October 13, 2009

Spectacular series

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

After the performances that all of the advancing teams put on in the first round of the playoffs, is there any question that these are the best teams in baseball? We’re talking about four teams that combined to lose one measly game in their best of five series.

It was fairly predictable that the Yankees would kill the Twins, but it took an incredible rally in Game 3 — including a clutch, Mr. October-style home run by A-Rod — to complete the sweep. The Angels had a similarly dramatic late rally to dispatch the Red Sox and it was at Fenway, against post-season dynamo Jonathan Papelbon no less. The Cardinals couldn’t deal with the Dodgers pitching or their bats en route to disappointing a lot of pundits who had the Redbirds going to the World Series.

And finally, last night the Phillies wrapped up their series with the supposedly red-hot Rockies by scoring three in the top of the ninth inning to take the series in four games, the lone series that went that far.

So now, we have a nice (read: dumb) three day break before the NL Championship Series starts and an even more great (read: ridiculous) four day break before the ALCS starts. I know that the league has to take into account the possibility of longer first round series, but is there really no flexibility in scheduling the start of the championship series? That seems like a horrible error on behalf of the scheduling heads at MLB.

So, when the series do start, what do we have?

For one, the American League matchup is not Boston-New York, which I’m sure that everyone is breathing a sigh of relief about. As great as it is to see the two rivals square off anytime — and it’s even better when the stakes are higher — hearing about a Sox-Yanks CS is exhausting both physically and emotionally. I’m sure that sports websites would be overloaded with content and, as a fan of sports, you can be bombarded with content.

With both Los Angeles area teams advancing and because of their seeding and matchups, MLB has actually landed themselves in a somewhat favourable situation. When the Angels will be playing in New York, the Dodgers will host the Phillies. Then, when Game 3 rolls around, both series will criss-cross the country, creating huge doubleheader potential. Sure, it’s not great watching the late games on the east coast, but at least weekends should be fun.

As for my picks, I don’t think that the Angels bullpen is strong enough to hold the Yanks in the late innings, especially with their propensity to tire out starters by wasting pitches in at bats. New York’s defence is also greatly improved over recent years and the Angels’ small-ball ways won’t fit well at Yankee Stadium. I’ll take the Yanks in five.

In the NL, the Dodgers exploited the Cardinals’ inability to hit lefties in their series and, when you look at the Phillies lineup, they’re loaded with lefties, which will create some matchup problems for them. Philadelphia has a better rotation, which will count for something but as long as their pen remains shaky, can they stay in close games late? This has all the makings of a seven game series and I’ll take the West coast team to make it an L.A.-N.Y. World Series. Dodgers in seven.

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