Hello again everybody...
By the time you read this, I'll be on the road headed southwestward on my trip to go see Nebraska/Texas, the final chapter!
I can't wait to experience the promised nirvana of college football that exists in Lincoln, Nebraska!
So you'll have to forgive me if I keep today's column a touch short. I still have to pack, then double-check to pack the stuff I forgot the first time, then triple-check just to make sure I didn't miss anything (Thanks, Mom).
So instead of the usual Friday DFTU column, I decided to do a quick preview of the LCS's which start tonight.
Let's get to the previewing then!
Right after the quote...
“Given a choice between two theories, take the one which is funnier.”
- Blore's Razor
If you can't be right, at least be entertaining!
MLB Post-Season Mayhem, Part the Second
Much like I did prior to the LDS round, I'll preview the two LCS's by telling you what I think each of the four teams have to do to win. First up...
ALCS: Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees - The two teams split their season series, four games apiece.
What the Rangers need to do to win:
Two things: one, get more consistent at scoring runs in a hurry; and two, hope like hell that C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis are able to compete against the Yankees lineup.
In the 3 games the Rangers won in the LDS, they scored 16 runs. In the two games they lost? 5.
Granted, that's a ridiculously low sample-size to use to draw any conclusions. But if Texas's lineup goes quiet against Sabathia, Hughes and/or Pettitte, they'll be in serious trouble.
Nelson Cruz (.400/.400/.950) and Ian Kinsler (.444/.500/.944) carried the Texas offense against Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, MVP candidate Josh Hamilton (.111/.200/.111) was held to just two hits in his 18 At-Bats. I don't know if his ribs are still bothering him, or if he's just not back into a rhythm after missing so much time at the end of the regular season. Either way, he'll have to step it up against the Yankees for the Rangers to advance to the World Series.
Why are Wilson and Lewis so key? Because the Rangers didn't finish their business at home against the Rays, and were forced to throw Cliff Lee again in Game 5. That means Lee won't be available in the LCS until Game 3.
The advantage there is that if the series go to seven games, Lee would be scheduled to pitch Game 7. The problem is, if Wilson and Lewis aren't good enough to keep the Rangers in it, then you end up losing a series where you only got to throw your best pitcher once.
I know that Lee doesn't like pitching on short rest, but all of this could've been avoided if he'd gone in Game 4 of the LDS instead of Game 5. Even if Tampa had still won Game 4, Texas likely wins Game 5 and then Lee can go in Game 1 of the ALCS on regular rest, and the Rangers would've been able to throw him in 1, 4 & 7 of the ALCS if they wanted to.
But that's water under the bridge at this point. Lee will go in Game 3, and Texas better hope like hell that they're 1-1 or better at that point. Down 0-2 and having to go against Pettitte in Yankee Stadium? I'm not sure even Lee's magic will be able to save them at that point.
What the Yankees need to do to win:
Keep doing the same things they did in their LDS win over the Twins: get great starting pitching and clutch hits.
CC Sabathia may not have had an outstanding Game 1 in Minnesota, but he grinded out a win on a night where he didn't have his best stuff. He kept his team in the game and when it counted most he got out of a jamb that allowed his club to take the lead for good.
New York didn't know what they were going to get out of Andy Pettitte in Game 2, since he was having back troubles. All he did was go seven innings, surrendering only two earned runs with four strikeouts. Yeah, Andy Pettitte is still a clutch performer in the post-season.
Phil Hughes made his first post-season start of his career in Game 3 and went seven innings as well. Only his were of the “shut-out” variety. Hughes was on his game as he struck out 7 while allowing only four hits to the Twins. If he's that good against the Rangers, it could be lights-out early for Texas.
Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman, and Jorge Posada. What do they have in common? All of them came through in the clutch for the Yankees against the Twins. What's scary about that is that Tex is the only name in the bunch that you would've predicted would be there before the series started.
2B Robinson Cano (.333/.333/.500) was good too. If A-Roid and Jeter get things going (and let's face it, this is the post-season, Jeter will be heard from before this thing's done), it's going to make life very tough for the Rangers.
Unlike the Rangers, the Yankees had the opportunity to line up their pitching. Sabathia and Hughes will pitch in Games 1 & 2 in Texas. Pettitte, A.J. Burnett and Sabathia (if necessary) will then go in New York.
I'm not making predictions, but savvy readers will have a pretty good idea of who I think will win this series!
NLCS: Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants - The two teams split their season series three games apiece.
What the Phillies need to do to win:
Much like the Yankees, they need to keep being the Phillies.
