Tuesday, October 03, 2006

MLB playoffs: Division series

It's finally that time of year again. Until the Cavaliers season gets underway in about four weeks, we'll refer to it as "The Dead Zone" here in Cleveland.
With no Indians playoff games to occupy our time between the weekend dice rolls that are Browns games, we'll just have to live vicariously through the success of other cities teams.
Sure, you won't be able to revel in their joy, but you also won't have to experience their sorrow. And in Cleveland, that has to be worth something.
Here are my predictions for the division series, which get underway today.

American League

New York Yankees (AL East Champs) vs. Detroit Tigers (wild card)
For the Tigers, this has to be like jumping into an ice cold pool. They play their first playoff game in 19 years under the lights tonight at Yankee Stadium. I expect major shrinkage, though I don't expect the Tigers to get humiliated.
The Yankees have everything going for them: better pitching, better hitting and the best closer in history. The Tigers, however, have Jim Leyland going for them. Even if the Tigers lose this series, Leyland will see to it that his young team emerges from it stronger.
Yankees in four

Minnesota Twins (AL Central champs) vs. Oakland Athletics (AL West champs)
Twins + home playoff game = starving dog + sirloin steak
The A's are a team capable of winning a playoff series, but this series was decided when the Twins clinched homefield in the first two games. Combine that with the fact that the Twins have been baseball's best team since June, and Oakland doesn't stand much of a chance.
Twins in three

National League

New York Mets (NL East champs) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (wild card)
You think the Mets are still fuming over that upset in the 1988 NLCS? Well, probably not. But they'll still get their revenge, Pedro or no Pedro.
The Dodgers showed remarkable fortitude rebounding from the depths of mediocrity to reach the postseason, but the Mets are still the league's best team and should get at least as far as the NLCS.
Mets in four

San Diego Padres (NL West champs) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central champs)
I know the Cardinals have the history and the pedigree here. I know they went to the World Series two years ago and reached the cusp last year. I know they knocked off the Padres a year ago en route to the NLCS. But this year, the Padres are the better team. They have deeper pitching, a better bullpen and above all, homefield advantage. It might be close, but the Padres will advance to the NLCS for the first time since 1998.
Padres in five

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