Phillies vs. Brewers:
Game 1 @ Phillies:
Probable Pitchers: Gallardo (0-0, 1.88 ERA) vs. Hamels (14-10, 3.09 ERA)
Rundown: It isn’t comforting for Phillies fans that the first game of the playoffs is already a must-win, thanks to C.C. Sabathia. It’ll be a nail-biter from the first pitch. The pitching matchup is pretty one-sided- Hamels has played just a bit worse than many expected him to this season, but he’s a lot less shaky than the oft-injured Gallardo. The Phillies will come out of the gate scoring early and often, while Hamels will give them a great start leaving little need for the “Bridge to Lidge”. Phillies win their first playoff game since 1993- a huge one with Sabathia looming on the card for Thursday.
Game 2 @ Phillies:
Probable Pitchers: Sabathia (17-10, 2.70 ERA) vs. Myers (10-13, 4.55 ERA)
Rundown: The Phillies got lucky when they didn’t have to face Sabathia in their four-game series with the Brew Crew early in September. I shudder to think of what Sabathia might be able to do to a Phillies’ lineup that tends to struggle against lefties. Even if Moyer can come out with another spectacular performance, the Phillies will have to work really hard to raise Sabathia’s pitch count if they expect to win. The Brewers will pull out with a narrow, but decisive victory.
Game 3 @ Brewers:
Probable Pitchers: Moyer (16-7, 3.71 ERA) vs. Suppan (10-10, 4.96 ERA)
Rundown: Expect the roof to be closed and the fans to be crazy for Milwaukee’s first playoff home game in 25 years. For the Phillies, the big question will be if Brett Myers is going to pitch like he did during July, August, and early September, or if he’ll falter like he has in his last two starts and like he did before being sent down to the minors. Myers claims that the problem was mechanical, and has been identified and fixed. He’ll give the Phillies a good outing, and the Phillies will win another low-scoring affair.
Game 4 @ Brewers:
Probable Pitchers: Blanton (9-12, 4.69 ERA) vs. Bush (9-10, 4.18 ERA)
Rundown: Brewers jump out to an early lead, as Blanton takes a little while to settle in. Once he does neither team produces much more offense, and the game stays close, until the Phillies tie it on a clutch home run by Ryan Howard. Phillies then win it in the top of the tenth on an RBI single, taking the series 3-1.
*Hypothetical* Game 5 (should the series be tied at 2-2):
Probable Pitchers: Sabathia (17-10, 2.70 ERA) vs. Hamels (14-10, 3.09 ERA)
Rundown: You’d expect Sabathia to cruise to another victory, but a second look at him in just a week for the Phillies might give them a chance. If a Game 5 happened I’d actually give it to the Phillies, because although we haven’t seen them is a tight situation like a decisive game 5 or 7, their play in the clutch this season is a good sign. Phillies would stun Sabathia and the Brewers with an improbable win, not because it sounds eloquent to me as a Phillies fan, but because the Phillies’ potent offense will find a way to get to him, especially after seeing him once just a week before.
Sabathia Getting Two Starts- The Brewers are going to have some serious issues in this series if they can’t get two strong starts from Sabathia. If he seriously falters in either of them Brew Crew will be in a lot of trouble. They’ll need two quality starts from him if they’re going to win.
Myers & Blanton- Can these two guys, who have been very inconsistent this year, keep the Phillies in the game during the two contests in Milwaukee? If the Phillies drop one at home they’re going to be strongly relying on these two to lead them to at least one win at Miller Park.
Creating Momentum- It’s been a few days since both of these teams have played, so a major question will be how they play with the regular season now behind them. Last season the Phillies completely deflated, while the Rockies kept on rolling. The Brewers now have their first chance to regroup since firing Ned Yost, and the rest might be a big plus for them.
Taking the Weight off Sabathia’s Shoulder- If neither Gallardo, Suppan, nor Bush can step up, the Brewers aren’t going to win this series. You can’t win a playoff series with only one solid starter- it’s that simple.
Shades of the Rockies- A big factor in this series will be how the Phillies use their collective playoff experience. Will they just flop again, or will they use last year’s sweep as a lesson and change their approach this time around?
Red Sox 3, Angels 1
Reasoning: I had the Sox winning the World Series again this year, and I don’t buy into the Angels being the best team in baseball (especially given the division they play in). The Angels might have won eight straight against the Sox, but those games were a while ago, and the Angels haven’t played a meaningful game in quite a while. I also like the Sox starting three of Lester, Matsuzaka, and Beckett. The Red Sox will stun California and the world with an unlikely victory.
Rays 3, White Sox 0
Reasoning: When the Sox play the Rays, they will be absolutely exhausted, and despite their valiant effort to get into the postseason, they’ll get steamrolled. I don’t see them riding momentum past a team as energized as the Rays.
Cubs 3, Dodgers 1
Reasoning: The Dodgers might get a big win at home, but otherwise this series will be easy for the Cubs. Don’t count out the Dodgers quite yet, though, because they can be a really explosive team, and they do a lot of damage when they’re hot.
Phillies 4, Cubs 2
Reasoning: I never write with a bias towards Philadelphia teams, and I’m not doing it here. When the Phillies played at Wrigley we saw how they were able to fight back against the Cubs firepower, even in Chicago. I see the Cubs winning Game 1, the Phillies coming back with a convincing effort in Game 2, and then the home team taking every game from that point on.
Red Sox 4, Rays 2
Reasoning: This would no doubt be a very interesting series; the best of last season versus the worst. I think the Rays are going to put up an incredible fight, but will just fall short of a pennant. The Sox experience will be the x-factor. However, nobody expected the Rays to get this far, so I would not be surprised in the least if they won the World Series (I can’t be more surprised about their success than I am now anyway). Still, my better judgment tells me that they won’t go from worst in baseball to world champs.
Red Sox 4, Phillies 1
Reasoning: Philadelphia fans will be in a frenzy if the Phillies win the Pennant, but a World Championship is their true dream. I don’t see them getting it. The Phillies’ interleague play this season left a lot to be desired, and I just don’t see things changing. The Phillies will sneak a win in there if they’re lucky. In the end, Philly fans won’t get freed from the “Curse of William Penn”, while Boston fans will continue to relish the end of their curse with a third title in five years.