Predictions Made October 11, 2012 at 12:20 am ET
Dodgers in 6
This series has a chance to be a classic, as both teams have deep historic roots and know how to win. The two teams each showed the ability to win in each other's stadium, as the Cardinals took two of three in Los Angeles during May, while the Dodgers despite seeing their 15 game road winning streak end, still managed to take three of four at Busch Stadium in August.
The Cardinals are an interesting team, as they are the true definition of a team. No player on their roster jumps out as a superstar, yet they have a line up full of professional hitters and rotation of solid young pitchers. Carlos Beltran may be the best known player, and has proven to be a clutch postseason hitter, coming off a big series against the Pirates. David Freese also has been big in October, as seen in 2011. What the red birds do best is what is needed to win in the postseason and that is play solid fundamental baseball. They always manage to get the bunt down, and are very good at driving in runners from scoring position. They are resilient as they have a 7-1 record in elimination games over the past three years.
Beating the Cardinals will not be easy, in order to do so the Dodgers must take advantage of the pitching match ups. However, thanks to Clayton Kershaw they have a significant edge here. Kershaw when he is on is unhittable as his 1.88 ERA was the best in the National League in over 20 years. In the NLDS Kershaw started twice and dominated the Braves, allowing just one earned run. If the Dodgers are going to win Kershaw must be in a starring role. The Dodgers also have a strong line up as Yusiel Puig provides a unique spark, which could act like nitroglycerine and backfire at times. The Cardinals are the type of team that can exploit Puig's aggressiveness and turn it into a negative on the Dodgers part.
Ultimately this series may be decided by the bullpen and right now, you have to like the look of the Dodgers, with Brian Wilson looking stronger every day in the set-up role, after joining the Dodgers late in the season, while Kenley Jansen has established himself as one of the best closers in the National League. With strong starting pitching, a deep line up and a solid bullpen the Dodgers have the look of a World Series team and will take the series in six game.
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Red Sox in 6
Like the Cardinals, the Tigers have been in the League Championship Series in three straight seasons. However, without winning a World Series there is a great deal more pressure upon them. The Red Sox meanwhile have exceeded expectations and seem to be playing at a high level that will be tough for anybody to match.
Hitting, pitching, defense and intangibles the Red Sox have it all. Their players in a move of solidarity decided to grow NHL style playoff beards during the season, and most of them look like they should be on a box of cough drops. However, it seems to be working as their lineup is deep and gives pitchers nightmares, with their ability to work the count and get clutch hits. They have good table setters in Shane Victorino and Jacoby Elsburry. They have power in the middle with David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, while Dustin Pedroia is all of the above and more. The demonstration of the Sox deep lineup was best illustrated in Game 1 of the ALDS when all nine starters scored at least one run against the Rays. The Red Sox also have strong starting pitching and a good bullpen.
The Tigers also have a deep lineup. However, they have not been very versatile often becoming too reliant on the long ball. Players even the best sluggers can go into power slumps, especially when they face good pitching. Last year the Tigers went into a team slump in the World Series and lost to the Giants in four straight. They had their problems against A's in the ALDS and until Game 4 had scored in just two of the first 27 innings. If that happens against the Red Sox they will not advance to the World Series. The Tigers pitching is strong, but their bullpen can cause some concern and is not entirely trusted by Jim Leyland. With Justin Verlander being needed in Game 5, and Max Scherzer coming on in Game 4, their rotation is not optimally set up for the ALCS.
Ultimately the series will come down to who can get the big clutch hit. The Tigers have the best hitter in baseball Miguel Cabrera. However, Cabrera is hobbled by an abdomen injury that will only improve with rest. His Game 5 Home Run against the Athletics was key to the Tigers winning the ALDS, but he is far from 100%. Without Cabrera at his best it is hard to see the Tigers winning this series. The Red Sox will be in control from the start and can win it in five, but a win by the Tigers at home will allow the Sox to celebrate at Fenway in six games.