The Board is Set, the Pieces are Moving

No more wild card drama. No more ‘is my team making the playoffs?’ This is the big stage; if you didn’t come to play, then you might as well go home now.
But obviously everyone came to play. Every playoff team that got in were, in my opinion, the best teams to get in. Number 1 seeds down to the wildcards in both leagues, everyone earned it. Nobody hobbled in.
That’s what makes the postseason the most exciting time of year, but I’m straying from the point.
Just in case you live under a rock or fell down a well, these are the playoff matchups, with the numbers showing their seed. –
American League-
1 New York vs 3 Detroit
2 Texas vs  4 Tampa Bay
National League-
1 Philadelphia vs  4 St. Louis
2 Milwaukee vs 3 Arizona
There isn’t a typo here. That’s right, no Boston, no Atlanta, no defending champion San Francisco. The first two teams led the wild card for most of the year and then simply got cold, dull, fell apart. Whatever term lights your fire.
Boston can only blame themselves for their collapse. Atlanta on the other hand just couldn’t score, also their own fault. San Francisco had the same problem as the Braves.
But now it’s time to talk about the playoff teams, no biased garbage about big-market teams getting all the attention.
It is terrible that people will look at Boston’s collapse or Atlanta’s and spend hours talking about that. Granted this is fine if you’re in the greater Boston or Atlanta area or are a fan of one of those teams, but people in the media have to start celebrating or more or less recognizing teams like Arizona who were in last place last season and are now in first. Or Detroit, who sells out on Wednesday afternoons despite the economic down turn in Motown. Or even Tampa Bay who lost their entire bullpen, Matt Garza, Carlos Pena  and Carl Crawford and have a payroll of 40 million, AND still won the wild card.
First off is the league where the pitcher hits, the National League.
St. Louis went on a crazy-man run to catch the Braves and get in as the wild card. They may have trouble with their pitching seeing as Chris Carpenter threw a complete game shut-out on the final day of the season to get them into the playoffs. Obviously he isn’t starting game one, but luckily the Cards have options with trade deadline acquisition Edwin Jackson, upstart Jaime Garcia, as well as seasoned vets Jake Westbrook and Kyle Loshe.
Philadelphia is the team the Red Birds will play, and with a rotation that will roll out Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and the Vanimal, Vance Worley.  I’m no bandwagon jumper, but Philly probably wins this series. It is to be noted that St. Louis has beaten the Phils 6 out of 9 times this year, so maybe if there is a team to dismantle the ‘Super Friends’ then this is the one. I’ll take the Phillies to win it 3 games to 1.
Next up are the Beer Makers and the Snakes. Arizona has been this year’s Cinderella after collecting dust in the NL West cellar last year. Not only did they win 94 games and the division, but they beat the defending champs in the process. Led by 21-game winner Ian Kennedy, the D-Backs won’t go quietly, watch out Brew Crew.
Milwaukee experienced their struggles last year, but have been dynamite this year especially at home with new acquisitions Zack Greinke , Shawn Marcum and Francisco Rodriguez bolstering a team that used to be all hitting. A 57-24 record will be tough to beat at home so I’m taking the Brewers to sweep 3 games to 0.
(If you’re counting at home yes that is 4 different names I called Milwaukee).
Next up we will head over to the junior circuit where the field is a little more tight record-wise.
There is no run away number one seed, and there’s no clear-cut favorite. This is where it gets good. I’m not saying the NL won’t be good, but the AL will just be more exciting. Honestly, any of the four teams could run the table and wouldn’t surprise me. New York has the offense, Tampa has the pitching and Detroit and Texas a lot of both.
New York plays Detroit in what won’t be the first televised game, but seed-wise is the first on the list. New York has done it with their offense and CC Sabathia and a few bullpen guys. Ivan Nova has been spectacular, but a rookie starting pitcher in the playoffs? He’s not going to be any 2001 Randy Johnson, but he’ll be good. MVP candidate Curtis Granderson will be facing his former team in the playoffs in what figures to be a nail-biting series.
Detroit not only has the best pitcher in baseball in likely Cy Young winner Justin Verlander , but also might just have the best hitter in baseball in first baseman Miguel Cabrera who hit a robust .344 and won the American League batting title. Both are top MVP candidates and could benefit in the MVP race from Boston’s own MVP candidates missing the playoffs, but back to the Tigers’ playoff ability.  The Tigers have what could be a luxury of playing on the road. The main reason being Verlander. Verlander has lost one game since the All-Star break… ONE! This kind of cancels out the home field advantage for the Yankees or any team with a better record that plays the Tigers because you beat Verlander once, you get lucky. But there is no chance you beat him twice, which means at least one win on the road if Jim Leyland uses his ace in games 1 and 5. Even more support for the Tigers is the fact that they are 95-67 on the season. The exact same record they had when they won the wildcard and the AL Pennant in 2006. What’s more,during that year they opened the playoffs on the road in, you guessed it, New York, and promptly won that series. I’m just saying, history sometimes repeats itself. If you haven’t guessed yet I’m taking the Tigers to sweep 3 games to 0.
In our last first-round matchup we have the Texas Rangers hosting the Tampa Bay Rays. Texas has an offense that is getting hot at the right time with the power bats of Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre  and not to mention Michael Young. This is a dangerous team that can round the bases easily but can also steal 2nd and 3rd to get into scoring position. They also have the bonus of rolling out CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland, all three potential Game 1 starters (it’s apparently Wilson ).
While Texas has 3 game-one starters,Tampa Bay might have 5. The Rays have a young and talented rotation comprising of “Big Game” James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann. I’d be scared of Tampa if I were Texas.  This is no walk in the park. But all in all I think the Rangers offense is too much for the Rays, and the Rangers go to the ALCS for the second year running and win the series 3 games to 2.
Just to recap, I have the Phillies beating the Cardinals in 4 games, the ball-club formerly known as the Seattle Pilots (for those of you still counting at home that’s 5 different names for the Brewers) sweeping the Diamondbacks. Over in the AL I have Detroit pulling the brooms out against the Yankees and the Rangers beating the Rays in 5.
Stay tuned for championship predictions after the divisional series.

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