MLB Postseason Predictions – ALCS

The American League is down to two teams, one of which will represent the league in the World Series.

Detroit Tigers @ Boston Red Sox

  • Anibel Sanchez (14-8, 2.57 ERA) vs Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

I had the Red Sox advancing on, but I had them doing so in 5 games over the Tampa Bay Rays. But Boston needed one less game to continue their magical run from worst to first, taking their ALDS over their AL East foes 3-games-to-1. Boston clinched quickly, so they, like LA, were able to better set their starting rotation better.

So here they are, in the ALCS for the first time since 2007, also their last World Series win, a 4 game sweep over the Colorado Rockies.

As for their opponents, the Detroit Tigers, needed a full 5 games to take their ALDS match-up with the Oakland A’s.  I had this series ending with the A’s in 5, but the Tigers pen held up better than I expected it would.
After a rough season, for him, Justin Verlander continued his postseason dominance over the Athletics, carrying a perfect game into the 7th inning.  This time around, the 2012 Cy Young and MVP starter went 8-shutout innings, allowing just two hits while striking out 10.  Verlander knocked Oakland out last season in the ALDS as well.

Miguel Cabrera with the big blow to help send his squad to their 3rd straight ALCS appearance, a 2-run shot in the 1st inning.

Like the Cardinals in the NL, they now have to wait until game 3 to see their ace in the series.

The Tigers and Red Sox played 7 times during the regular season, with Detroit taking the season series 4-3.

And that’s how I think this series will go.  A hard-fought, close series.  I just think the Tigers are coming together at the right time.  I know the Red Sox have been on a high all season, and I won’t be surprised if they win this series in 7, or even less. I just think Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anabel Sanchez are better than the Sox top 3.

Game 1 takes place in Boston Saturday night, first pitch set for 8PM EST at Fenway Park.

TIGERS IN 7

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MLB Postseason Predictions – NLCS

Here we are. One round from the World Series, and we’re now down to two teams left standing in the National League.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ St. Louis Cardinals

  • Joe Kelly (0-0, 3.38 ERA) vs Zach Greinke (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

I had the Dodgers beating the Braves in four, and that’s exactly what happened. It wasn’t even that close. LA scored 23 runs in their 3 wins. They gambled bringing their Ace Clayton Kershaw back on three-days rest for the first time in his career, but it paid off. Kershaw gave the 6 innings strong of, 3-hit, 2-run ball. But now they don’t have their Cy Young starter until game 2.

It’s the first time the Dodgers have reached the NLCS since 2009, when they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games. They also fell in 5 games to Philly in 2008. And if they should win, it will be the first time the reach the Fall Classic since 1988, when they beat the Oakland A’s.

As for the Cardinals, it took 5 games for them to get here. Again, that’s how long I figured their NLDS match-up against Pirates would go, It was a fun, close series, with the clincher the biggest margin of victory. Not counting the 6-1 clincher, St. Louis outscored Pittsburgh 15-14 in the first 4 games.

The question is always is it better to play everyday and get in on a high, or clinch early? Well, it’s another case of that in this years NLCS.

Without Ace Adam Wainwright because he went the distance last night, possible game 1 candidates included Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Kelly ended up getting the nod, after just 1 start during the regular season.

Clinching Monday meant LA could set up their Dodgers send their Ace 1A to the hill in Zach Greinke. Greinke took the game 2 loss to Atlanta, but pitched well enough for the win, going 6 innings of 2-run ball.

The LA Dodgers took the West, the St Louis Cardinals the central. Now one will take the NL.

And it all gets started with Game 1 Friday night at Busch Stadium- first pitch set for 8:30.

It’s going to be a hard fought series. But I think the fact that the Dodgers were able to set up their pitching much better than St. Louis will ultimately mean a win. Getting 2 from Greinke and 2 from Kershaw is huge. Wainwright won’t pitch until game 3, and it might be too late by then.

DODGERS IN 6

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ALCS UPDATE

  • The Red Sox have already clinched their spot in the next round.
  • The Detroit Tigers are in Oakland tonight for a winner-take-all Game 5.
  • No matter what happens tonight, the ALCS kicks off in Boston on Saturday.

MLB Postseason Predictions – ALDS

Two easy wins got the playoffs started last night.

NLDS Update:

  • The Cardinals lead the Pirates 1-0
  • The Dodgers lead the Braves 1-0

Now its time for the American League to open up play, as well as game 2 for each NLDS in today’s full slate of games.

