NFL: Week 4 Picks

5 undefeated teams remain as we head into week 4 of the NFL season.  I went 9-7 a week ago, bringing my season total to 26-22.

Bye Week: Philadelphia and Green Bay

Thursday Night Football

  • Dolphins @ Bengals: Miami barely squeaked by the Browns last week, while the Bengals were beat down by the defending champs at home.  The Dolphins got a big day from Jarvis Landry, but inconsistency continues to plague Ryan Tannehill, who threw a pick six in the win. Cincinnati got their running game going, but still lost to 1-2 for the first time in five years.  After two very good weeks, Andy Dalton couldn’t do much against the Broncos defense. I like the Bengals at home with another good rushing game to get their second win of the season. CINCINNATI WINS

Sunday Morning Football 

  • Colts @ Jaguars: London here they come! Indianapolis got their first win of the season last week, while Jacksonville is still looking for theirs.  Andrew Luck has the uncanny ability to turn a bad day into a big day passing the ball, but the Jaguars defense isn’t the problem so far, so he’ll need help.  Blake Bortles on the other hand, has been pretty awful for Jacksonville in his third year under center. So what happens this weekend across the pond? Give me a cleaner day from Luck to lift the Colts. INDIANAPOLIS WINS

Sunday 1PM Games

  • Bills @ Patriots: Three different quarterbacks have started for New England, but that hasn’t stopped the winning.  And as for the Bills, they got their first win over a team many think, myself included, are a playoff team destined for a deep run.  Both teams got big two-touchdown games out of their number 1 running backs, so look for another day of running the clock. The Patriots have to get through one more week without Tom Brady, and while they’ve done a great job doing so, and are very, very good at home, I’m taking the road team in this one. BUFFALO WINS
  • Titans @ Texans: It was a very bad week for Houston, who not only lost their Thursday game versus New England 27-0, they learned that JJ Watt re-injured his back and will be out the rest of the year.  Tennessee’s week wasn’t much better, as they scored just 10 points in their loss to Oakland. Both teams enter action having scored the same amount of points through 3 games, but of course that’s skewed with the Texans O-fer last weekend. Marcus Mariota and Brock Osweiler have both thrown 4 interceptions so far this season, so whoever can limit mistakes has the edge. A Titans win puts them in a tie for the division early.  But I don’t think they get it, because I like the Texans skill position players better. HOUSTON WINS
  • Lions @ Bears: The Lions are 1-2, but haven’t struggled in the passing game, as Matthew Stafford has found a new weapon in Marvin Jones after Calvin Johnson called it a career in the off-season.   The silver lining there for the 0-3 Bears is that their defense has actually done okay against the pass so far this season.  Chicago got a pretty good game out of Brandon Hoyer, who finished 30-49 for 317 yards, though most of that came with the game out of hand already. Both teams have the ability to get the points in the air, and with two middling defenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.  So this game will be won in the trenches, and the edge there lies with the Lions. DETROIT WINS
  • Panthers @ Falcons: Carolina is another team I thought would have a great season, but has disappointed so far.  Thanks to the struggles of the Panthers and the rest of the NFC South, Atlanta finds themself atop the division early on in the season.  This dispite allowing 31, 28 and 32 points in their first three games.  The Falcons may not be getting sustained success in their ground game early, they are getting it when it counts.  Tevin Coleman has just 110 yards on the ground, but has 4 rushing touchdowns, including 3 on Sunday in New Orleans. Carolina entered action red-hot at home dating back to 2014, but we shut down by a red-hot Vikings defense a week ago.  I still believe in the Panthers defense, and as hot as Atlanta has been, I think Carolina gets the win on the road. CAROLINA WINS
  • Seahawks @ Jets: The good news for Jets fans? Ryan Fitzpatrick can only be better than he was a week ago. The bad news? He has to be a lot better against the top defense in the league. After scoring just 3 points against L.A. in week 2, the Seahawks exercised some demons putting up 37 against the Niners.  Russell Wilson was hobbled in the game, but still managed to leave with a nice lead.  Big games from Christine Michael and Doug Baldwin helped get the offense back on track.  New York can solace in the fact that they have had a pretty good run game all season, and while some of it came in garbage time, Seattle did allow the Niners to get over 130 yards on the ground, finding pay dirt twice.  This shouldnt be as ugly for the Jets as it was last week, but it will still be a loss. SEATTLE WINS
  • Raiders @ Ravens: Baltimore finds itself among the undefeated teams heading into week 4, in large part thanks to their defense and a good day from kicker Justin Tucker.  The Ravens are second in total defense through 3 weeks of play.  Their opponents won their 2nd game by  forcing three turnovers, with a sack after entering week 3 having allowed the Saints and Falcons to walk all over them.  So based on defenses, Baltimore should have an easy win.  But I actually like Oakland’s offense a lot more, and as someone who thinks this is a playoff team, I’ll take the Raiders in the upset. OAKLAND WINS
  • Browns @ Redskins: Cleveland should’ve gotten their first win of the season in Miami a week ago, but an inability to stop the air attack, and three missed field goals left them at 0-3. They gave themselves a shot, but couldn’t take it.  Cody Kessler’s first career start wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t very good for Cleveland, though at this point, coming out healthy is huge for the Browns. Washington did get their first win, taking down the Giants on the road. After a couple lackluster offensive weeks, Kirk Cousins let it loose and got a number of big plays in the passing game to help get that first win and move back in the right direction to defend their NFC East title.  So can the Browns get their first win this week? Yes. Will they? I don’t think so. They stayed in last week thanks to mistakes by Tannehill, but Cousins won’t make those same mistakes. WASHINGTON WINS

