What a finish on Wednesday night!
I watched from the Safeco Field press box, where there are TVs everywhere. It was a thrill watching the three games come down to the wire simultaneously, capped off by the Evan Longoria home run to put the Rays into the playoffs.
One cool thing about watching the drama from the press box: media members were huddled around various screens, watching the different games. As the action unfolded, even the most cynical, staid media professionals had big grins on their faces. The whole night reminded us why we love this sport.
So the field is set – let’s get to the picks!
National League Division Series (best-of-five)
The pick: Philadelphia over St. Louis, three games to one.
The reasoning: Philadelphia has been the best team in the NL all year, and they built their star-studded starting rotation for the post-season. The danger is the Cardinals, who were 10.5 games out of the wild card on August 25 and went 23-8 down the stretch. Also, St. Louis won the head-to-head season series, 6-3. And Pujols… still, I gotta take Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and that Worley guy.
The other pick: Milwaukee sweeps Arizona, three games to none.
The reasoning: Just like Philadelphia, the Brewers are built for the post-season. They made the big trade to get Zack Greinke, potentially even a bigger one to acquire Shaun Marcum (giving up Brett Lawrie), and they have the supremely underrated Yovani Gallardo. Their offense is an absolute load. On the other side, Arizona has been a mystery team, and star outfielder Justin Upton has been battling concussions lately. The one thing we know: Arizona manager Kirk Gibson will have his team primed for the playoffs, even if it means hitting one-legged home runs. I just see this series as a mismatch in terms of talent.
American League Division Series (best-of-five)
The pick: Texas knocks out Tampa Bay, three games to one.
The reasoning: Sorry, Tampa, I know you just had a miracle finish, and it really was fun to watch. Heck, I’m even rooting for you to beat Texas and mess up all of my picks. But it ain’t gonna happen. Everyone knows the Rangers can hit, but the secret is that their pitching is among the best in baseball. Their rotation goes five deep, which is excessive in this short series, and their bullpen is ridiculously good right now after the trade deadline moves.
The other pick: Detroit beats the Yankees, three games to two, in an epic battle.
The reasoning: Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia? Probably TWICE? This should be a fantastic series. I’m thinking the ex-Rainiers pitcher Doug Fister will outlast Ivan Nova in game two, and I like Max Scherzer over Freddy Garcia in the third game. Hopefully the stars will align for a Verlander-vs-Sabathia rematch in game five but it could happen in game four. Either way, this will be a tremendous series.
National League Championship Series (best-of-seven)
The pick: Milwaukee defeats Philadelphia, four games to three.
The reasoning: Gut feeling. I just like the Brewers to win this year – as you will see below, I like them a lot. The Brewers made all of their moves targeting success in the playoffs this year, and they have a ton of talent on the field. Yes, this pick is a bit of an upset, but there are upsets in the playoffs all the time. I’m picking this one.
American League Championship Series (best-of-seven)
The pick: Texas knocks out Detroit in six games.
The reasoning: Pitching, pitching, pitching. And hitting, hitting, hitting. The Rangers can’t match up with Verlander’s two starts but Texas has a favorite on the mound in all of the other games. And again: that filthy, filthy bullpen. Have you seen how hot Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli have been down the stretch? I just think Texas is poised for a return for a repeat performance in the World Series.
World Series (best of seven, duh.)
The pick: Milwaukee over Texas in five games.
The reasoning: First off, this is the World Series that Fox is dreading – not exactly two teams that draw attention from all around the country. Yet I think this will be the match-up, and I like the Brewers to win it. They can’t match the Ranger bullpen, but their rotation may be better. I think Prince Fielder is going to go nuts in the playoffs. Ryan Braun should be a household name, this post-season will be his coming out party. The playoffs even happen to coincide with a period in which Rickie Weeks is not on the disabled list. The stars all point to the Brewers reaching the World Series for the first time since 1982, and winning it for the first time since the Milwaukee Braves won in 1957.
Mark it down: I’m going all Larry Stone this October.
I’m on vacation until Monday – and that afternoon I’ll post the complete list of former Tacoma players in the MLB playoffs. Hello, Yuniesky!