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2011 MLB playoff predictions

October is just around the corner, one of my favorite months of the year. In addition to an important birthday, Halloween and the changing of the leaves, it marks the start of the MLB Postseason. And judging by Wednesday night’s epic conclusion to the regular season, the playoffs could just as well be a doozy.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to baseball, fear not.  Sports Climax is here to provide you with a guide on what to look out for, as well as some predictions.  As always, these are for entertainment purposes only, and don’t bet the (sub-prime) mortgage on any of these.

Photo/Matt Boulton Wikimedia

Here are five things to watch out for. OK, you can call them predictions:

  1. The Brewers-Diamondbacks series may be the most overlooked of all the Division Series, but it could be an interesting one.  “The Bristol Improv” won’t tell you this, but Milwaukee won 96 games and boasts a powerful 1-2 punch at the plate with MVP candidate Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and solid pitching from Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke.  The D-Backs are a great turn-around story, winning the NL West after finishing last in 2010. A big part of the reason was manager Kirk Gibson, who’s become as good a leader in the dugout as he was on the field. Ace Ian Kennedy had the best season you never heard about (21-4, 2.88 ERA), and Justin Upton is a rising star. My guess is that this series goes all five games.
  2. After the much anticipated Game 1 pitchers’ duel between Detroit’s Justin Verlander and New York’s CC Sabathia, expect the offense to pick up.  While the Yankees Game 2 start Ivan Nova has yet to face the Tigers, Game 3 starter Freddy Garcia was hit hard in his one start against the Tigers this year, and the Yankees fared well against Doug Fister and Max Scherzer (the Tigers’ Game 2 and 3 starters) in the regular season.
  3. The Rays will be out for revenge this year against the Rangers. Texas upset Tampa Bay in last year’s ALDS, jumping out to a 2-0 series lead before hanging on to win it in 5 games. Don’t expect the Rays to be caught flat-footed again, especially in light of their remarkable run to capture the AL Wild Card, thanks to strong starting pitching and slugging 3B Evan Longoria, who has a whopping 1.043 OPS in the month of September.
  4. Don’t expect the Phillies to win it all. True, they have a “Dream Team” starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, but the lineup is getting older and anything can happen in the playoffs (just ask the 2010 Giants). Oh, and I also predicted in April that neither the Phillies nor Red Sox would win it all this year, so I’m sticking to it.
  5. With Ernie Johnson not doing play-by-play for TBS/TNT this year, look for his replacement, Brewers announcer Brian Anderson, to use this as his big break and emerge as one of the voices of the future. In addition, I also like Ron Darling as an analyst (true, he was very nice to me at one of my Little League banquets and even took a picture with me, but that’s beside the point). Then again, anything is an improvement over Fox’s Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

Despite my better judgment, here are my series predictions:

ALDS: Yankees over Tigers in 4

ALDS: Rays over Rangers in 5

NLDS: Phillies over Cardinals in 4

NLDS: Brewers over Diamondbacks in 5

ALCS: Rays over Yankees in 7 (thanks to karmic payback from Wednesday night)

NLCS: Phillies over Brewers in 6

World Series: Rays over Phillies in 6 (thanks to karmic payback from 2008)

And here’s hoping that a Rays title would inspire a sequel to “Moneyball.”

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri runs the “West Coast View” column for Sports Climax. A veteran to the keyboard, Chris also covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com and has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. Follow Chris on Twitter for more sports observations.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in MLB, West Coast ViewComments (0)

Thirty hours in October – how two playoff teams imploded

Critics mock Major League Baseball for its slow pace and ponderous, 162-game schedule.  But once October rolls around, no one seems to mind games that last more than three hours – not when the drama can cause fans to bite off their nails, and underdogs have a chance in the shorter, best-of-five division series.  And this year is no exception.

Only this time, it took approximately thirty hours for the American League playoffs to turn on its head.

Our wild ride begins at 3:07 PM Eastern on Wednesday in Tampa, as the Rangers visit the Rays at “The Trop.”  Jeff Francoeur doubles in the game’s first run, and Mets fans everywhere remember that he’s not in the witness protection program.  By the half-way point of the game, the Rangers are up 5-0 and Cliff Lee is cruising along to yet another dominant October victory.

In the opener of the NLDS in Philly, Roy Halliday no-hits the Reds, only the second no-no in MLB playoff history.  ‘Nuff said.