Sunday 4/425PM Games

  • Broncos @ Buccaneers: The Superbowl Champs are showing no signs of slowing down as they look to start the season 4-0.  Denver got off to a slow start last week against the Bengals, but came on strong late thanks to a big day from rookie quarterback Trevor Siemian.  Siemian threw four touchdown passes, including two in the fourth quarter for the win.  Not to be outdone, the Broncos are a top flight defense that held down Andy Dalton and their rushing attack.  They’ve got another tough test when they take on Jameis Winston this weekend.  The Bucs 2nd year quarterback is tied for the league lead in touchdown passes so far with 8, though he has thrown six picks to.  It won’t be a blowout, none of Denver’s games really have been, but it will be another win for the Broncos. DENVER WINS
  • Rams @ Cardinals: I’m shocked at the start the Cardinals are having at just 1-2. Carson Palmer has had a bad TD-turnover ratio through 3 weeks.   Arizona isn’t getting quite out of David Johnson on the ground, while their defense is allowing the 5th most rushing yards per game.  This is as good a week as any to get back to what they want to do in all phases as they take on their division rival Rams, who find themselves tied atop the division at 2-1.  Los Angeles has rebounded nicely from a shutout on opening day, winning their last two games.  The Rams tend to play up or down to their opponents, evident by a 9-3 home win over Seattle and a 37-32 shootout on the road in Tampa Bay.  Going off those results,  I’ll take the Cardinals at home in what should be a close game throughout between these two West foes. ARIZONA WINS
  • Cowboys @ Niners: Dallas couldn’t have asked for more from rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot through three weeks.  The Tony Romo-less Cowboys were a game-winning field-goal away from being 3-0 right now. Dez Bryant has a hairline fracture in his knee but is still expected to play this weekend.  San Francisco was manhandled in week 3, and still isn’t making a change back to Colin Kaepernick.  The biggest thing the Niners have going for them is Carlos Hyde has looked pretty good.  I like what the Caowboys have done this season, but I have a feeling about San Fran this week. It might be a bad feeling, but I’m rolling with it. SAN FRANCISCO WINS
  • Saints @ Chargers: It’s still early, but the Saints need to start picking up some wins quickly if they want to make the playoffs as I predicted they would as a wildcard team in the NFC.  The offense hasn’t been the problem.  Drew Brees is already over a 1,000 yards passing, with an 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, though that one interception last week was a fourth quarter pick six for Brees.  New Orleans defense hasn’t been been able to stop anyone, as they’ve allowed the 2nd most total yards.  Worst at stopping the run, that’s where the Chargers will need to take advantage this week.  But without Danny Woodhead, San Diego needs Melvin Gordon to get going, so this is the perfect opportunity for that.  I like Philip Rivers, but I like Drew Brees more.  Give me the road team to get win number 1 this week. NEW ORLEANS WINS

