I don't think anyone could have asked for a better start to the 2008 MLB Playoffs. All three games had excitement, only one ended up getting slightly out of hand, but all three games gave us a little bit more to talk about.
I was not surprised the Dodgers beat the Cubs in game one in the least bit. Derek Lowe has been one of the hottest pitchers going and despite the home run; he came back and kept the Cubs at bay.
We saw the emergence of James Loney, a great hitter that many people probably haven't heard of, until now.
The Phillies and Brewers game gave us the national coming out party for Cole Hamels, who was just electric after learning the hard way, last year in the postseason. I think most fans knew about Hamels, but now the national stage is fully aware just how good he is.
And of course, deep into the night on the east coast, the Red Sox pulled out a fantastic win over the Angels. Jason Bay picked up right where Manny Ramirez left off and in my mind, eased the psyche of Boston fans everywhere.
A go-ahead home run of John Lackey in the playoffs will give you a lot of fan love, so great to see Bay come up.
However the story of that game had to be John Lester and his performance, on the road mind you, in a very important game. Lester was brilliant, giving up no earned runs and guiding his team to a series opening victory. Josh Beckett is fine, but if this team is going to advance, Lester will be a big part of it.
With that, the Red Sox and Angels take a break and we welcome the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox to the party in today's action.
ALDS Game 1: White Sox (Vazquez) @ Rays (Shields)
"Big Game" James, as he is known to his teammates, James Shields to the rest of us, takes the mound against a guy who's been criticized by his own manager when it comes to the big game.
Riding high off the emotion of a play-in game victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday, the White Sox may not be as fresh as the Rays are, but they've got tons of momentum.
The Rays have had three days off, so naturally they have the physical edge over the White Sox, but do they have the emotional edge? The White Sox haven't had time to sit back and think about their win. They had a day and after their celebration they had to immediately shift focus towards the Rays.
Sometimes, that can be beneficial to a team if they don't think and just do. The Rays have been stewing over this game, despite not knowing their opponent, for more than three days now.
I just have a sneaky suspicion about the Chicago White Sox right now. They are that team that no body wants, the team that nobody even thought would beat the Indians, the Tigers and then the Twins. Here they are, uninvited and already being overlooked.
Everyone has finally realized the greatness that the Rays have, but that might be a crucial mistake, as the White Sox are now playing the roles of party-crashers, a role their gritty clubhouse welcomes.
I like James Shields, but I just think the White Sox have begun one of those runs they are prone to go on. I like the White Sox in game one, be it emotion or confidence, they are a dangerous team at this point.
NLDS Game 2: Brewers (Sabathia) @ Philadelphia (Myers)
As I said, Cole Hamels was absolutely electric yesterday. He learned from the experience last year and was much more settled.
Expect CC Sabathia to take that form as well. Sabathia learned from his struggles in the American League playoffs and will certainly much more composed and focused than he was.
He admitted he was jittery and trying to do too much, which he is prone to do in situations he's never been in before. But the greatest thing about CC and what makes him so great is his ability to learn and adapt.
Expect Sabathia to adapt to the situation and learn from his mistakes last year.
On the other side is Brett Myers, who was sent down to the minors at one point this year. He returned and to say the least, his pitching prowess had returned. He was a bona fied ace pitching behind an ace down the stretch.
If you didn't have Hamels to matchup against Sabathia, Myers would be the next choice and it isn't a bad counter for the Phillies.
However, I feel that Milwaukee has a little more fight left in them. Their ninth inning was something to build off of and you have to figure with their horse on the mound, their bats are going to be ready to go.
I'll take Milwaukee in game two to even up the series and Sabathia to continue his fantastic run.
NLDS Game 2: Dodgers (Billingsley) @ Cubs (Zambrano)
On one side, we have Carlos Zambrano, the big ace of the Chicago Cubs who threw a no-hitter not long ago. He is the emotional and sometimes erratic, but highly dangerous hurler who can strikeout anyone at a given time.
On the other side, we have Chad Billinglsey, the...Wait who is Chad Billingsley?
He's a very good pitcher, in case you haven't heard and I fully expect him to match Zambrano pitch-for-pitch.
The Dodgers are swinging some hot bats and as seen last night they can be real patient. Zambrano can pitch around Manny Ramirez, but as we saw someone like James Loney or Russell Martin can make you pay. Zambrano better bring his control or he could let this one slip away.
The lights and pressure are not really on Billingsley, no one's talking about him. I'm sure he is feeling some sort of pressure, but we get to see his talent on the big stage for the first time. We could witness the coming out party of a young pitcher. You just never know.
Loney silenced the crowd last night after his grand slam home run to left-center field. That shaky, uneasy feeling had to be creeping up the spines of Cubs fans everywhere. Here it goes again!
I definitely think it's coming again. I just don't like this matchup for Chicago; the Dodgers are a dangerous team with some good pitching, a good bullpen, and a hot lineup.
I like the Dodgers in game two to put a stranglehold on the series and disappoint the masses in Chicago once again.