It’s been awhile since we’ve had a pair of Championship Series this evenly matched. The Angels, Yankees and Dodgers (with MVP Matt Holliday) have all proven their dominance by sweeping their way into round two. The only team remaining is the Phillies, who despite getting a run for their money from the upstart Rockies, have little to prove as the defending World Series Champions. It’s not easy to pick a winner in either series, but I’m going to give it a go. And remember, after claiming your winnings from the local bookie thanks to my advice, don’t be shy to slip yours truly a couple bills.
American League Championship Series
When any team goes up against the $200 million Bankees, it’s tough not to root for them. Tack on the Nick Adenhart tragedy and their lovably lengthy name, and you might even see some Giants fans jumping on the LAA-of-A bandwagon this postseason. Looking at just starting pitching, I give the Halos the edge. John Lackey had a quality second half and thrives in the postseason, and Jered Weaver just had a close to All-Star caliber year. On the pinstriped side, I honestly don’t trust any starter besides AL Cy Young candidate C.C. Sabathia. In the bullpen, both sides aren’t particularly impressive, though October ninth innings belong to the yank Mariano Rivera. Bottom line, the Yankees offense is too good not to propel them back into the World Series. The Angels just had their best regular season offensive output in franchise history, but the Yankees are simply too solid with Mark Teixeira, a throwback version of Derek Jeter and an Alex Rodriguez that just torched the Twins with his steroid controversy all but forgotten. No knocking Bad Vlad, Bobby-A and Torri (sorry Kendry, left you out for joke’s sake), but their threesome isn’t as strong, or gay for that matter — just check out A-Rod in GQ magazine.
My pick: Yankees in Six.
National League Championship Series
In a clash of two offensive powerhouses, it could very well be pitching that determines this winner. With the Dodgers throwing out Kershaw in Game One, the matchups have to favor L.A. as three out of the Phillies’ four big bats — Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez — all hit from the left side. But that’s where the Hollywood magic ends. The next three pitching matchups, in whatever order you take them, all fall in Philadelphia’s favor. Vincente Padilla’s on a nice run, but are you trying to tell me you would take the projected Game Two starter for the Dodgers over Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton or potential NL Rookie of the Year J.A. Haap? Just look at the Dodgers’ remaining starters. There’s Hiroki Kuroda fresh off the DL starting Game Three, and Randy Wolf, who after a NLDS beatdown and shaky 2009 against the Phils, takes the hill in Game Four sans managerial confidence. Shame on you for doubting the local wolf-man, Joe Torre. The Dodgers do carry a markedly stronger bullpen, but what does this franchise always do in big playoff games? Choke. Factor in half of their fans arriving in the fifth inning at their home games, and Philly should have just enough firepower to outmatch Man-Ram, Ethier and The Bison.
My pick: Phillies in Seven.