My American League predictions are a little tougher to pick, because while I like experience of winning, I think it will help one Sox team, and not matter for the other. I take my stab at the Divisional round of the playoffs. So here we go. Enjoy and let me know what you think…e-mail [email protected]
Red Sox vs. Angels. This LA of A team may have everything. Solid starting pitching, a dominant closer, and a very scary offensive lineup that features Mark Texeira, Torii Hunter, and Vlad Guerrero. There’s a reason they ended up with the best record in baseball…they are the best.
However, there’s that little mental block called the Boston Red Sox. They’ve been swept by Boston the last two divisional series in which they’ve faced each other, but 2008 is a different year. The Red Sox are banged up. JD Drew, Mike Lowell, and Josh Beckett all have health issues and that’s enough of a concern for me to pick the Angels.
Game one pits Jon Lester against John Lackey. Lester gets the call with Beckett pushed back a couple days because of his strained oblique. The Sox have always hit Lackey well, but he’s 2-0 this year against the Sox. I give the nudge to Lackey. Ervin Santana comes into game two for LA with 214 strikeouts and the Angels have battered Dice-K around although he has pitched better in his second season.
I wouldn’t be concerned about Beckett in game three at Boston. He’s a gamer and he will show up to play and feed off the Fenway frenzy. Sox must gain a split in LA to stand a chance, but I believe Beckett is their only win of the series. All close games, but F-Rod shuts down the Sox.
My pick: Angels in four
Rays vs. White Sox. First off, let me just say that I love nothing more than the Cinderella story of the Rays overcoming the fat wallets of Boston and New York to not just get into the playoff, but win the East Division!!! How awesome is that?
Joe Maddon, a former coach under Mike Scioscia, a great manager who doesn’t get enough recognition in LA has found a way to mold this young talent into a winner. That’s where it all ends. I’m going against all conventional wisdom in saying that the White Sox will not only win, but they will manhandle the Rays.
There is plenty of concern on the Sox side. First, Javier Vasquez gets the ball in game one and has been very inconsistent down the stretch. After Vasquez, the Sox rotation is up in the air. However, here is one stat that stick out in my mind for my reason to choose the Sox.
The Rays were out hit and out pitched in the season series with the Sox yet won the season series, however the Rays struggle against left handed pitching where they are only hitting .236 as a team as opposed to .267 against right handers.
Mark Buehrle and John Danks, two lefties will give the Sox that edge. Tampa Bay hit Buehrle early (I know I’m rhyming!) in April, but in two other starts he allowed just three runs and then two earned runs in six innings each. Danks went 2-1 against them and his worst outing was three runs in six plus innings.
The other intangible I like is the experience of the Sox. AJ Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, and Jermaine Dye all provide the Sox with leadership to play cool in the clutch. Let’s be honest, the Rays are an unproven product. They haven’t cracked against the Red Sox or Yankees, but once you get to post-season it’s a much bigger stage and experience will win out.
My pick: White Sox in four