Sunday Night Football

  • Chiefs @ Steelers: What a defensive performance put on by the Chiefs this past week! Two defensive touchdowns and six interceptions helped Kansas City get the easy win over the Jets.  The offense wasn’t great, but they didn’t need to be with that showing on defense.  Alex Smith continued to show his game management skills, and why Travis Kelce is one of the better tight ends in the league right now. They’ve got a desperate Steelers team thsi week, who didn’t score a touchdown in a week 3 beatdown by the Eagles.  After two very good weeks, DeAngelo Williams was stymied on the ground, so the rushing attack will gladly welcome back Le’Veon Bell from suspension this week. The biggest test for the Kansas City defense will be stopping Antonio Brown, but I don’t think it will matter much even if he does have a big day. KANSAS CITY WINS

Monday Night Football

  • Giants @ Vikings: This should be a battle of two unbeatens, but a late game collapse left the Giants at 2-1 heading into today.  Too many penalties, a couple late turnovers and allowing Washington to open up the field multiple times led to the home loss for New York.  They lost Shane Vereen to a triceps injury as well.  Eli Manning and company need to do more in the passing game, and they have the capability with three wide receivers.  The bad news for New York is that the Vikings are running on all cylinders right now.  Their defense has been relentless through three weeks, and despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater before the season started, the offense has been very good.  Sam Bradford has come in and fit in better in two weeks then he’s done in the first few seasons of his career.  It’s going to be tough for the Giants on the road, but I like New York will figure things out and get back in the win column.  NEW YORK WINS

New York Yankees: April in Review

IMGP3377 Jacoby Ellsbury can hit, Carlos Beltran can play everywhere and the injury bug didn’t stay in 2013.

Let’s start on the injury front shall we?  They sure popped up early and often in April.  Mark Teixiera went down first with a grade 1 hamstring pull, and closer David Robertson quickly followed him onto the 15-day DL with a groin strain.  Both came back after the two weeks were up, and have looked good in a small sample size.  Then, Derek Jeter missed he final two games of the Red Sox series.  And in that final game (a win) against Boston, Francisco Cerveilli ended up on the 60-Day DL with a grade 2 hamstring strain, Brian Roberts went down with a back injury, and not to mention a scare with April revelation Yangervis Solarte. But the biggest loss? It came after a blowout loss against the Tampa Bay Rays.  Starter Ivan Nova, who many thought would have a break out season after a strong finish to 2013, is heading for season-ending Tommy John surgery.  The young righty has a torn UCL injury, which already claimed all of 2014 for another one of New York’s up-and-coming stars, the Mets Matt Harvey.  The month ends with Brett Gardner nursing a sore foot, and Ellsbury has a day-to-day hand issue.

Considering they started the season with 13-straight games (their first two series were in domes), coupled with the injuries, the Bombers should be very happy with their record.  It’s only April, and they’ve already changed their fortunes in the AL East.  They only won 6 games against Boston last year, yet they’ve already taken down the defending World Champs 6 times in one month of baseball here in 2014!  They lead the division early, only lost 2 series the entire month, and are over .500 in the East. Sabathia continues to search for a way to be successful with his new stuff, but one thing about the big guy you can’t take for granted. He gives you length every start. They might not be the sharpest innings late, but he finds a way to not kill your bullpen.

IMGP3378

Best Starter: Masahiro Tanaka – That 24-0 last season in Japan does NOT look like a fluke. Sure it’s early, and the league needs time to catch up, but man does Tanaka look like the real deal.  Tanaka’s 3-0 to start his MLB career and has a ridiculous 46 strikeouts to just 6 walks in 35.2 innings. His first start got off to a shaky start, giving up a lead-off homer to Toronto’s Melky Cabrera, but he sure settled down.  3-runs in 7 innings.  Then he did it again, going a complete 8 in a shut-out win over the Orioles, striking out 10 along the way in his Yankee Stadium debut. And what about his dominance over 8.1 against the Sox in Fenway! He’s been nothing short of dominant. His one bug-a-boo?  The long ball.  He’s so in the zone, that balls tend to fly out easily.  The good thing is they’ve been solo shots for the most part.  (Honorable Mention: Michael Pineda – I could’ve easily made him the best with his 2-1 record, minuscule 1.00 ERA coming off two years of arm issues.  If Tanaka has been number 1, Pineda has been 1a for the Yankees pitching staff. Too bad this all came to a screaming halt with a 10-game suspension due to pine tar, followed by a lat strain that will sideline him for another 3-4 weeks.)

