Crunch time in the 2010 MLB postseason is here. The San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers are all trying to determine who will square off in the 2010 World Series.
Showcased on these teams are a handful of baseball's biggest names. So both league championship series could come down to a great deal of individual matchups within each series.
The intensity is always there because of intriguing standoffs between hitters and pitchers. Here are is a handful of some of the (many) most-anticipated batter-pitcher matchups that fans will love to see down the stretch here in the 2010 MLB postseason.
When it comes to the lefty arm of C.J. Wilson, left-handed hitter Raul Ibanez cowers in fear. Ibanez has hit just a career 2-for-19 against Wilson. It will be interesting to see if these two square off because Ibanez has always been a formidable hitter against left-handed pitching and has been clutch for the Phillies the past few years. All eyes will be on him to see if he can derail Wilson's typical dominance over him.
Besides, Wilson has grown into being very fun to watch. Wilson packs heat, but he did lead the AL in walks however, so if he gets sloppy, Ibanez will have to take advantage for once in his career.
Alex Rodriguez quietly put together an All-Star season. It wasn't incredible, but it was typical of his ability. After getting traded to the Phillies, Roy Oswalt returned to a very dominant form.
A matchup between these two would likely be intense, considering A-Rod's brief ownership over Oswalt in the past. He's hit 3-for-7 against Oswalt with a home run and three RBI. A-Rod has been relatively quiet, so he could use this matchup as an opportunity to put a dent in the Phillies in a potential World Series matchup.
Expect Buster Posey to be under the microscope if the Giants advance to the World Series.
Posey goes hard after right-handed starting pitching and has been a pure road hitter throughout most of the season, which will be interesting if he tackles Yankee Stadium.
Prior to Game 2 of the ALCS, Hughes looked fantastic, so it will be interesting to see if the ALDS Hughes shows up if the Yankees advance to the World Series.
Posey and Hughes certainly wouldn't be a marquee matchup, but for two young stars, it could be the start of postseason rivalry if their first faceoff turns out to be extremely one-sided.
This has excellent at-bat written all over it. You take the most dominant rookie reliever in the American League and toss him out there against a potential MVP candidate.
Neftali Feliz has blossomed as the Rangers closer and Robinson Cano is proving that he swings one of the best bats in baseball right now. These two would face off in an epic struggle, depending on the situation.
For this to be an interesting matchup, it would likely have to come during a save situation in which Cano represents the winning run, considering what would be at stake and what Cano is capable of in just about any clutch situation.
In this battle between hard throwing Tim Lincecum, Mark Teixeira, who has really stepped his game up since the beginning of the year, would definitely be challenged.
Teixeira has spent most of his year recovering from a slow start, but he could still light things up against the freakish arm of Lincecum. These two have only faced each other twice. The star power here makes the matchup intense, especially because of the way each player has been turning their game around since either the halfway point of the year, or since the playoffs have begun.
So when was the last time anyone has cared about Cody Ross? Well, to be honest, the Giants have valued his contributions off the bench this year. And he's been the talk of the town after already hitting three home runs in the NLCS, two off Roy Halladay.
If the Giants make the World Series, Cody Ross is on the verge of being recognized. Ross has stepped up to the plate against Cliff Lee twice in his career. He struck out once. But his one hit against Lee was a grand slam.
Hitting .284 against lefties in 2010 the unlikely hero, Ross, could continue to make some big plays.
The idea of Madison Bumgarner tackling the Yankees might not carry so much in terms of glamor, but with the way he has been pitching recently, it would be interesting to see if his ability could continue to develop if the Giants continue to advance in the playoffs.
The 21-year-old posted an ERA of 3.00 with 86 strikeouts in 18 starts in 2010. He pitched six quality innings against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, in which struck out five, allowing just two runs.
A young pitcher with his promise starting in the playoffs is another rarity. Giants fans and baseball fans alike would love nothing more to see how he could fare against a perennial postseason powerhouse like the New York Yankees in the World Series.
Sabathia v. Utley—Something's gotta give. Utley hits .294 against lefties, lefties hit .261 against Sabathia, .238 career
Something has to give. Chase Utley hits .294 against left-handed pitching. Left-handed hitters batted just .261 against CC Sabathia in 2010, .238 during his career.
This matchup is driven by these numbers and by how high-profile it would be. Utley has spent most of the year bouncing back from injury and Sabathia is a Cy Young candidate looking to win another championship with the defending champ Yankees.
The only thing that can hinder Sanchez in his starts is his spotty control. Other than that, he is in most cases torture on left-handed hitting. Lefties hit .181 against him in 2010. It will be up to big-name lefty bats like Robinson Cano, Josh Hamilton, or an improving Curtis Granderson to break the barrier that Sanchez has put up between him and lefty sluggers.
If Sanchez can get a hold on lineups without walking the house, he can pitch that much deeper into the game. Cano and Hamilton definitely have it in them to crack to his lefty dominance.
