The MLB playoffs get started in about an hour and a half, when the Rangers and Rays face off in Game 1 of the ALDS. I thought I’d chime in with some playoff predictions for the first round.
American League Division Series
Yankees over Twins in 4: My heart says otherwise, and I have serious reservations about the Yankees’ pitching. But I think the Yankees will steal a game at Target Field (possibly tonight, with the unpredictable Francisco Liriano on the mound), and the Twins have been absolutely snakebit at Yankee Stadium, both old and new. Minnesota might actually be better off with Matt Capps in the bullpen than Joe Nathan; the Yankees have destroyed the Twins’ usual closer in the postseason. But CC Sabathia will give the Twins’ left-handed lineup problems, and once the Yankees take home field away, they’ll do the rest in New York.
Rays over Rangers in 4: Give the Rangers a game with Cliff Lee - he stole Game 1 of the World Series on the road last year with the Yankees - but I don’t think Texas is talented enough to hang with the Rays. I’ve got Tampa Bay coming out of the American League at this point, and their pitching is deep enough to get past Texas in the first round. They’ve also been through this before, and they have one of the game’s most underrated managers in Joe Maddon, who’s got a knack for keeping his team even-keeled in the playoffs. Lee gives the Rangers a chance, but the Rays’ pitching depth will carry them.
Phillies over Reds in 4: This, again, looks like a mismatch; I think the Phillies are the best team in baseball, and I picked them to win the World Series before the season. They only get stronger with Roy Oswalt in the fold and Cole Hamels pitching so well. The Reds have a potent lineup, but without Mike Leake, their pitching isn’t quite deep enough. This series, with these two lineups in two bandboxes, could lead to some fireworks, but the Phillies will outclass the Reds in the end.
Giants over Braves in 5: This is, by far, the hardest series to pick. And with two deep pitching staffs, it will probably also be the most appealing matchup to watch. But in the end, I’m going with the Giants in part because of the travel setup of this series; if the Braves have to fly across the country and play on the West Coast for a Game 5, possibly facing Tim Lincecum with their season on the line, that’s a lot to ask. This could be a classic series, with Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito squaring off against Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens. Give the Giants the edge at home in Game 5, setting up an equally entertaining NLCS.
That’s how I see the first round shaping up. What do you think?