Fresh Teams Bring New Excitement To Playoffs

    As everyone knows, the Major League Baseball Playoffs started yesterday and since it would be cheating to make first-round predictions after the postseason has started, let’s just call these my thoughts and observations on the division matchups.

    Phillies vs. Brewers
    This is officially the feel-good series of the playoffs. The Phillies hadn’t won a playoff game since 1993 until yesterday and, by making the postseason this season, the Brew-Crew ended the longest active playoff drought in professional sports. Unfortunately for all those still celebrating in Wisconsin, the Brewers’ run is over. The Phillies have now won 14 of their last 18 games and, in a five-game series, momentum is everything. It’s also hard to bet against Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, who have destroyed Brewers’ pitching this season. The fact that Philadelphia has Brad Lidge holding down the bullpen can’t hurt either. Seriously though, Brewers fans can be happy that their team finally made the playoffs and Phillies fans can be happy that they finally won a playoff game because neither of these teams can stand up to the Cubs or the Dodgers so that’s all they’re going to get for awhile.

    Rays vs. White Sox
    How reassuring is it when your own manager is asking, “How the fuck did we get here?” Despite Ozzie’s assessment, you have to give the White Sox their due credit. They earned their way into the playoffs, winning their last three games, including a tiebreaker over the Twins, to sneak into the postseason. Still, the White Sox did let go of their previous five games, which cost them the lead in the American League Central and forced them to play in a one-day playoff. Wait, how the hell did the White Sox get here again? For the first time during Ozzie’s reign over the White Sox I actually understand and agree with his assessment of the situation.
    While the White Sox have been busy losing their lead and gaining it back in exciting fashion, the Rays have had a spot in the playoffs for over 10 days and have pretty much been a lock for the postseason for awhile. With postseason games generally coming down to the wire, Chicago’s bullpen is a real problem. Over the last three months of the season, the White Sox relievers have had an ERA over 5.00. The scrappy Rays are bound to take advantage of that weakness and use their home-field advantage to take the series.

    Angels vs. Red Sox
    With the 4-1 loss to Boston last night, the Angels have now lost 10 straight games to the Red Sox. Still, I wouldn’t be too quick to write them off. The Angels and Red Sox are both strong teams, no doubt. The Red Sox took the victory in game one thanks to Jason Bay’s bomb (how awesome is it to see Bay finally in the playoffs?), but this series is far from over. First of all, Josh Beckett in 2008 is not the same Josh Beckett that demolished opponents in the postseason last year. Beckett is 12-10 with a 4.03 ERA this season compared to 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA in 2007. Yes, the Red Sox are the defending champions. Yes, the Red Sox swept the Angels in the ALDS last season and in 2004. Yeah, Josh Beckett is historically a beast in the postseason. But if anyone knows that history can’t be trusted in the playoffs, it’s Boston. Looking at 2008 alone, the Angels have won eight of nine games in the season series and Beckett has looked mortal. I say the Angels bounce back from the loss in game one, using their revamped offense from the Teixeira trade to at least keep the series interesting.

    Cubs vs. Dodgers
    That was a good old-fashioned thrashing that the Dodgers handed to the Cubs last night. Are the cubbies cursed forever? I’m going to go with yes. OK, I know that I just talked about how history can’t be trusted in the playoffs but the Cubs are in a different league. They put in Ryan Dempster, who went 14-3 with a 2.86 ERA in home starts this season and 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers this season and he was hit for four runs in 4.2 innings of work in game one. Offensively, the Cubbies had no answer for the Dodgers after the second inning, and their one and two hitters went a combined 0-9. The Cubs, who are the trendy pick to win the World Series, will give the start tonight to Carlos Zambrano, who is always good for a surprise crappy start (eight runs in 1.2 innings on Sept. 19 in St. Louis!) and a dugout temper tantrum. One-third of the ESPN experts picked the Cubs to win it all and no one can argue that the Chicago’s a great team, but as their first game this postseason illustrated, there are a lot of question marks.
    Every year, the start of the MLB playoffs is exciting for fans all over the country. This season, with an even mix of postseason-regulars and postseason-newbies, the playoffs have just a little more for everyone.

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