While the Giants got great pitching in their LDS win over Atlanta, there's no question that Philadelphia has the best1-2-3 punch of any club left in the post-season.
Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter in his first ever post-season start.
Think about that. Sure, Halladay's a veteran. Sure, he pitched a perfect game earlier this season. But he had to be feeling an extra rush coming into his first playoff start, and still he was able to hit his spots and utterly confound the Cincinnati hitters.
I know Don Larsen has the only other no-hitter in post-season history... and it was a perfecto... and it was in the World Series, but I wasn't alive then. Doc Halladay's game might have been the best I've seen since Jack Morris in the '91 Series, and there've been a LOT of good starts to choose from since then.
Roy Oswalt wasn't great in Game 2 of the LDS, but the Phillies bailed him out with four runs in the seventh and eighth inning to get the win. Philly needs Roy to have a better outing in the NLCS, and there's no reason to think he can't do just that.
All Cole Hamels did was throw a complete-game shutout in Game 3. It wasn't a no-no like Doc, but when you scatter five hits, strike out nine and don't walk anybody, you've more than done your job.
If Oswalt is better, and Halladay and Hamels remain consistent, the Giants are going to have a devil of a time scoring runs.
Though Philly's offense is certainly capable of posting big numbers, they didn't exactly bomb the Reds out of the building. Chase Utley hit their only homer of the series, and was the only Phillie with a Slugging Percentage better than .400.
That's a concern since the Giants have some fantastic starters of their own.
The difference in this series could very well be whether the Phillies offense reverts to form, or struggles to score against Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez.
What the Giants have to do to win:
The Giants have terrific starters, much like the Phillies. But where Philly has big-play offensive potential, San Francisco has to dig and grind for every run they get.
We knew going into the SF/ATL LDS that runs were going to be at a premium. As it turned out, every single game was won by one run. The Giants' pitching was enough to get by against Atlanta, but the offense will have to pick it up to upset the Phillies.
Super-rookie C Buster Posey (.375/.444/.438) and OF Cody Ross (.286/.333/.571) led the way for San Francisco against the Braves. But Aubrey Huff (.267/.389/.267) and Pablo Sandoval (.167/.286/.167) - two guys the Giants very much counted on during the regular season - will have to do a lot better for their club to have a chance against the Phillies.
As I keep saying, the Giants have a damned good troika of starters as well. In fact if it wasn't for the Phillies trio, they'd be the best left in the post-season.
Tim Lincecum fired a two-hit, 14 strikeout complete-game shutout for the Giants in Game 1 of their LDS series. In fact, when you look at some of the sabermetrics involved, Lincecum's Game 1 was every bit as good as Halladay's no-hitter.
To put it mildly, I can't WAIT to check out Game 1 (Halladay v. Lincecum) of this series!
Matt Cain only went 6.2 innings in Game 2, but held the Braves to only one unearned run while striking out six Atlanta hitters. Pitching after Lincecum means Cain often gets overlooked in the San Francisco rotation, but if Oswalt isn't back on his game in Game 2 of this series, Cain could be the reason the Giants get a split in Philly.
Jonathan Sanchez has good games and bad games, but was most certainly on his game in Game 3 of the LDS. 7.1 innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts is going to win you a lot of baseball games. He'll match up with Hamels in Game 3 of the LCS which also has the ability to be a classic.
Bottom line, if San Francisco can find some offense from somewhere... anywhere... they have the pitching to stay in this series with the Phills. There's no doubt, however, that Philly's the favorite.
Again, I'm not making picks, but you can guess who I like to win this series.
So there you have them, ladies and gents. Previews of what the four clubs left in the post-season have to do to make it to the Fall Classic.
Maybe you could tell, but I'm a whole lot more excited to watch the NLCS than the ALCS, though both have the potential to be excellent.
The ALCS kicks off tonight. Game 1 - Sabathia vs. Wilson in Arlington, TX. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07pm Central (which means 7:20 is a better bet).
The NLCS starts tomorrow night. Game 1 - Halladay vs. Lincecum in Philadelphia, PA. If you wonder why I rave about pitching so much, do yourself a favor and watch this one. Watch where the catcher holds his glove before each pitch, and how many times the pitcher puts the ball right there. Trust me, you'll be amazed at the skill these two guys have. First pitch is scheduled for 6:57pm Central (which means 7:07 might actually happen!).
That's going to wrap things up for this week. My goal is to have an epic college football Running Game Commentary for you on Monday. Hopefully the trip goes well!
Until then, thanks for reading!