2013 ALDS & NLDS
Cardinals in 5
Unless you are a diehard fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, you are going to be pulling for the Pittsburgh Pirates in this series. The Cardinals have won two World Series recently and have become a regular participant in October baseball. The Cardinals are essentially taking on the role of Goliath, ending the season playing their best baseball of the season as they seek their third straight trip to the NLCS. However, the Cardinals are much better in the role of David, winning the World Series in 2011 after a late season surge and being down to their last strike twice in Game 6. Last year the Cardinals won the Wild Card Game, and rallied from six runs down in Game 5 if the NLDS to come within one game of the World Series. The Pirates have no edges other than emotion and heart. During the season the Pirates won the season series 10-9, but the Cardinals September sweep at home secured the Central Division. The Cardinals have experience and a deep lineup that is good at delivering the clutch base hit, as Cardinals baseball is trademarked by strong fundamentals and getting hits with men in scoring position as opposed to the big blast making all the highlights. With the first two games in Busch Stadium, the Pirates must find a way to pilfer a game on the road, a task that is made harder as Pirates ace Francisco Liriano already pitched in the Wild Card Game. If the Buccos can come home with the series even the emotion of PNC Park and the long starved Pirates fan could lead to an upset. However, in the end the battled tested clutch hitting Cardinals will survive this series in five.
Dodgers in 4
If you like you like good pitching the NLDS matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves may be the one for you. The Braves won five of seven games against the Dodgers, winning all three in Turner Field. However, all these games were played before the Dodgers turned their season around as they struggled at the time to just stay out of last place. Of course following June 21st the Dodgers went from ten games out to winning the division by 11 games as they posted a 46-10 record during a two month stretch. During that stretch the Dodgers had a 15 game road winning streak, meaning the Braves home field edge is meaningless. Pitching is the strength of both teams, and the key to winning the series. The Braves have a big advantage with the bullpen as Craig Kimbrel shortening games to eight innings, by being nearly automatic closing out games in the ninth inning. However, getting to Kimbrel could be a problem as Clayton Kershaw and his 1.88 ERA will be hard to beat for the Dodgers. The Dodgers Game 2 start Zack Greinke is not easy to score on either, making the task of winning either of the first two games at home hard for the Braves. The Braves cannot afford to have the Dodgers take control of this series as the middle two games in Los Angeles could be where the series is won. The Braves lineup at times has struggled against good pitching as their .249 team average is the team’s Achilles’ Heel as players like B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla are coming off disappointing seasons. With Kershaw and Greinke fronting the Dodgers rotation the Braves offensive holes will be too much to overcome as the Dodgers win the series in four games.
Rays in 5
The Red Sox handled the Rays well during the season, taking 11 of 18 games. However, the Rays played much better against Boston in the second half and the need of playing important games could give them a big edge. The Red Sox cruised at the end of the season as the Rays had a mid September slump, and as a result the Red Sox have not played an important game in weeks. The Rays meanwhile, have had three straight must win games on the road. The Red Sox will also put an early test to baseball’s postseason scheduling. With a day between the regular season and the Wild Card Games, and those games being on two different days plus an off day between the American League Wild Card and the start of the American League Division Series the Red Sox have not played a game in five days. Rest versus rust does not have a definitive edge as both sides have a list of examples of where it hurt and helped. The Rays needing to win three games have used their top line pitchers like David Price, but the days off have kept their bullpen from being taxed and have opened the door for Price to pitch as early as Saturday. The Rays already have a deep staff and they have gotten timely hitting over the last few games. The Rays need to steal one of the first two games in Boston, because they do not have a home field edge, with Tropicana Field often being empty despite the Rays success. However, it is that rotation deepness that gives them a chance and that is why they will stun the Red Sox and cause fans to question the playoff format once again
Tigers in 4
A rematch of last year’s American League Division Series has the Detroit Tigers looking to reach the ALCS for the third year in a row. Both teams come into the playoffs heading in opposite directions, as the Oakland Athletics surging in September to win the American League West, with the second best record in the American League. While the Tigers stumbled in September and just held on to the Central Division, as their usually reliable lineup endured a month long slump. The Tigers were even no hit by Henderson Alvarez of the Miami Marlins in the final game of the regular season. The calendar has changed and it is now October, and the Tigers hope they can turn the page as well. One problem for the Tigers is the health of Miguel Cabrera who battled an ailing hip in the second half. However, it did not prevent the likely two time MVP from winning a third straight batting title, while finishing a strong second in homers and RBI. The Tigers pitching is also potentially loaded as Max Scherzer at 21-3 was the best pitcher in the American League, while Anibal Sanchez also had a strong season. One pitcher who struggled at times was Justin Verlander, if he can regain his form in the playoffs, it could be a month of glory in Motown. Another thing that can help the Tigers is the return of Jhonny Peralta who will likely play Leftfield after completing his 50 game biogenesis suspension. The return of Peralta could be just the spark the Tigers need. The Athletics, who continue win with Money Ball, best hope for winning the series is to get this series to be a battle of the bullpen, as they have a much more reliable relief corps led by Grant Balfour.