WRITTEN BY JUSTIN WORSLEY
Breaking down the National League:
Philadelphia Phillies (102-60) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) (St. Louis won season series, 6-3)
The Phillies have already been given two serious advantages here: ace Adam Wainwright has not pitched this season after having Tommy John Surgery and Chris Carpenter had to pitch on Wednesday night in order to secure a playoff spot for St. Louis.
Philadelphia already had a pitching advantage before either event happened, but now the Cardinals may have put Philadelphia over the hump.
Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35) will counter Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56) in Game one with Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40) announced to start Game Two.
In two starts against Philadelphia this season, however, Garcia has a 0.60 ERA and has held Phillies batters to a mere .189 average. Unlike the four starters in Philadelphia, however, Garcia has not made a postseason appearance.
Philadelphia, however, also has a strong bullpen with set-up man Antonio Bastardo (.93 WHIP) and Ryan Madson (32 saves) as well as former starters Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton able to make long relief appearances.
The Cardinals fought from being down eight games behind the Wild Card in order to get into the playoffs, but the trip ends here for the as Philadelphia takes this series in four games.
Milwaukee Brewers (96-66) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68) (Arizona won season series, 4-3)
Game one features one of the more interesting pitching matchups of the postseason as Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52) goes up against Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88.) After that, Milwaukee has the edge in pitching.
With Prince Fielder’s contract expiring, expect the “Brew Crew” to be motivated to win in order to have any hope of keeping him on their team next season.
Arizona scored 10 more runs that Milwaukee this season, but the Brewers own a better team batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.
Kennedy may be forced to go on short rest if the Diamondbacks struggle early. If that is the case, expect the Brewers to take this series in five games.
Breaking Down the American League
New York Yankees (97-65) vs. Detroit Tigers (95-67) (Detroit won regular series 4-3)
In what is the most interesting pitching matchup of the Divisional Series, CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00) goes the rubber against probable Cy Young-winner Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40.)
The Yankees have the advantage of playoff experience as well as a high powered offense that has scored 80 more runs than the Tigers.
New York’s weakness, however, is in their starting rotation, where outside of Sabathia and Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.70) the team has lacked consistent success out of Bartolo Colon (8-10, 4.00,) A.J. Burnett (11-11, 5.15) and Phil Hughes (5-5, 5.79.)
While Detroit has lacked a full five-man rotation, their top three starters have been dominant. Mid-season acquisition Doug Fister is 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA with Detroit while Max Scherzer is 15-9 with a 4.43 ERA. Closer Jose Valverde has also had a perfect season, converting all 49 save opportunities and a 2.24 ERA.
In what could be a wild series, New York is in upset territory should Verlander get the best of Sabathia. Detroit wins the series in five games.
Texas Rangers (96-66) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (91-71)
Tampa Bay clinched a playoff spot on the final day of the season and did not have to rely on their best pitcher in order to do so, giving them the opportunity to start James Shields (16-12, 2.82) in Game One against C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94)
Similar to the Cardinals, however, one has to question just how much Tampa Bay has left in the tank. Texas has been able to rest their starters after clinching their division a week ago and their offense has scored a whopping 148 more runs than Tampa over the season, nearly an extra run per game.
Much of the success of Tampa Bay will also rely on pitcher David Price, who has been a disappointment this season after a stellar 2010 campaign. In a must-win game for Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Price was only able to last four innings after allowing six runs. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Evan Longoria, Texas may as well be facing the Red Sox in this round.
Much like St. Louis, the buck stops here for the Rays, who simply don’t have the offensive fireworks to knock of the reigning American League Champions. Texas sweeps the three-game series against the Rays.