The Texas Rangers will face the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
Yes, you read that correctly, the Texas Rangers! One of just two teams coming into the season to never win a traditional postseason series are now four tough wins away from a World Series berth.
Those wins will definitely be tough to come by, as they face off against the reigning World Series champs in the Yankees.
That is not to say the Yankees don't have question marks because they certainly do. They still have to decide whether or not to pitch the often erratic, sometimes brilliant A.J. Burnett.
That piles on top of the lack of bullpen depth for the Yankees. It's Mariano then everybody else since Kerry Wood has looked a little shaky recently.
Whichever team wins the series, it should be a fun one to watch. Both teams pack a big punch offensively and play in hitter's ballparks so expect some scoring when Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia aren't pitching.
How will it all unfold? I have a few scenarios in my five bold predictions...
CC Sabathia will take the bump for the Yankees in Game 1 on Friday. Game over.
On to Game 2, where Cliff Lee will match up against seasoned postseason vet Andy Pettitte. While Pettitte brings a lot more experience and a major league record for playoff wins, Cliff Lee is just the better pitcher.
Lee was filthy in the clinching fifth game against the Rays, and given his performance in last year's World Series, there's no reason to believe that he won't just keep getting better.
Lee delivered when his team needed him most and finished what he started with a complete game. He allowed just one run and struck out 11 in his nine innings of work.
The Yankees lost two games in last year's Series, both were to Cliff Lee. He just seems to have the Midas Touch against this team and will be all business once the lights come on.
His performance and juuuust enough offense off of Pettitte give Texas the tie heading to the Bronx.
Yankees' catcher Jorge Posada was just 13 for 85 throwing out baserunners this year. That's not a bad problem to have if you're playing the All-DH team, but unfortunately for the Yanks, the Rangers can run and don't mind doing it at all.
Just to prove my point, consider this. Texas had a runner on second base score on a routine ground out against the Rays on Tuesday. As amazing as that is, and trust me it's rare, they managed to do it a second time later in the game.
The Rangers' everyday lineup boasts five players with double digit steals on any given night. That includes Elvis Andrus, who swiped 32 this year and is one of the fastest young players in the game.
Once on base, the real offense starts for Texas. They should be able to run all over Posada and his surgically repaired right shoulder. Their running game will allow them to keep pace with the big boppers in the Yankees' lineup on the scoreboard.
Expect these teams to score a lot in a variety of ways.
While this may come as no surprise and some people may not think this is very bold, Hamilton is coming off of an injury that sidelined him for nearly all of September. He now wears a flak jacket to protect his ribcage just in case he crashes into the wall.
Only getting two hits against the Rays may look like Hamilton is crushing under the pressure, not so. Hamilton was still getting back to game speed during the NLDS and his offense suffered because of it.
He now returns to the city where he put on, as Dustin Pedroia might describe it, a "laser show" in the 2008 Home Run Derby. Hamilton will find that short porch in right field quite welcoming and is a lock to bomb a few out in Arlington.
Regardless of whether or not the Rangers win the series and pull off the upset, Hamilton will bring home the MVP by peppering the back of the rotation starter the Yankees will throw out in the fourth game at home.
A Rangers win would simply make this award all the more sweet.
This series sets up to be electrifying, which is usually bad news for pitchers. The news is especially bad for closers trying to finish off these tough lineups. A blown save is bound to happen in this ALCS, and we may see two in the same game.
Two of the best closers in baseball this year are polar opposites of each other.
Mariano Rivera has been doing this for a very long time and has gotten pretty good at it. Never rattled, Rivera stares in at Posada even though everybody knows what pitch is coming. The question is whether or not you can hit that infamous cutter Rivera features.
My guess is that at some point Mariano leaves that cutter over the middle just a little bit and it gets tattooed by Hamilton, Kinsler, Guerrero, Cruz, or Young.
Neftali Feliz is coming off his rookie season as the closer for the Rangers. Long heralded as a prospect from back in the Mark Teixeira trade, Feliz can really sling it. Feliz is one of only a few pitchers in baseball who can hit triple digits on the radar gun consistently.
His problem will be that A-Rod, the aforementioned Teixeira and Robinson Cano can all time a fastball in their sleep. The faster it comes in, the faster it leaves.
Feliz will see one of his scorchers land in the bleachers before this one is all over.
I have been through this series up and down at least 10 times. I can't come up with a winner. The only thing that I know has to happen here is a seventh game.
Game 7 is not only a wish, but it would seem just to be a practicality. Just look at the way the pitching sets up.
CC gets Game 1.
Lee takes Game 2.
Hughes at Texas is going to be interesting. Colby Lewis pitched great for Texas against the Rays and was let down by the bullpen. But, not in NY. Hughes and the home field advantage ride to a win in Game 3.
CC goes in Game 4 on short rest. It's either him or Joe Girardi throws out A.J. Burnett to pitch. Not gonna happen. CC pitches on short rest and dominates. Yanks take Game 4.
Lee again in Game 5. Game over.
Game 6, Lewis pitches better and the bats come alive for the Rangers to force a seventh game.
CC goes on short rest again for the Yankees. Ron Washington opts to throw C.J. Wilson on short rest and allow use of Lee out of the bullpen. I have a hard time seeing the Yankees losing a Game 7 with CC on the mound, but back to back starts on short rest could make the big fella a bit weary.
Honestly, I can't predict what would happen in Game 7. Besides, I've already made my five bold predictions. A sixth would be false advertising, and I'll be damned if I leave myself open to potential legal action...
OK, fine: Rangers in seven.