 

In the first ALDS, familiar AL East foes face-off.

Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox 

  • Matt Moore (17-9, 3.29 ERA) vs Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA)

There are no secrets between these two division rivals, having played 19 games against each other in the regular season.  It’s a battle of southpaws who had very good seasons.   The Rays have two guys in Evan Longoria and Delmon Young who like hitting home runs in the postseason, while Boston had the best record in the league and know how to win in October.  Both teams have been to the World Series in the past 6 years, so this should be a fun series.  The Sox just hit .208 as a team against Tampa this year.

I like both starting rotations here, so I think it comes down to a battle of the bullpens.  In terms of closers, Koji Uehara was lights out to end the season for the Sox, and hasn’t allowed a run to Tampa in his last 16 innings.  While Rays closer Fernando Rodney is known to make you sweat.  Give me the AL East champs in a long, hard-fought series.

RED SOX IN 5 

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In tonight’s second ALDS, it’s a battle of division winners.

Detroit Tigers @ Oakland Athletics

  • Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90 ERA) vs Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA)

This is an intriguing game 1 match-up in today’s playoff night-cap.  You’ve got Scherzer, who’ll probably win the AL Cy Young, going against Colon, a 40-year-old former Cy Young winner.  Scherzer was huge for Detroit this year, especially early when their former Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander got off to a rare slow start.  Colon has revitalized his career in Oakland, and was great all year.

The Tigers were the AL representatives in the World Series last year, while the A’s are making their second straight postseason appearance after sneaking in last year.  Detroit has more pop in its lineup, with a combo of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.  But don’t be surprised when Oakland’s bullpen carries them to the next round. I have much more faith late in games in the A’s than I do Detroit.

ATHLETICS IN 5

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Today’s postseason action gets started in the NL at 1PM.

Pittsburgh Pirates @ St. Louis Cardinals

  • Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.22 ERA) vs Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97 ERA)

The Pirates look to bounce back from a 9-1 pummeling last night, while the Cards look to take a 2-0 lead before heading on the road to Pittsburgh.

As a I posted yesterday, I have CARDINALS IN 4

 

And finally, game 2 in Atlanta tonight.

Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves

  • Zach Greinke (15-4, 2.63 ERA) vs Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21 ERA)

The Dodgers made easy work of the NL East champs last night, and now send their other Ace to the hill looking to take a 2-0 lead back home.

Again, as posted yesterday, I have the DODGERS IN 4

Enjoy the full slate of Postseason action today.

Saying Goodbye to Number 42

Mariano Rivera delivers his cutter.

Mariano Rivera delivers his cutter.

At 24, I haven’t seen too many down years for the New York Yankees.  I know how lucky I am for that.  And if you want to know why I’ve been blessed to see so many World Series wins, look no further than the last man to wear the number 42, Mariano Rivera.

The greatest closer in baseball is hanging them up after the season if over, which will be Sunday unless the bombers get a lot of help the final week of the regular season.  After 19 years in the majors, 23 as a member of the Yankees organization, Rivera is ready to leave the game he loves so much behind.  And it’s a game that loves him maybe even more right back.

After announcing his retirement prior to the start of the 2013 season, Major League Baseball vowed to send him out the right way.  And they held up that promise.  Every road team the Yankees visited this year, in his final game of the year there, those teams presented Rivera with gifts.  Gifts to say thank you for being such a class act and a legend among men.

Some of the more memorable gifts include a sandcastle from the Rays, playing off Rivera’s nickname the “Sandman.”   Or how about the chair presented by the Minnesota Twins made entirely of broken bats, something Mo’s cutter did to hundreds of hitters over the years?  In his last trip to Fenway, the arch rival Red Sox paid tribute by presenting Rivera the visitors bullpen rubber, and the 42 used on the Green Monster when he entered games.  Of all the gifts, I bet Rivera appreciated the check presented by each team to his foundation, because if there is one thing Mo loves more than baseball, it’s giving back to those around him.

Then there’s what the Yankees did for their beloved closer Sunday in the Bronx.  For years Rivera came out to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” so why not have the band set up on the field and have number 42 walk out to it live? Add to that retiring his number in monument park, a check for $100k to his foundation, a crystal replica of his glove, another chair made of bats and a retired number for his wall at home, the Yankees made sure they told Mo thanks in the best way they knew how.  It all happened in front of a packed stadium crowd, as well as many of Rivera’s former teammates including the man who caught more than half his saves, Jorge Posada.

