I know this is a Giants blog, but October baseball is still something that should be mentioned on all baseball websites, so I wanted to talk a little playoff baseball in this post. The NLCS is already cleared up and ready to get going with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies getting ready to take part in what should be one helluva series. Things aren't quite as clear yet in the AL, although if I had to bet, I would say the Tampa Bay Rays will hold off the Chicago White Sox and host the Boston Red Sox to start the ALCS at the end of the week. As I type this, the Rays are up 5-2 on the Sox in the seventh inning, so unless they or the Red Sox suffer a major meltdown, we should have your final four for the 2008 MLB season within 24-48 hours. Here's my take on how the "projected" league championship series' will break down:
Yes, the Phils do have home field advantage, which is always big in the playoffs. They also have potential MVP candidates Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. However, the Dodgers have looked like a different team since the infusion of Manny Ramirez and their young talent (Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin) doesn't look intimidated by October baseball at all. The Dodgers have the clear edge in the pitching department as Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe, and Hiroki Kuroda are all throwing well and made very quick work of the NL favorite Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers also have Greg Maddux and Clayton Kershaw to call upon if they need to and that bullpen is very good, with or without Takashi Saito. This series has seven games written all over it, and I will have to stick to my pre-season pick as the NL champs and go with the Dodgers in 7. They have the momentum, the pitching, the speed, and offense to give the Phils more than they can handle.
All signs are pointing towards a battle of the AL East for the AL crown. The Tampa Bay Rays have been the Cinerella Story of baseball this season, but I think their luck will come to an end vs. the seasoned Red Sox. The Rays remind me a lot of the Colorado Rockies from last season, just with a little more pitching and not as much offense. But like the Rockies last season, I have a tough time seeing them go from the bottom of the AL East to world champions, but I've been wrong before when it comes to playoff predictions. I really like the way B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Pena are playing (even a hobbled Carl Crawford is contributing), but the Red Sox pitching is far superior to the that of the Chicago White Sox. Now, the Red Sox still need to take care of the Angels to get to the CS, but up 2-1 with their "playoff ace", Jon Lester, going tonight, they should close things out. This series, like the NLCS will be a battle, but the Red Sox have experience and pitching on their side. They also have that Fenway Park crowd behind them that will do their best to get into the minds of the young Rays' players. If this ends up indeed being the ALCS match-up, I like Boston in 6.
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