My beloved Cubs went up against one of the best pitching teams in baseball, and forgot how to hit. Three games and they’re out, which is sad for me but good for you, because it means I can make unbiased predictions about the rest of the baseball postseason. So here goes.
The Rockies are already up two games to none in a best-of-five series. As I write this Game 3 is scoreless in the third inning, but I expect this series to be over tonight or tomorrow; even though Philadelphia’s got a great lineup and decent pitching, the Rockies probably have too much momentum to be overcome at this point. And just to have a chance of coming out of this series alive, they’d need to win two straight at Coors Field; their slugging power could conceivably pull it off, but Denver is abuzz with the notion of actually having a decent baseball team, and nobody plays well on the road at Coors these days.
I’ll give the Phillies a token win to avoid the ignominy of a sweep, and call this one over tomorrow: Rockies take it, three games to one.
ALDS: Red Sox/Angels
I like the Angels, really I do. But Vlad does not a team make, and I just don’t think they have the depth to hang in there, especially when they’re down two games to a team that knows how to generate postseason magic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Angels pick up a game tomorrow at home, and it’s not out of the question that they’d win both games in Anaheim, but even if they do they’re just heading right back into Fenway, and the waiting arms of the Red Sox Nation. Manny Ramirez’ walk-off shot last night was the final nail in the Angels’ post-season coffin.
Sox in four.
The Yankees are in the strange position of having, seemingly, slunk into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. In reality they took their playoff berth by a healthy margin, but the cognitive dissonance of finishing behind the Red Sox is a big psychological hit for a team that’s been shaky all year, and it doesn’t help that Joba Chamberlain basically fell apart in the face of some bugs last night. If he can’t keep his cool when dealing with a bunch of tiny insects, he’s not ready to be the franchise player the hype machine has turned him into. Meanwhile, A-Rod might as well be a pitcher for all the offense he usually generates in the postseason, and Derek Jeter can’t carry a playoff series all by himself.
Enter the Indians, who fielded a surprisingly good sqaud and clearly want this series. I remember when Cleveland was a force to be reckoned with in the American League, and so do they; all those years of watching great Yankees teams sail into the World Series will provide any extra motivation they might need.
I’m calling this one a sweep: Roger Clemens’ last major-league appearance will be the loss that sends the Yankees home to watch the rest of this postseason on TV.
It’s somehow fitting that these two teams would be playing for a World Series spot; early-season predictions mostly discounted the NL West, and both of the early favorites for the league (the Mets and the Brewers) missed the postseason entirely. What we’ll actually get are two teams who were mostly written off: Arizona was supposed to be in a “rebuilding” year, and Colorado… well, who the hell picks the Colorado Rockies to be playing for the pennant come October? The NL West was supposed to go to the Padres, with Jake Peavey pitching his team to the postseason and himself to Cy Young honors, but them’s the breaks.
In the NLCS that’s actually going to happen we’ll get the Diamondbacks, who can out-pitch any team any time, but they’ll be up against a Rockies squad which took ten of eighteen from them in the regular season and rattled off eleven wins in their last twelve games, plus a nail-biting 13-inning one-game playoff victory over the Padres just to get into the postseason proper. Much has been made of the fact that Arizona was actually outscored by opposing teams over the course of the season, and they mostly managed to win by carefully pitching their way out of sticky situations (witness tonight’s final game against the Cubs, where Livan Hernandez allowed baserunners left and right, but got clutch double plays and some well-placed strikeouts to avoid serious damage).
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that the Diamondbacks won’t be able to keep it up: good pitching usually beats good hitting, but you’ve got to score runs and Arizona just hasn’t been able to do that consistently. Meanwhile, the Rockies will have achieved juggernaut status with their win over the Phillies in the NLDS, and their clutch-hit-by-committee lineup will carry the series.
I’ll take the Rockies in six games.
ALCS: Red Sox/Indians
This one’s almost too tough to call; the Indians are having a magical run, but in recent years the Sox have been undisputed kings of miraculous October feats. In the end I think it’ll once again come down to momentum, and that’ll be squarely on the side of Cleveland. Boston’s exorcised its postseason demons, but the Indians will be coming off a solid thumping of the Yankees, and the last time Cleveland won a World Series they could have been facing Ted Williams in a Red Sox lineup. They want this to be the year.
Expect a lot of back-and-forth in this one, but I think Cleveland has the better team overall, and in the end it’ll be Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez, not Manny and Big Papi, who pull off the playoff magic.
Indians in five.
World Series: Rockies/Indians
Let me get it out of the way up-front: I’m picking the Colorado Rockies to win the World Series.
You’d think that eking into the playoffs in the wild-card spot would be a disadvantage, but in fact it seems to be a pretty good start on eventually winning it all: Boston did it in ‘04, and the Marlins (expansion brethren of the Rockies) have done it twice. It doesn’t seem to matter who the other team is, or how good their lineup or their rotation or their bullpen is; wild-card teams in the Series just plain win. Sure, it helps if the other league had a weak year, or if Aaron Boone is too busy nursing a contract-ending basketball injury to come back and beat you in the playoffs again, but there’s just something about the wild card.
The Rockies will be coming in on a tidal wave, and the Indians will be the better team on paper. But, remember, the Mets were the better team on paper, too, and we saw what happened to them, even with a seven-game lead in mid-September.
In the face of a wild-card team that’s never won a World Series and is riding the kind of momentum the Rockies have right now, statistics simply don’t matter; they’re going to win it.
Colorado in six games.