These two have never faced each other before, making the potential face off much more interesting knowing that Curtis Granderson has really gotten his act together at the plate against southpaw starters.
Cole Hamels has been mostly dominant against left-handed hitting all year, with their batting average against sitting right below .200. Hamels will hope to prevent a surging Granderson from generating any more offense.
If the Phillies meet up with the Bronx Bombers in the World Series, last years NLCS MVP Ryan Howard will surely be looking to make some noise, especially if he has the opportunity to do so against Yankee ace CC Sabathia.
Howard looks comfortable thus far in the NLCS, with three hits and he is 3-8 lifetime against Sabathia. Ryan Howard is one of those guys who is capable of turning things around and raking against left-handed pitching. In 2010, a .264 batting average and 12 homers against southpaws isn't too shabby.
With all of the no-hitters tossed this year, and with his shaky regular season outings, Tim Lincecum has been a bit overshadowed by a handful of other pitchers in 2010. He's come back strong in the postseason, especially last time out in his NLCS Game 1 start against Roy Halladay and the Phillies. He went seven strong innings, striking out eight and outpitching his counterpart.
So how would he fare against American League hitting that rarely gets the opportunity to take a few hacks at him. Seeing the big bats like Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero, Mark Teixeira, A-Rod and Cano line up against him would make for a beatdown from either side. Any Lincecum start in the World Series would be a fun struggle to watch.
Cody Ross just keeps popping up all over the place here, which is extremely out of the ordinary. In all honestly, his bat this postseason has been, and will continue to be, intriguing.
Fun fact: nobody has hit more career home runs against Hamels than Ross. Ross has launched a home run off of Cole Hamels four times. With three already in this NLCS, Ross could ride this hot streak right into a matchup against Hamels where he could be feeling right at home.
Let's face it, it hasn't been Derek Jeter's year. A perfect recovery from a down year on his part would be to put some kind of a dent in Roy Halladay's numbers in this potential World Series matchup. Jeter has been the postseason leader in the Yankees' organization for years now, so it would be only fitting if he could make some moves against the unstoppable Roy Halladay in a crucial situation.
Jeter has only hit .234 against Halladay, dating back to his days with the Toronto Blue Jays. It seems as though Halladay has always had Jeter backed into a corner, but it would be even more legendary of Jeter can break free of it during the 2010 World Series if each team makes it.
For the sake of the drama, each time Cliff Lee would take the field in a Phillies vs. Rangers series would be fantastic. Nothing would be more colossal than Lee returning to the home of the team that let him go and making a statement at his old stomping grounds in Philadelphia.
On that same token, Phillie fans would love nothing more for than for their team to win the World Series in four games, and picking up the series win against Lee. This would make for a compelling story of the Phillies and Rangers square off in the big series.
If the Giants and Yankees meet up in the World Series, there's no telling who will end up needing to come up with the big hit. It would be a safe assumption that Buster Posey would end up getting in on some of that clutch hitting action.
Imagine if Buster Posey squared off against Mariano Rivera.
You'd have one of the best young players of his generation going heads up against the best and oldest relief pitcher of his generation. If Posey could come up with clutch hits late in a game against Rivera, he would certainly be tagged for entering baseball manhood.
There isn't any reason not to be enticed by a plate appearance involving Josh Hamilton and CC Sabathia. Sabathia suppresses left-handed hitting while Hamilton has cranked against just about everyone. Hamilton hit .359 in 2010, leading the AL and has fared well in unfavorable pitching matchups, hitting .271 against lefties and .308 against southpaw starters.
Hamilton can do it all for the Rangers and Sabathia is leading arm in the Yankees rotation. That says it all about what could become of these two battling each other.
Speaking of hitters that can do it all; Robinson Cano. Cliff Lee takes on the Yankees for the first time this postseason tonight, and out of anyone in the lineup, he could be fearing Cano. Cano evens the playing field by hitting .285 against lefties, and he's found success there throughout his career.
The kicker is that in his career, Cliff Lee has held Cano to .214 hitting.
This is just another one of those high-profile at bat situations that will undoubtedly get the most attention.
At this point, these rankings are all about the best players that the remainder of the playoffs have to offer. Josh Hamilton and Roy Halladay certainly fit that caliber of players.
No need to reiterate on Hamilton's ability, but he'd be facing a pitcher in Halladay who has tossed a pair of no-hitters during the calendar year, a pitcher who tossed 250 innings in the regular season, and probably the most dominant arm out there.
This batter and pitcher matchup is simply star-studded.
Last but not least, we have arguably the best of the best hitting against the best of the best pitching this postseason. Cano has already gone deep at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, so he'll threaten Roy Halladay's big reputation in this potential World Series pairing.
Cano hits well against lefties, but he hits even more effectively against right-handed pitching, representing the biggest offensive weapon in the Yankee lineup. Cano has a pair of home runs in his career off of Halladay, but other than that he's been quiet.
Halladay will need to bring his most potent game to the table if he takes on Cano and the Yankees.