The playoffs are here, and baseball matters again for the first time since April (at least for Indians fans). I love playoff baseball. It’s probably my second favorite postseason tournament—behind March Madness, of course. Every inning, every at bat, every pitch matters. When someone hits a walk-off homer or pitches a 2-hit shutout, you can feel the history being made. The intensity and anxiety you feel while watching a tight playoff game cannot be matched by any sport, March Madness included. So to get you, and myself, ready for the playoffs, here’s how I see the Divisional round playing out. (Although many factors can determine a playoff series, none is more important than the starting pitching match-ups. Therefore, I will focus on these starter match-ups in making my predictions. Also, since it’s late, I’m only hitting up the
Game 1: DET: Nate Robertson (13-13 3.84) vs. NYY: Chien-Ming Wang (19-6, 3.63)
Robertson was moved up in the rotation so Rogers wouldn’t have to pitch at Yankees Stadium, where he’s terrible, which really says a lot about whether Rogers is an ace or not. Robertson is a battler, but hardly a Game 1 starter. While Wang hardly seems like ace material himself, his style matches up against the Tigers offense splendidly. The Tigers score all of their runs with home runs; Wang trails only Brandon Webb in his ability to get ground balls. Yankees take Game 1 (
Game 2: DET: Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63) vs. NYY: Mike Mussina (15-7, 3.51)
It’s experience versus youth as the wily vet Mussina faces off against the likely AL Rookie of the Year Verlander. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Mussina—who has been battling injuries—struggles, but I don’t think Verlander’s going to do much better. Verlander has never thrown this many innings before, and fatigue may set in early. With fatigue comes a loss of control, and, against perhaps the most patient lineup ever, wildness leads to a lot of baserunners and, more importantly, a lot of pitches. Watch for Verlander to get knocked out after 5 innings and for the Yankees to come back on
Game 3: NYY Randy Johnson (17-11, 5.00) vs. DET: Kenny Rogers (17-8, 3.84)
Exactly what Jim Leyland didn’t want: Kenny Rogers pitching a must-win game against the Yankees.
Game 1: OAK: Barry Zito (16-10, 3.83) vs. MIN: Johan Santana (19-6, 2.66)
The Metrodome is going to be rocking more than the Michigan-Minnesota game (but just barely), so the A’s are already going to be behind the 8-ball. Zito should keep the crowd at bay when the Twins are at bat, but the roof is going to come off as Santana buzzes through the
Game 2: OAK: Estaban Loaiza (11-9, 4.89) vs. MIN: Boof Bosner (7-6, 4.22)
This game is a slugfest to start, as both lineups tee-off on Loaiza and the Man Named Boof. With the games in the hands of the bullpens, the Twins take control after Mauer and Morneau beat up on the all-righty
Game 3: MIN: Brad Radke (12-9, 4.32) vs. OAK: Rich Harden (4-0, 4.24)
Facing a do-or-die, the A’s give Harden a chance to be an ace, and he doesn’t disappoint. Harden goes eight shutout innings, outlasting a courageous outing from the one-armed Brad Radke, and
Game 4: MIN: Johan Santana vs. OAK: Dan Haren (14-13, 4.12)
Santana is dominant yet again, but the lineup can’t get it going, and the Twins lose by one.
Game 5: OAK: Barry Zito vs. MIN: Carlos Silva (11-15, 5.94)
Zito can’t match Santana’s dominate effort in the previous game, while Silva is adequate. The Twins get an early lead and the bullpen squashes any chance of a comeback.
Early prediction for ALCS:
NL preview tomorrow.