Why so much fan fare?  How could you not honor a man who has done nothing but produce consistent excellent play for nearly 2 decades, while being an upstanding ambassador of the game.  The 43-year-old is the Major League leader in saves, a 5-time World Series winner and is the only man to throw the final pitch of more than 2 World Series, doing so in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009.

Jorge Posada by far has caught more of Rivera’s 652** career saves, being apart of 379 of them, with 22 catchers total on the receiving end of a final pitch from Mo.  Other numbers that scream first ballot Hall-of-Famer: Rivera’s 2.21 ERA, way less than a hit per inning, and a WHIP of 1.  71 homers in almost 1,283 innings, or 1 every 18.  44 saves in 2013 mark the most in the final season of a closer’s career, this despite blowing a career high 7 games this year.  With 5 games left, Rivera carries an 82-60 record into retirement.

But as good as Rivera was in the regular season, no man shined brighter in the postseason.  In the Yankees most recent World Series run in 09, of the 8 teams to make it to the playoffs, 7 blew saves, 1 did not.  That’s right, Rivera was perfect en route to winning their 27th championship.  According to Sports Illustrated,  Rivera’s postseason records include most games pitched (96), most saves (42) and lowest ERA (0.70, minimum 30 innings pitched).  Not too shabby for a guy who used an orange carton as a mitt as a kid in Panama.

What are some of personal favorite memories?  I will never forget him collapsing on the mound as Aaron Boone rounded the bases during his walk-off homer in the 2003 ALCS against Boston.  Or his 500th save against the Mets.  How about the one two break the record, passing Trevor Hoffman with 602 saves.  I think my favorite though was his first and only career RBI, a bases loaded walk of all things against the Mets.  The smile on his face when he went to first was priceless.

So as the season winds down (5 regular season games to go), the story of Mariano Rivera the baseball player comes to an end.  But while stars fade, legends never die.  Rivera will forever be in the annuls of Major League Baseball history.   As the last man to wear the number 42 (which was retired across baseball in honor of Jackie Robinson), Rivera’s number will reside in Monument Park for ever.  No man will ever fill his shoes.  The Yankees must move on, and it will be difficult.  You have to be encouraged by a guy like David Robertson, who can strikeout any one at any time, and more importantly has the mental makeup to be a closer.  Like Rivera, he doesn’t bad outings affect him, and rarely does he put back-to-back bad outings up.  He has the nickname “Houdini” for being known to create jams for himself, but he usually gets out of them.  Gone are the days of having a security blanket like Rivera, but that doesn’t mean whoever comes in next for New York, whether it’s Robertson or someone else, that they can’t be effective.  It just won’t be the Sandman.

I will always be grateful for being able to see Rivera pitch.  And I can’t even say in his prime, because he is still a  top flight pitcher.  I will tell my children and my grandchildren that I saw number 42 pitch.  He will forever be Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in Yankees and Major League history.

Thanks for the memories Mo.  Enjoy life after baseball.

4,000 Hits: Big No Matter Where You Get Them

Ichiro Suzuki Acknowledges the Bleacher Creatures on Sunday August 11th against the Tigers

Ichiro Suzuki Acknowledges the Bleacher Creatures on Sunday August 11th against the Tigers

He got it out of the way early.  In his first at-bat of last years NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, Ichiro Suzuki became just the third player in professional baseball to eclipse the 4,000 hit plateau.  The other two? Hall-of-Famer Ty Cobb and Pete Rose.

The difference for Suzuki is that 1,280 of those knocks came while he was still playing in Japan, his native land.  So really Ichiro now has 2,722  at the Major League level.  But that doesn’t take away from what he’s done.  To say the 1,280 in Japan diminish the mark is absurd.  He is still approaching the magical 3,000, something only 28 other players have done here.  And those 2,722 are the most in a 13 year span in MLB history.

Suzuki has been a model of consistency ever since he brought his lithe frame to America.  He was both the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, helping the Mariners eclipses the 98′ Yankees for most wins in a regular season, winning 116.  He has won 10 gold gloves (tied for an OF record), had 200+ hits in his first 10 seasons and has a lifetime batting average of .320.  From 2001-2012, he only missed 32 games.  All marks that have Hall-of-Famer written all over them. Not to mention the numbers he may have had if he had started his career here and not in Japan.