It continues at 7:37 PM Central Time in Minneapolis, as the Yankees and Twins square off in the first playoff game in the new Target Field.  After a first-inning bunt doesn’t materialize − think the Yanks aren’t in Ron Gardenhire’s head? − the Twins jump out to a 3-0 lead on CC Sabathia after three.  Could it be?  In due time, the Yankees come back to take a 4-3 lead thanks to a Curtis Granderson triple.  The Twins tie it up, but Mark Teixeira homers just inside the right field foul pole (confusing Johnson again) and giving New York a 6-4.  Marian Rivera gets another four-out save, and history repeats itself.

More of the same on Thursday in Tampa, as the Rays’ bats are silent.  The Rangers take a 2-0 lead.  In the top of the fifth, Michael Young blasts a three-run homer off James Shields just after a questionable checked swing.  Rays’ manager Joe Maddon argues the call with umpire Jim Wolf and gets ejected.  C.J. Wilson shuts down the Tampa Bay bats, and the Rangers head back home with a 2-0 series lead after a 6-0 victory.

Back to Minneapolis, 5:07 CT.  More of the same – the Twins take and early 2-0 lead, but the Yankees tie it up and then take the lead in the first on a Lance Berkman home run.  Orlando Hudson’s (remember him, Dodgers fans?) solo homer in the 6th ties it up.  In the top of the 7th, the much-maligned Berkman hits a go-ahead double after – ironically – a questionable pitch is called a ball.  Gardenhire also gets ejected, Rivera again closes it out in the 9th, and reality sets in.

Two questionable calls, two ejections, two 2-0 leads for the road teams heading back home for their respective Game 3s of the ALDS.  All in just over thirty hours.

Who says baseball is predictable and boring?

Used with permission of the author.

Chris Lardieri also covers the NFL for Sports Climax and the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner.com.  He has written about Major League Baseball for Inside Edge, a scouting company that provides content to ESPN Insider and Yahoo Sports. He previously wrote for 1766, the Rutgers Alumni Magazine, and popular blog, ‘The Outer Loop’.  Be sure to follow Chris on Twitter for more MLB and sports observations

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in MLBComments (0)

Tampa Rays and their fans get Bitch-Slapped

After ending the regular season with the second best record in the league, the Tampa Bay Rays now look like a lackadaisical team on the brink of elimination. SLAP!

Manhandled by the Texas Rangers, the Rays and are just 9 innings away from an early exit, down two games to none in their ALDS. How ’bout we throw in a backhander too. . .SLAP!!

With their season suddenly on the brink and their fan base long gone; the Tampa Bay Rays are the recipients of the Bitch-Slap-of-the-Week.

How about a couple for their fans too, you know the ones who barely have the energy to jump on the bandwagon of a 96-win team that won the AL East title.

Truth be told, no one should have expected any different from this team… or this area.

The Rays went 5-5 in their last 10 regular season games and were 13-14 in the month of September. Needless to say, that’s not exactly the best way to carry momentum into the playoffs. And I’m sure the call for a ‘plaided out ballpark’ didn’t help either.

It’s one thing to ask your fans to ‘white out’ the stadium to intimidate your opponent, but it’s quite another to ask them to support their team by wearing plaid. That’s about the least intimidating pattern you can pick, besides polka dots.

But Joe Maddon and his plaid dreams aren’t the only ones at fault here; the Rays fans deserve some of the blame as well. Instead of rooting for their team and rallying behind home-field advantage, the Rays ‘fans’ were too busy making Kitty DJ videos (watch below), playing shuffleboard and following Dancing with the Stars.

As if it’s not humiliating enough for these players to call Tropicana Field home, they now don’t even have the support of their own city. Any hope of a bandwagon jump was derailed after the Rays got shut out on Thursday. And now that the Buccaneers have a winning record (2-1), there is no need for Tampa Bay fans to watch baseball anymore. And I completely understand.

Who honestly wants to watch a team that was on the losing end of two no-hitters this year, one of which being a perfect game? I don’t care what your record is, if that happens to you twice in one season, then your fate has already been determined.

And just so we’re all clear on this, throwing a no-hitter like Garza did does not cancel out being the victim of one.

The way I see it, the Rays only have two options in order make this post-season memorable. They can either A) Start hitting the ball and have an epic comeback or B) Wear plaid uniforms for the rest of the series and bunt during every at-bat. Other than that, there is really no hope for this team.

Personally, I would love to see option B run its course. I know it’s a long shot, but anything is possible when you believe.

Used with permission of the author.

Logan Rhoades is a Los Angeles-based writer and contributor to Sports Climax. With an extensive knowledge of ESPN topics and celebrity gossip, he is known for mixing sports and pop culture to entertain his readers. Check out his “Skip to My Logan” blog and Follow him on Twitter @loganrhoades.

Copyright ©2010 Sports Climax, LLC

Posted in Bitch SlapsComments (0)

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