The first pitch of the 2011 MLB Playoff season will be thrown in roughly three hours when Texas Rangers left-hander takes the mound in Texas against the AL Wild Card winner Tampa Bay Rays. In anticipation of today's games, I've decided to make my predictions for the first round of the playoffs. Here goes.
#2 Texas Rangers vs. #4 Tampa Bay Rays
In a rematch from last year's first round match-up, the Rangers have home field advantage when the meet the Tampa Bay Rays. Holding a slight lead in the season series against the Rays (5-4) the Rangers just might be the most balanced team in the AL. But I have a problem going against the hot team. The Rays crawled back from a nine game deficit in the Wild Card race and did so by winning the playoff slot in dramatic fashion with a walk-off by franchise player Evan Longoria. I believe the Rays will ride the wave of euphoria to a first round defeat of the Rangers.
My Pick: Rays over Rangers in Five
#1 New York Yankees vs. #3 Detroit Tigers
In a season where the New York Yankees were picked to finish second and even third in the AL East, the Bombers continued to prove those naysayers wrong all season long rolling along to win the AL East and lead the AL with the best regular season record. They face a Detroit Tigers team who is led by Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander and MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera among others. The Tigers hold a slight lead in the season series (4-3) against the Yankees and the spotlight is shining specifically in the marque pitching duel of C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander. I think the Yankees have the offense that can make Verlander work. There really isn't an easy out in their lineup and I think that will be the deciding factor in who wins the series. I believe there is too much being made about the Yankees rotation issues. I mean, all the playoff teams have pitching issues with the exception of the Philadelphia Phillies.
My Pick: Yankees over Tigers in Four
#1 Philadephia Phillies vs. #4 St. Louis Cardinals
I'm going to go on a major ledge here but I think if anyone in the NL can beat the Phillies at this point in time it is the St. Louis Cardinals. Why? well, like the Rays they are super hot. Pujols, Carpenter and company should thank Mr. Tony Plush of the Milwaukee Brewers for lighting a fire under them. Since that series with the Brewers, the Cardinals are 16-6 and have been playing some of the best baseball in the league and the Phillies have the privilege of playing them in the first round. the season series is firmly in the favor of the Cardinals (6-3). And the Phillies? What can I say. They have an astounding offense, the best pitching in the league and a very capable manager. So I must be nuts with what I have to say next. Right? Even I have doubts in my prediction but what the heck. Never let it be said that I don't like climbing on the ledge for the fun of it.
My Pick: Cardinals over Phillies in Five
#2 Milwaukee Brewers vs. #4 Arizona Diamondbacks
The Brewers come into this series with high hopes after setting a franchise record in wins with 96 wins. This team is offensively stacked and is led by MVP candidates Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. On the pitching side, their rotation in solid. On the other side Arizona is led by Cy Young candidate and 21-game winner Ian Kennedy. They have shown that they can compete with the Brewers having an edge in the season series (4-3). I have to be honest, aside from Juston Upton, I really don't know much about the Arizona Diamondbacks offense. Maybe that's what Arizona has counted on all season while they won game after game on their way to the NL West title. That said, I have a hard time seeing the Brewers losing in the first round.
My Pick: Brewers over Diamondbacks in Four
So there it goes. Lets see if next week I'll have egg on my face or a big smile.