Best Reliever: Shawn Kelly – Outside a bad outing in a non-save situation, Kelly did a wonderful job sliding into the closer role while Robertson was on the disabled list.  Adam Warren has the other save recorded this season, and without the legendary Mariano Rivera closing games, and a big injury to D-Rob, who would’ve thought they’d make it through April without any blown saves? (Honorable Mention: Adam Warren – He’s adjusted to the short reliever role very well.)

Best Hitter: Jacoby Ellsbury – For any Yankees fans that thought liking his former enemy would be hard, you were very wrong. He’s come in and not only torn the ball off the cover, he’s run the bases better than anyone this team has seen since a young Alfonso Soriano was stealing 40 a year. And no, I’m not omitting Brett Gardner here, who has blinding speed, but doesn’t always take advantage of it on the base paths. (Honorable Mention: Carlos Beltran – Power, power, power.  He leads the team in HRs, RBIs, OPS and Slugging %.  He’s been another great addition to the Yankees outfield and lineup.)

Biggest Surprise: Yangervis Solarte – He spent the first 7 years of his career in the minors. He wasn’t even supposed to make the team! Yet Solarte hit his way onto the team out of spring training, hitting Eduardo Nunez off the team completely.  He can and has played every position on the diamond and has done it well.  And talk about a doubles-machine!  He’s also tied with Beltran for the team lead in RBIs with 13.

Record vs AL East: 10-7

Overall Record: 15-11 (1st in the East)

So that was April.  Coming up in May, the Yankees are on the road a lot, including a 3-game series against the Leagues top team, the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Bombers also play their cross-town rivals, as well as the Nation League representatives in the World Series last year, the St. Louis Cardinals.

MLB Predictions – The Hunt for Red October (World Series Edition)

We’ve come to that time of year.  The Fall Classic.  Our final 4 guaranteed baseball games until Spring Training.

It’s an all red World Series, a rematch of the 2004 series and the fourth time these two have met in the World Series.  The Boston Red Sox will represent the American League after taking out the Detroit Tigers in 6 games in the ALCS.  They will face off against the National League representatives, the St. Louis Cardinals, who also needed 6 games to advance past the Los Angeles Dodgers in their NLCS match-up.

The New York Yankees have the most World Series wins in MLB history with 27, but this is the decade of teams in red.  Why do I say this? Well, the winner of this year’s series will pick up their 3rd World Series Championship of the 21st Century, which would be the most of any franchise.  The Yankees and Giants are the other teams that have each two rings this millennium.  Of the two teams in this years Fall Classic, I think even if St. Louis loses, they’ve established themselves as the franchise of the 21st century.  They’ve appeared in 3 previous World Series since 2000, winning in 2006 and 2011, and of course losing in 4 to Boston in 2004.   This fourth appearance also ties them with the Yankees for most in this time span.  The Cards have been to by far the most League Championship Series’ with 6, and they’ve been to the playoffs more than they haven’t in the first 13 years of this century.  Not to mention their ability to draft and cultivate talent within has been remarkable and unmatched (with the exception of maybe the Tampa Bay Rays) the past 10 years.

Saying this takes absolutely nothing away from what the Boston Red Sox have done both in this decade.  Three World Series appearances and two wins after going 86 years between raising a championship banner.  But the turnaround from 2012 to 2013 is even more impressive than their playoff success.  They hadn’t played in October since 2010, and won just 69 games a year ago.  This was a franchise in turmoil, who instead of regressing, made a historic turnaround in just an off-season.  A lot of thanks for this has to be given to GM Ben Cherrington, who pulled of a miracle trade which dumped big money and big contracts of Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.  Add the development of youngsters like Xander Boegarts, Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias, and improved years of John Lester and Clay Buchholz, you can see why this team won the AL East.  Iglesias was of course traded, but his production allowed for Boston to acquire a quality arm in Jake Peavy.

