Thursday, October 7, 2010

MLB Division Series start with a bang

-The Yankees did last night to Francisco Liriano what they do to every starting pitcher they face: work the count, make him reach 100 pitches before the end of the sixth inning and take advantage of him once he starts to miss spots and leave balls up. They may take forever to play their games, but the way they play it sure is effective.

The only pitcher to consistently dominate the Yankees so far this season has been Felix Hernandez, as even studs like Jon Lester and Cliff Lee have had mediocre starts against New York. Don't tell me that former Yankee Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing or Nick Blackburn is going to avoid a similar fate to Liriano. But after Lee's win against the Rays last night, the Yanks may still have to face him if both teams reach the ALCS.

-Segue! Lee turned in the sixth 7 IP, 1 ER or less, 10+ K performance in MLB playoff history. And oh by the way, he had two of the previous five. He is slated to pitch Game 5 if necessary and if Texas can win just one of Games 2-4 (I think C.J. Wilson against James Shields tonight is a great matchup for the Rangers) then I think the Rangers are going to win the series.

The real question is if Tampa takes Games 2 and 3, do the Rangers throw Lee in an elimination Game 4 on three days' rest?. Tommy Hunter would then likely start Game 5 against David Price, a definite mismatch but one that may not happen if Lee doesn't pitch Game 4.

The Rangers can't really afford to lose to Shields and Matt Garza to go down 2-1, but I think there's a legitimate chance they go up 2-0 tonight, as Shields has struggled all season and Wilson's transition from the bullpen has been extremely smooth.

-Saving the best for last, Lee wasn't the only pitcher who has worn a Phillies uniform in the past two seasons to make history last night. Roy Halladay threw the second no-hitter in postseason history in his first career postseason start last night, dominating the Reds lineup and cementing his NL Cy Young award, although the playoffs aren't supposed to affect things like that.

I went into this series thinking Phillies sweep or win in four and nothing from Game 1 has changed that thought (who thought Edinson Volquez would beat Halladay?). The real question is who will they play in the NLDS, the Giants or the Braves?

-Segue #2! The Braves survived a near-collapse late in the season to make the Wild Card, while the Giants stormed up on the Padres to take the NL West. If there is one game in this series where 10 or more total runs are scored I will be floored.

The stars of this series will be the pitchers. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner for the Giants, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson for the Braves. I know I'm leaving out hitters like Aubrey Huff and Jason Heyward, but those two guys are going to have to carry these respective lineups as neither team is that strong at the dish.

This series is going to be won with pitching and while the Braves are solid there, the Giants are better. I think the teams will split in each park setting up a Lowe-Lincecum Game 5 matchup. The way Tiny Tim has been pitching of late, I think he'll take the Giants to the next round.

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