankees-Twins regular season series ended with a final record of 7-0 in favor of the Bombers in 2009.

Sad to say, but I would look for this heart warming story to come to an end in the Bronx.

Prediction: New York Yankees over Minnesota Twins in three games.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Twins and Tigers to Play Tiebreaker

Unless you are completely oblivious to the national sports media, you know that the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers will be playing a tiebreaker game this Tuesday in Minnesota's Metrodome.

Minnesota claims the right to host the game since they won the 2009 regular season series against the Tigers.

I realize I am a little late on breaking this, but just to reiterate, the probable pitchers are Scott Baker for the Twins (15-9, 4.36) and Rookie of the Year candidate Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.04) for the Tigers.

2009 marks the third year in a row that baseball has seen a one-game "playoff" (Colorado over San Diego for the National League Wild Card in '07, Chicago over Minnesota for the American League Central Division in '08), the longest such streak of its kind.

The winner of the game will go on to play the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on either Wednesday or Thursday.