October is upon as at last and with it comes baseball at its finest. This year the intriguing possibilities seem endless.
The Chicago Cubs could end their century long Billy Goat Curse.
The team from the south side of Chicago has made a strong charge and is looking like the team from 2005.
Apparently all they needed was a name change as the Tampa Bay Rays not only won more than 70 games for the first time in franchise history, but has brought playoff baseball down to the Sunshine State for the first time in AL history.
The Manny-less Red Sox made it in but how far can they go without the Manny-Ortiz duo?
Manny's new team is creating a stir out in Hollywood while the California, uh Anaheim, I mean LA Angels were the cream of the crop the entire regular season.
Well, now that we got most of the who's, let's look at the first-round match-ups.
BOSTON v LOS ANGELES
Both teams have had significant post-season success recently as the BoSox are the defending World Series champs while the Angels last championship came in 2002. The Halos have depth throughout that line-up and manager Mike Sciocsia always seems able to find a way to get it done in October. Staff ace John Lackey will start Game 1 and will be followed by All-Stars Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders. Their bullpen, led by record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez, continues to be a strength just as it has been in the past.
Boston, even without Manny, has firepower in its offense once again. Minute second baseman Dustin Pedroia along with 1B Kevin Youkilis, Big Papi David Ortiz, and Jason Bay have put up big numbers all season long, with exception to Bay who only played the second half in Boston. Young southpaw Jon Lester gets the nod in Game 1 and will team up with Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett to match up well with Sciocsia's top three. It comes down to the bullpen where the Angels get the advantage.
Winner: LA in 5
CHICAGO v TAMPA BAY
Chicago somehow found a way into the playoffs but it wasn't easy. They will try to become this season's Colorado and storm through the ALDS and ALCS. Unfortunately, it won't be so easy with the Rays standing in their way. Without leading hitter Carlos Quentin, the White Sox will need strong showings from veterans Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and Jermaine Dye to have success. Their rotation compares to the Angels with Mark Beuhrle, Jon Danks, and Gavin Floyd. Just like today's game against the Twins, it will need to be pitching and power if the ChiSox want to be around long.
The Rays have no playoff experience, a far cry from the grizzled vets playing for Chicago. But what they lack in experience they make up in pure talent. Despite having the fourth youngest team in post-season history, pitching talents Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Matt Garza all have had tremendous seasons. Their bullpen is their one aged area with vets Troy Percival, Chad Bradford, and lefty Trever Miller. They have rookie Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena driving in runs and are getting help at the right time with the return of outfielder Carl Crawford.
Winner: Tampa Bay in 3
LOS ANGELES v CHICAGO
It is win or bust for the Cubs this season as they try to end the longest losing streak in professional sports. 100 years without winning it all is just a bit too long and this year is the best chance they've had since the infamous Steve Bartman incident. They have six players with over 20 homers on the year and hit .278 as a team, good enough for the best in franchise history in 71 years. Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome along with fellow rookie Geovanny Soto get their first taste at the playoff baseball and should not disappoint. Their biggest surprise though has been converted reliever Ryan Dempster. He will join Carlos Zambrano and mid-season import Rich Harden to form one of the toughest 1-2-3 guys in the game.
LA has their own block-buster brewing this season. Joe Torre has come over from the 'Evil Empire' to join former Red Sox Derek Lowe and Nomar Garciaparra to lead this team to the post-season. Add in Manny Ramirez and a possible Sox-LA championship and you get the best baseball story Hollywood could conjure. The Dodgers already have the pitching as they hold the NL's lowest ERA this season. Make sure to catch as much as this series as you can as I'm sure it will be no loss for entertainment.
Winner: Chicago in 5
MILWAUKEE v PHILADELPHIA
Last but not least is the Brewers-Phillies series. The playoffs is uncharted territory for both teams as neither one has one a playoff game in the past 15 years. Clearly the Brewers feel the pressure to win, firing their manager with only games left in the season. Philly should feel the same as they luck out for the second straight year to win the NL East. The Brewers have the young stars Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder to drive in runs and the young lefty starters, Yovani Gallardo and CC Sabathia, to shut down the opposition.
The Phillies are all offense behind the bats of Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley. Cole Hamels and comeback-player-of-the-year Brad Lidge should and will quiet the Milwaukee bats in this one. Unless CC trots out to the mound everyday, I can't see how the Brewers will win this one.
Winner: Phillies in 4
ALCS MATCHUP- TAMPA BAY v LOS ANGELES
Gotta love LA against these lovable losers from Tampa.
Winner: LA in 6
NLCS MATCHUP- PHILADELPHIA v CHICAGO
The Cubs look to break the curse and will out-hit the Phillies.
Winner: Chicago in 5
LOS ANGELES v CHICAGO
Too bad the 'Subway Series' possibilities didn't happen. The world would turn upside with a Chicago win, only wish I could be in Chicago to watch this potential series. Vlad Guerrero might not be able to play defense in this series and would be a huge bat off the bench. It will come down to the bullpens between these two teams as each have excellent starting pitching and line-ups. K-Rod, Scot Shields, Darren Oliver, and Jose Arredondo should outperform Kerry Wood and Co. Wrigley will need at least another year to hoist a World Series Trophy as LA will rise to the promised land once again.
Winner: Los Angeles in 7
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