At 39 (he turns 40 in October), Suzuki is in his first full season with the Yankees and while he isn’t a .300 hitter anymore, he’s still a hit machine.  You can still see him stretching in the outfield, the dugout and everywhere in between.  Still see him hustle to beat out a ground ball, because without that hustle, he’d wouldn’t have those 500-plus infield hits.  He can still dazzle in the outfield, though most of his magic comes in right for the bombers.

So now that he’s hit the magical 4K, what’s left?  It’s simple.  You can’t play forever, though if someone could, Ichiro and his magical rubber limbs could probably make a good run at it.  In his 21 years as a professional ballplayer, Ichiro does have one championship ring, from the 1996 Japan Series.  But in 12+ years here, he’s been to just one ALCS, when the Mariners were defeated by the Yankees in 2001.

Suzuki and the Yankees of 2013 still have a shot (however small) to make it to the playoffs thanks to a hot streak here in August.  And he is signed through next season.  His window is closing, but there may still be enough room for his small frame, productive bat and above average glove to slip through to the promise land.

Unlikely Heroes Help Yanks Take Two, Gain Ground

Doubleheaders are never easy to sweep.  But heading into the Yankees double dip with the Blue Jays, New York needed to do just that.  If they want to make a late season run, losing to a last place team isn’t an option.

Game 1 starter Ivan Nova has been nothing short of spectacular since his return to the majors.  One big inning could have sunk the righty, but Nova rebounded from a 4-run second to give the Yankees length, and time to chip away.

Down 4-3 in the, catcher Chris Stewart came to the plate with two on, and two out.  Hitting in the low .200’s, and lacking power, Stewart came through in a big way.  A three run shot to left, just his 4th of the year, and first since May, lifted the bombers to an 8-4 win.

Robinson Cano had a big game as well, going 4-4 and smacking his 200th career homer in the win.  Ichiro Suzuki also picked up 3 hits, moving him to 3,999 in his career combined between his time in Japan and in Major League Baseball.

Game 2 featured Phil Hughes who was coming off one of his better performances of the year, a 3-run, 6 inning performance against the Angels.  But Hughes has struggled not only this season, but his entire career at Yankee Stadium.

But after a first inning run, Hughes was impressive.  Finally mixing in his secondary pitches, the big righty gave the Yankees 6 innings of 2 run ball.  Unfortunately for Hughes, his lack of run support continued, and he left down 2-1.

In the 7th, Jayson Nix would tie the score with his 3rd homer of the year, saving Hughes from his 9th straight loss at the stadium.  The bullpen shut the Jays down in the 8th and 9th, giving the bombers a chance for their sixth walk-off of the season.

The newly acquired Mark Reynolds would be walked to lead off the inning, and then pinch ran for by Suzuki.  Eduardo Nunez than laid down a beautifully executed sacrifice bunt to move Ichiro to second, with one out.  Nix, fresh off his game tying shot, was up next.  Though already in scoring position, Ichiro attempted to steal 3rd, and if not for a better throw from Jays catcher Josh Thole, would’ve been easily out.  But he was safe.  Nix would then play the hero and give the Yankees the 3-2 walk-off win with a solid single to left.

Two wins, one day.  The Yankees needed every bit of it, and they also got some much-needed help from the teams they’re chasing.

A day after passing Kansas City in the Wildcard standings, the Royals were shut out by the White Sox, putting some distance between them and the Yanks.  And of the 5 teams ahead of them, 3 lost (Boston, Oakland and Baltimore).

The bombers are now 5 games out of a Wildcard spot, and if they can leap-frog the Indians (who they own the season series against), they have games left with all four teams ahead of them.

If Hughes can continue giving the Yankees quality outings, and if role guys like Nix and Stewart can help lengthen the lineup even more, you can’t count the 2013 Yankees out just yet.

And don’t overlook the contributions of catcher Austin Romine, who is finally starting to show some offensive punch.  3 hits last night, along with a great throw to nip a runner at second.  Romine is a better option to start over game 1 hero Stewart, and has been highly thought of by the Yankees organization.  If Romine can continue to provide some pop and grow with the staff, the future behind the plate for the Yankees may not be so scary, especially with prospect Gary Sanchez who was recently promoted to Double-A.  In 12 games, he’s hitting .290 with Trenton.

***Game 3 of the 4 game set with Toronto continues tonight with long reliever Adam Warren making a spot start for the Yankees against last year’s NL Cy Young winner R.A Dickey.