Hang on...with no baseball break, we go right into the playoffs with three incredible series today, starting at noon.
Brewers vs. Phillies - 12:00 PM
Gallardo v. Hamels
Final Score: Phillies 3, Brewers 1
Series: Phillies lead 1-0
Next Game: Tomorrow (10/2) at 3:00PM
(Note that the 9:30-10AM start that they gave the A's/Minnesota in 2006 wasn't good enough for this year's teams - /bitter rant, onto playoff fun!)
It took until the very last day of the season, but the Brewers won the wild card and found themselves in the playoffs for the first time since many of our AN crowd was even born. (The rest were wearing really, really bad clothes.) Highlights of the Brewers include Ryan Braun with his 37 homeruns, Price Fielder with his 34 homeruns, and Mike Cameron (25) and J.J. Hardy (24). Jealous yet? Did the A's even have 37 homeruns all year? As for the starting pitching for the Brewers, things look rather thin. As of the latest report, Sheets will not be throwing in this series, and is out most likely the rest of the season, and C.C. Sabathia has already been taxed to get to this point, so expect more work from him, Bush, and Suppan. I would certainly expect Sabathia to throw on three days' rest again, and I would expect the success or failure of the series to be directly linked to the starting rotation.
The Phillies bring Ryan Howard to play in the series with his MLB-leading 48 homeruns and 146 RBI's (again, did we have 48 homeruns and 146 RBI's all year?), but he isn't the only one that can hit. The Phillies lead the NL in HR's, and are second in runs scored. They also sport Brad Lidge, who is lights-out coming in from the 'pen, which is certainly an advantage up against the battle-torn bullpen of the Brewers.
It looks like a battle between a well-prepared, well-rehearsed Phillies team, and an exhausted, spent, but absolutely on fire and hungry Brewers crew, and it should make for a great series right out of the gate. I'm rooting for the Brewers.
Dodgers vs. Cubs- 3:30 PM
Lowe v. Dempster
Adding Joe Torre as a weapon this season didn't yield immediate results, as many thought the skipper was only highlighted with the Yankees behind him, but with the addtion of Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers have turned it up; plowing over Arizona and securing the top spot in the NL West, and looking at another chance to make their mark in the playoffs. Derek Lowe, who has backed up his number one slot with an amazing year, will take the mound for the Dodgers in Game One facing off against Ryan Dempster. The Dodgers led the league in ERA, but Zambrano and (healthy) Harden loom in the second and third game. However, the Dodgers, and their late-season revamping of the team, look to neutralize the great pitching and storm the gates of the NLCS.
The Cubs haven't won a World Series in 100 years. None of their current players can own that, and it would take three or four generations to even remember it, but it's there all the time; the Stomper-size elephant in the room during every pitch, every game, every time it looks like the Cubs will be somebody and go somewhere. This year, they have a great team, but you can't help but wonder; what will happen to derail the postseason train this time? Most pressing to A's fans, I would think, is how Rich Harden, who could barely string two starts together for the A's in five seasons, will hold up under the playoff pressure.
For me, this is THE series. I love all the possible story-lines here; the all-SoCal playoff option; the all-Chicago one on the other end, Manny; the closest stadium to me, Torre back in the playoffs, and two of the most historic and well-known NL teams facing off for all the glory. I think this one will be fun. My hunch says Dodgers, but this one is a free-for-all, and I hope it's great.
Red Sox vs. Angels- 7:00 PM
Lester v. Lackey
The Red Sox
Neither the Red Sox nor the Angels are a stranger to October, and there's not much to say that hasn't been rehashed over and over during the last few years. But this Red Sox team is a little bit different; despite the pitching, the lineup, the manager, the experience, Manny being Manny will be Manny for another playoff team this year. And I think that's going to hurt the Red Sox.
Man, this is one scary team. As if their beefed-up lineup wasn't doing all the right things anyway, they had to go out and bring Teixeira on board, my former favorite player, who is dead to me now. They are a scary offensive team, but more scary is their starting pitching, who by and large, has been incredible this year. We could talk about their closer's year, as well, but I want to file that away in 'more lucky than good; I'd save sixty games too if I was hand-picked a hundred save opps', and I would like nothing more than K-Rod's numbers outside his save total to be exploited in the late innings.
Don't kid yourself. Despite the 10PM East Coast start, there won't be a baseball fan there (except perhaps fans in New York, who have all moved on to the Giants and the Jets), who won't be bleary-eyed at work on Thursday morning because they watched baseball all night. I despise both teams; both have caused the A's a tremendous amount of heartache over the years, and no one will cheer louder than I if the Rays manage to hang onto their own series and bounce one from the playoffs. I have to go Red Sox here; I will never root for the Angels.