There is nothing like playoff baseball and I'd like to formerly welcome fans in Milwaukee and Tampa Bay to the experience. If you’re a young Milwaukee fan, you probably haven't felt the experience but if you remember 1982, I'd like to say, welcome back.
If you’re a Rays fan, then we know you've never felt the jolt that is playoff baseball and let me warn you right now before your team embark on this journey.
It's going to be one hell of a ride!
It may be gut-wrenching or it may be euphoric, it may be both at the same time. But let me tell you one thing, it is always satisfying. You're here for the first time, probably not the last if I was a betting man, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't cherish it. Be satisfied with making it this far, but don't be satisfied about ending here.
Now that I've gotten my pep talk out of the way, I welcome the fans of teams that were here last year. Boston and Chicago certainly know the feeling of playoff baseball. Some teams like the Dodgers and Twins have been here before, just took some off.
But, if you are like me, a fan without a team, we my friends are in for the most fun of them all. We get the pure emotion of the game without the emotional ties to a team. Objectivity is here at last and I'm going to enjoy it the best way I can.
I'll use my eagle's eye view to give my opinion on each days worth of games, so let's start with what we know.
NLDS Game 1: Brewers (Gallardo) @ Phillies (Hamels)
I’m sure we’ve all sat in a classroom as the teacher proceeds with the beginning of their lesson for the day. Then about ten minutes in, someone busts into class and starts tripping over everyone as they slide past the people in their row.
The teacher stops and stares and asks that student what the answer is to a particular question. That student hesitates and then throws out a half-assed answer, only to be laughed at.
The Brewers are that student and their answer to that puzzling question that they've been asked to answer is Yovani Gallardo. They've offered up the answer of Gallardo because they don't have any other ideas at this point in time.
In case you aren't exactly feeling the parallel I'm trying to draw here, the Brewers have no other options at this point when it comes to pitching. They already have to throw CC Sabathia on three days rest for the fourth time in a row and Ben Sheets is pretty much toast.
Gallardo is making just his fifth start this year and only his second since the first of May. On the other side is Cole Hamels, an electric ace with a 3.02 ERA in the regular season.
Uh, how are the Brewers supposed to win this one?
It's the post-season, you never know!
Rational human being has the Phillies in this one, but don't be surprised if the emotion from Milwaukee's exhilarating win carries them into a few runs of support for the young Gallardo.
I’m glad to say though, I’m a rational human being and after debating with myself about taking the Brewers in game one, I’m taking Cole Hamels and the Phillies. The Brewers will probably win game two, but the Phillies need to win this one to keep Milwaukee at bay with their emotions.
NLDS Game 1: Dodgers (Lowe) @ Cubs (Dempster)
Derek Lowe is back to the playoffs, but he's in a different role this time around. Lowe was a key cog in Boston's 2004 World Series team, winning all the clinching games in each round.
This time around, Lowe will be asked by manager Joe Torre to get the first win a series for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Opposing him would be, not the anointed ace of the Cubs' staff, but rather their most consistent starter all year, Ryan Dempster.
Dempster's move to the rotation has been a very successful one, as he picked up 17 wins, posted a 2.96 ERA and made the All-Star team. Maybe he picked up some things as a reliever that made his transition back into the rotation a successful one, but that 2.96 ERA is the best of his career, starting or relieving.
These two may not be the most talented pitchers on either team, but it isn't hard to see why they are getting the ball in game one.
All eyes will be on Manny Ramirez and rightfully so. He could put a huge wrench into the Cubs' World Series aspirations with his hot bat and fun loving attitude, the Dodgers are a different type of animal right now.
Hong-Chih Kuo is a tough loss for the Dodges' pen, while Bob Howry's Sunday struggles aren't exactly encouraging for the Cubs. But both teams have great 1-2 punches at the end of the game, but the Dodgers may be deeper with their sparkling 2.22 ERA in close or late situations.
I'm feeling rebellious in game one, which is why I think the Dodgers pull this one out in exciting fashion. I think the Cubs have a little bit of an adjustment period from the lull of not playing with emotion, to the playoffs.
ALDS Game 1: Red Sox (Lester) @ Angels (Lackey)
Young Jon Lester has come a long way and now he's getting the ball with some big shoes to fill.
This would be the time that Josh Beckett rises from where ever he is to take the ball and lead his team to the promised land. The only thing that can stop him now is an oblique strain.
Lester will get the ball game one in Los Angeles and he's got a tough task ahead of him going up against John Lackey.
Lackey's post-season record isn't big, but it’s not that bad. Lackey is best known for winning game seven of the World Series in 2002. He also has a little redemption on his mind as it was Boston who beat him around pretty good in last year's ALDS.
This is going to be a battle of which explosive offense can bust through first. Boston's bullpen struggled early in the year, but it has come on late. The Angels have been cruising for the better part of September and have hitting to fear.
Boston has owned Los Angeles the past two times in the playoffs. However, the Angels have been bringing it to Boston in 2008. The tables have turned and Boston doesn't seem to be fully healthy. I like Lackey in big spots and Jon Lester has been great in Fenway this year. But this isn't Fenway and his ERA is 1.60 points higher on the road.
I'm taking the Angels in game one and they better hope Beckett is healthy, or it will be an early exit for the defending Champions. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lester emerge and become a big game pitcher, despite the road ERA.