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MLB Playoff Schedule 2012: Predicting Winners of Friday's Decisive Game 5's

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MLB Playoff Schedule 2012: Predicting Winners of Friday's Decisive Game 5's

The stage is set for two decisive Game 5's on Friday.

A strong performance on the hill wasn't enough for the New York Yankees, who left a ton of men on base Thursday in a 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles in the Bronx.

Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals walked off via Jayson Werth's solo home run in the bottom of the ninth to force a do-or-die Game 5 at Nationals Park.

So how will these two games play out on Friday? Here are my predictions.

 

Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees: 5:07 p.m. ET

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Probable Pitchers: Jason Hammel (0-0, 3.18 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (1-0, 2.08 ERA)

If you tuned in to Game 1 of this series, you saw CC Sabathia toss a gem for the Yankees. Sabathia went 8.2 innings, scattering eight hits and two runs while fanning seven Baltimore hitters.

Hammel, on the other hand, didn't last as long as the Yankees ace, going 5.2 innings and allowing two earned on four hits and walking four in a no-decision effort.

Up and down both lineups, there are a lot of players struggling, especially in the middle of the order.

Alex Rodriguez is just 2-for-16 (.125) with nine strikeouts, while Robinson Cano is 2-for-18 (.111). The two sluggers have combined for just four RBI, with Cano holding all of them.

Elsa/Getty Images
Derek Jeter has been his usual postseason self, hitting .421 (8-for-19) with two RBI and three runs scored, but Jeter can't do it all himself.

On the Orioles' side of things, Adam Jones (.091) and Matt Wieters (.095) are really struggling, while Nate McLouth has come to play with his .318 batting average, five RBI and excellent defense in the outfield.

Friday's game is going to hinge on who can produce a run and protect the lead, and with Sabathia on the mound, I'm taking New York in Game 5. If the Yankees ace can give them seven strong innings, Joe Girardi can turn it over to David Robertson in the eighth and Rafael Soriano in the ninth to nail it shut.

Playing at home in front of a New York crowd with the added emotion of the passing of Girardi's father, I'm predicting a clutch pitching performance from Sabathia and timely hitting from Jeter and Ichiro, with the captain leading New York on to the next round.

New York advances to ALCS.

 

St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals: 8:37 p.m. ET

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Probable Pitchers: Adam Wainwright (0-0, 1.59 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (0-0, 3.60 ERA)

Riding the high of Jayson Werth's Game 4 walk-off, the Washington Nationals have the emotional advantage heading into Friday's showdown, but I still like the St. Louis Cardinals to advance to the NLCS.

Both of these starters looked good in Game 1, but Adam Wainwright was just straight filthy. He fanned 10 Nationals in 5.2 innings, allowed just one run and was baffling Washington hitters all day.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Cardinals have been a scrappy team all season long, and they've continued that into the postseason. They have a number of guys seeing the ball extremely well at the plate, like Allen Craig (.421, three RBI), David Freese (.353, two RBI) and Carlos Beltran (.316, four RBI), and have also received offensive contributions from Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso.

While Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman are hitting well above .300 for Washington, they've combined for just two RBI and three runs and have seen teammate Bryce Harper go 1-for-18 (.056) with six K's.

I think St. Louis has more postseason experience, especially with Wainwright on the hill and guys like Freese and Beltran in the lineup.

Although the Cards lost a tough one on Thursday, it took a walk-off HR in the bottom of the ninth to beat them, and they had convincingly won two games in a row before Werth's heroic bomb.

Overall, the Cardinals have outscored the Nationals 23-9 in the series, and against the righty Wainwright on Friday, I don't see Washington's run total increasing by much.

Kudos to the Nationals and the excitement they delivered to the Washington faithful, but the bus stops here.

St. Louis advances to NLCS.

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