Division Series Preview
The division series are now set. After one very dramatic game, and one dramatic win, it’s time to get the “best of” series underway. If there’s one thing that we can all be sure of, it’s that the addition of the second Wild Card this season has, by far, made everything all the more interesting. It’ll be good to see what kind of results it produces in seasons to come.
ALDS – New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles
East meets … well, East, I guess. After spending all season playing 18 games against each other, the Yankees and Orioles meet once again for a best-of-five showdown. Baltimore did something fantastic in the Wild Card game – disposed of the Texas Rangers. No team is quite as pesky, or has more potential to come alive for nine straight innings, than Texas. All other American League teams should be glad they won’t be a problem.
Surprisingly, Baltimore and New York split the season series, 9-9. Even more surprising is that Baltimore had the better overall numbers when the two teams played. Which seems counterintuitive, because with the sheer volume of home runs that Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards give up, the loaded offense from the Bronx seems like the clear favorite. Yet, here we are, where it seems like either team could take the win. Expect Curtis Granderson to hit six home runs, while Jim Johnson closes out every single game.
I hate to say it, but I’m going to have to pick the Yankees here. The schedule is a little weird this year, where the worse team gets home field for the first two games, before going to the team’s park for the final three (if needed). I think that Baltimore will split with New York in Orioles Park. But I think that the Yankees will be able to use home field adequately in the next three. And, yes, I do believe we’ll be seeing five games here.
ALDS – Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers
Oakland is still an amazing story this season. They were literally predicted to do less than nothing (especially since all their best pitchers were traded away), and yet they outplayed everyone the last two months, overcame a 13-game deficit, and won the A.L. West. That kind of momentum cannot be discounted going into a series of this magnitude.
Of course, the Tigers have a little momentum of their own. Like the Orioles, they’ll see home field first. Unlike the Orioles, they have Justin Verlander pitching in Game 1, and the Triple Crown winner batting third. Those are things that the A’s need to be scared of. I think Cabrera’s numbers suffered a little bit in the last two games with the unbelievable pressure of the Triple Crown. But now that it’s over, he can focus on playing exactly like he has all season long.
I don’t envy the Athletics right now. I’m going to give this series to the Tigers, and I’m on the verge of predicting a three-game sweep. I think we’ll go to four, but the Tigers will win nonetheless. With Verlander and either Scherzer or Fister pitching in Detroit (with the other pitching in Game 3 in Oakland), it’s hard to believe that they couldn’t win all three games.
NLDS – Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals will be two things for the foreseeable future: The best Wild Card team in baseball, and the luckiest team in baseball. After winning the World Series as a Wild Card team in 2011, they started the 2012 postseason by benefitting from one of the worst calls in the history of sports. It’s like the replacement refs from the NFL were hired by MLB for the postseason. Who calls the infield fly rule into effect on a ball hit to the middle of left field? Idiots, that’s who. The Braves caught a very tough break, and MLB wasn’t willing to help out, even after the game was played under protest.
St. Louis will have their hands full, though. The Nationals are clearly here to play and play hard. The key to this game will be stamina. It’s been well-documented that the Nationals are in their first-ever postseason. The core of this team has zero playoff experience, and it could show as these five- and seven-game series unfold. The Cards, on the other hand, have the core of their 2011 championship team intact, with all the experience to go with it. It’s really going to be a matter of who blinks first.
As to the answer, I think it’ll be St. Louis. I do believe the Nationals will win this series and move on (although I don’t like their chances after that, but that’s a discussion for another point in time). I’ll give them the win in four games, after splitting in St. Louis and taking the first two at home.
NLDS – Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants
This will be a battle of two really good teams, and it should be an amazing series. The biggest problem, though: Melky Cabrera is still nowhere to be seen. Of course, with Buster Posey winning the batting title, that hardly seems relevant. But it would still have been nice to have him. Stupid PEDs.
Both of these teams are loaded with experience and potential. Both teams have championships, and both are strong enough to take this series. I believe it’ll go down to the wire, but the Reds will come out on top. This messed up home field situation this year is really going to benefit those teams that have three straight at home.
ALCS: New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers
NLCS: Washington Nationals vs. Cincinnati Reds