The first round of the MLB Playoffs are in the book, and boy do we have some good matchups on the way. There were two sweeps so far, where the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies took out the Minnesota Twins and the Cincinnati Reds respectively with little trouble. The Tampa Bay Rays made an early exit in five games at the hands of the surging Texas Rangers as the Rangers achieved a postseason series victory for the first time in the club's history. The San Francisco Giants pulled out an absolutely incredible pitching performance by their staff as they took down the Atlanta Braves in four games and effectively ended the storied career of one of the managerial greats of the game, Bobby Cox. Overall, the predictions I had were mediocre at best. I was correct in predicting the Phillies and the Yankees would advance, though not by the actual game margin. I said the Rays and Rangers would go 5 games and could go either way, but predicted that the Rays would come out on top, so I was incorrect there. I also was incorrect on the Giants and Braves result, where I said the Braves would advance in 5 games. Turns out, I didn't expect the Giant's pitching staff to absolutely silence the Braves lineup, and was very much wrong about all aspects of that result. So, 2 for 4 in advances, with none being the correct number of games. Anywho, let's get into the Championship Series of matchups where the best of each league go at it to earn a spot in the World Series.
- Here is the Breakdown of the matchups -
San Francisco Giants vs Philadelphia Phillies
New York Yankees vs Texas Rangers
In the National League we have the San Francisco Giants facing off against the Philadelphia Phillies, with the Phillies having Home Field Advantage. After putting on quite a display of talent, the Phillies completely neutralized the Reds in their Divisional Series matchup, as they swept them under the rug with a display of both pitching and hitting prowess. Taking advantage of some costly errors, the Phillies proved that they are looking to make up for the failure in last year's World Series. With Roy Halladay coming off of his No-Hitter, the Phillies seem to have everything clicking at the right time. Rotation-wise, the Phillies bring in a rested Halladay to start things off, followed by a revitalized Cole Hamels, and a always-strong Roy Oswalt to start things off. However, they are in for a much tougher pitching matchup in the NLCS, as the Giants come back at them with a stellar rotation of their own, backed by a revived Tim Lincecum looking to make his own postseason name for himself. Followed up by Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain, the Giants are going to attempt to shut down the Phillies bats as they did the Braves. Lineup-wise, the Phillies boast one of the strongest in the NL, while the Giants scratch and claw for every run, having no real superstar power threat. That is not to say there is no pop in their lineup, as Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff can easily knock the right pitches into the seats with ease. Overall though, the Phillies bring in a greater hitting threat, and the Giants can't afford many mistakes when it comes to their pitching. In the end, the Phillies should advance behind the combination of great pitching, and a dangerous lineup.
Prediction: Phillies over Giants in 6 Games.
In the American League we have the New York Yankees facing off against the Texas Rangers. After finally winning a postseason series for the first time in club history, the Rangers look to continue this hot streak as they face off against the postseason regulars, the Yankees. After pulling out a fantastic win over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Rangers rotation is in a bit of a shakeup, as they are unable to pitch their ace Cliff Lee in the first game, and must wait until Game 3 for his appearance. This being said, they are not at a real loss, as C.J. Wilson has proven to be a major pitching threat of his own, as the former reliever has put on quite a show all season with one of the best ERAs in the league. Along with Tommy Hunter and the aforementioned Lee, the Rangers look to outmatch the Yankees in terms of the rotation. The Rangers also boast one of the strongest in the AL, as a resurgent Vladimir Guerrero continues to be a monster to opposing pitchers in the postseason. Along with AL MVP Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler, this lineup will look to feast upon the Yankees pitching, and they hope to write another chapter for the Rangers in the book of the 2010 series. Not only that, but the Rangers have dominated the Yankees in the 2nd half of the 2010 season, though the opposite could be said in the earlier stages of the year. Overall, the season series was split four games to four. The Yankees, however, are fully rested and ready to go as they dispatched the listless Minnesota Twins in a three-game sweep. They come at the Rangers with greater control over the coming rotation matchups, and can easily match the Rangers in terms of power and danger in the lineup. The Yankees are starting out with their ace C.C. Sabathia in the first game, followed up by Phil Hughes and Andy Pettite. Sabathia was not his usual dominant self in the ALDS, but thanks to the Yankees lineup, they still won. Hughes, however, was stellar in his first appearance, and is looking to continue on with the hot streak. Pettite will be pitching against Cliff Lee, and this should be the matchup which could determine the series. Lee has absolutely destroyed Yankees bats over the past two seasons, while Pettite is one of the most reliable postseason pitchers the Yankees have to offer. Lineup-wise, the only team to truly beat the Rangers in hitting stats are the Yankees, and the Yankees will need to prove this fact in the ALCS. Overall, the Rangers outmatch the Yankees in pitching purely on the fact that the Rangers have Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson together, so if the Yankees are to have any chance at winning, they need to put on a show. Thankfully, the series is best of seven rather than best of three, and the patience and power of the Yankees lineup should be enough to overcome the two aces of the Rangers. So, the Yankees should take this one by a close margin, even though it could go either way in the end depending on which teams hot streak cools off first.
Prediction: Yankees over Rangers in 7 Games.
There you have it, fellow baseball fans, the NLCS and ALCS analysis and predictions. We have some very good baseball matchups ahead, so enjoy! I'll return with my World Series predictions come the break between the rounds as per usual.