It's hard to pinpoint exactly why, but there is an added element of excitement surrounding the 2012 MLB playoffs. Maybe it's the new Wild Card game system, or the Oakland Athletics' improbable run, or the fact that newcomers like the Reds, Nationals, and Orioles are all getting their chance at the World Series.
No matter what happened in the regular season, however, the playoffs always comes down to one thing: pitching. It is said over and over, but it couldn't be more true. Whoever has the most consistent success on the mound will almost always come out on top in the end.
With that in mind, it's time to take a look at the most anticipated pitching matchups of the 2012 MLB playoffs.
This Wild Card game should be a doozy. The Braves and Cardinals are both quality teams and will send their aces to the hill in a bid to face the Nationals in the Divisional Series.
The Cardinals will rely on the always-dependable Kyle Lohse. The veteran has enjoyed a career year, posting a 2.86 ERA while only losing three games and walking 38 batters.
Lohse is facing off against a somewhat unknown but extremely formidable opponent in Kris Medlen. Medlen has not lost a game in 12 starts this season, winning nine of them and has an overall 1.57 ERA.
These two should really put on a show with their teams' entire season on the line.
This may be the best matchup we'll see in the entire playoffs. Cain and Cueto are both top-level No. 1 pitchers for their respective clubs, and seeing them go against each other will be quite an experience.
Cueto and Cain had ERAs of 2.78 and 2.79, respectively, while Cueto won 19 games to Cain's 16. Neither of them pitched well against the other's team during the regular season, so both will be out to prove themselves in that regard.
I think this series will be tied, and we'll see Cain and Cueto face off in a series-deciding match, which will be like the battle we saw Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay have in last year's playoffs.
By calling this a potential matchup, I am predicting that the Rangers will beat the Orioles in the Wild Card game, which Yu Darvish is starting for Texas.
Their second starter will most likely be Matt Harrison, who somewhat surprisingly won 18 games and had a 3.29 ERA this season.
Harrison would face off against the Yankees' ace, CC Sabathia, who had a bit of a rocky season but really regained his form as the summer went on. Sabathia finished with 197 strikeouts and a 3.38 ERA.
This southpaw duel will be one of the best we'll see all October.
Parker was acquired from the Diamondbacks in the deal that sent Trevor Cahill to Arizona. Though only a rookie, Parker has shown the confidence and poise of a veteran.
He has great stuff, went 13-8 with a 3.47 ERA this season and should lead Oakland's playoff rotation.
But he will face off against arguably the best pitcher in the league, Justin Verlander. The Tigers' ace had another Cy Young-worthy season, posting a 2.64 ERA, and allowed just one run in two starts against Oakland this season.
Oakland has shown their resiliency throughout the season though, and this series in general should come down to the wire.