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BASN’s MLB Playoff Preview (Part One)
After 100 years of “It’s Gonna Happen”, Chicago fans are hoping that their beloved Cubbies will finally bring home that elusive World Series title following two straight seasons of being the best team in the NL Central. Unfortunately, they were eliminated by Arizona in last year’s NLDS.
Just up the road in Milwaukee, the new generation of the Brew Crew has put last year’s late collapse in their rear view mirror. Overcoming a 10-16 September and the firing of their manager, Milwaukee rallied for their first playoff berth since 1982 as the NL’s wild card team.
The Phillies have been the NL East’s best team the last two seasons. It marked the first time Philadelphia captured back-to-back division crowns since 1980-81. However, Charlie Manuel’s team were swept out of the first round last year by the eventual NL champion Rockies.
And let’s not forget about the NL West champs from L.A. Joe Torre’s Dodgers caught fire after acquiring Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline, but their recent postseason hasn’t been great. The franchise has won just one playoff game since taking home the 1988 World Series championship.
Whatever happens over the next week or so (weather permitting, of course), some team is gonna be able to get rid of some skeletons in their closet. Let’s take a good look at both series.
BREWERS vs. PHILLIES
(Phillies won season series, 5-1)
How they got here: The Phillies rode a late-season surge to win the National League East for the second consecutive year. As for the Brewers, they overcame a 3-11 start in September to gain the wild card spot — their first postseason bid in 26 years.
What to watch for: Since both lineups can equally play either a power or speed game, the X-factor may be the bullpens. The Philly bullpen was tied with Houston for the NL lead with 47 saves. Milwaukee was right behind with 45.
Intangibles: The probable loss of Ben Sheets for the postseason leaves the Brewers’ starting rotation very vulnerable. Because workhorse C.C. Sabathia pitched in the clincher on Sunday, he won’t get his first shot at Philly until Game Two. The Brew Crew will need Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan to come through for them to advance.
Did you know that: The Phils are tops in the NL with 214 homers and tied for second with 799 runs scored.
Outlook: Last year, it was MVP candidates Jimmy Rollins and Matt Holliday meeting in the NLDS. While Rollins got the award, Holliday went to the World Series. This year, Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder will get top billing in a very intriguing series. Don’t be surprised if these two youngsters meet again in another playoff series down the road.
Pick: Phillies in five.
DODGERS vs. CUBS
(Cubs won season series, 5-2)
How they got here: The North Siders took their second straight Central Division crown while the Dodgers took the West title for the first time since 2004.
What to watch for: Manny vs. the Volcano or in layman’s terms — the L.A. offense versus the Cubs’ rotation. Look for Lou Piniella to avoid Ramirez like several pastries at a Weight Watchers meeting. Underrated hitters like Jeff Kent, James Loney, and others will get pitches to hit in this series.
Intangibles: Two of the game’s best catchers — Cub rookie Geovany Soto and L.A.’s Russell Martin — will be X-factors behind the plate and at the bat. But most importantly, the one who handles his pitchers the best will be have a date in the NLCS.
Did you know that: Ramirez has 24 homers and 64 RBIs in 353 postseason at-bats while his teams are 12-7 in October series, reaching the World Series four times, winning twice.
Outlook: By all rights, this should be a Chicago series win. But when you factor in the past playoff magic of Manny and Joe Torre, as well as a young, hungry bunch of Dodgers — this series screams of an upset. I know in my heart the Cubbies are a better team, but the karma may just be on L.A.’s side.
Pick: Dodgers in five.