Both teams have added pieces, and brought up guys from the minors that gelled quickly, allowing for them to be in the position they are.

This is the first World Series hosted by an American League team since 2009 when the Yankees held home-field advantage.  This because the AL snapped a 3-year All-Star Game losing streak, giving their representative, in this case Boston, home-field.  Both teams won 97 regular season games.

My Key Players in the Series:

St Louis

  • Starting Pitcher Michael Wacha: This isn’t your normal 22-year-old.  The youngster won the NLCS MVP after two huge wins, outdueling last years Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw twice.  If he can do anything close to what he did in the first two rounds, the Cardinals will be thrilled, and the Red Sox should be scared.
  • Carlos Beltran:  He’s in his first World Series after years of just missing.  He has many big hits in his postseason career, but now it’s time to see if he can continue it on the games biggest stage.

Boston

  • Closer Koji Uehara:  Talk about a breakout season.  Uehara was unhittable the last two months of the season, and has carried it into the postseason.
  • Starter John Lackey: If there’s one key starter for Boston, it’s Lackey.  He had a good bounce back year from 2012, but if the Sox want to win this series, they can’t have a performance like he had against Tampa earlier in the postseason.  He gave up 4 runs in less than 6 innings in that start.  Boston needs the guy that shut down the Tigers in the ALCS.

Here is the schedule and pitching matchups

Game 1 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Adam Wainwright vs John Lester

It’s just what you want in Game 1 of the World Series; a match-up of aces who have been on this postseason.  The Cardinals send Adam Wainwright and his 1.57 postseason ERA to the hill.  Wainwright has 2 rings and knows what it takes close out a series, and get a series started  The Red Sox counter with John Lester, who hasn’t been too shabby this year, allowing just 5 runs in 19.1 innings this October.

Game 2 (Thursday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 8:07PM EST

  • Michael Wacha vs John Lackey

Based simply on what has happened this postseason, this matchup favors the Cardinals, which is good down 0-1.  Clay Buchholz was the likely game 2 starter for Boston, but he’s suffering from fatigue.  Both are players I tabbed as key to the series, and know here’s their chance to prove me right.  Wacha looks to send his team home tied 1-1, Lackey hopes to make a statement and put the Sox up 2-0.

Game 3 (Saturday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 8:07PM EST)

  • Jake Peavy vs Joe Kelly

This is a toss up.  Neither has made a World Series start, though Peavy is a veteran to Kelly’s relative inexperience.  It’s a big game, as it’s the first swing game, with the winner being just 2 games away from a championship.

Game 4 (Sunday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 8:00PM EST)

  • Clay Buchholz vs Lance Lynn

I think the match-up favors the Sox, as Buccholz is really a number 2 in this rotation, though he was pushed back because of arm fatigue. Lance Lynn hasn’t been great this postseason, but with a 2-1 series lead, the Cardinals are saving Adam Wainwright for a possible clincher in game 5.

Game 5 (Monday @ Busch Stadium- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Jon Lester vs Adam Wainwright

With the series tied 2-2, it’s a re-match of game 1.  Lester was brilliant, while Wainwright was tattooed.  I don’t think either will be as good, or as bad as they were in game 1.  This will not be a blowout, but a close game, the way games 2-4 have gone.  The winner will have a chance at closing out the series Wednesday in Boston.

Game 6 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST)

  • Michael Wacha vs John Lackey

If Necessary***

Game 7 (Wednesday @ Fenway Park- First Pitch 7:30PM EST) 

So it all starts with game 1, which is important in any series.  It gives one team a quick advantage, and puts them 3 wins from a championship.  Winners of Game 1 have won 20 of the last 24 Fall Classics.  I hope you all enjoy what should be a long, hard-fought series. Both teams have had great runs to get themselves to this point.  From the Red Sox crazy turnaround, to the Cardinals getting big performances from different guys every night.  But I think the Cardinals core gets this done.  I like the Red Sox depth, but I think St. Louis’ depth is better.

CARDINALS IN 6

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

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.