As we reach the heart of October, the baseball season dwindles down to the last few weeks.
The Detroit Tigers head into Boston to take on the new look Red Sox. This has the making for a series to remember. After the Sox dominated the AL East and handled the Rays with ease in the first round, they are looking for their first World Series appearance since 2007.
It all comes down to the starting pitching in this years ALCS. The Tigers staff features the to be announced Cy Young award winner, Max Scherzer, and already 2-time winner of the award, Justin Verlander. Add in the American League leader in ERA, Anibal Sanchez, and you have a team that's destined to win. These two pitching staffs are as good as it gets. Red Sox ace Jon Lester will pitch game one at Fenway Park. They will follow up with a combination of Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, and veteran John Lackey. Clay Buchholz had one of the best starts to the season in baseball. He was a dominant 9-0 until he missed over two months with an irritation in his ac joint. Lets face it, when this guy is healthy he can be one of the best pitchers in the league. At times he looks untouchable. He is my X-factor for the Sox in this series.
The Tigers offense brings an explosive factor the Red Sox can't match. They have the deepest lineup in the American League. Miguel Cabrera is a special player.
Cabrera may have fell short of his remarkable 2012 season, but he still hit a career high .348 to become the first player in more than two decades to win three straight AL batting titles. His 44 home runs were second to the 53 by Baltimore's Chris Davis, and he finished second in RBI, with 138. He batted .330 last years with 44 homers and 139 RBI. His presence in the lineup- while being protected by Prince Fielder batting behind him- is something teams have yet to stop.
The Red Sox are still led by 37-year-old designated hitter David Ortiz, who had another 30-homer/100-RBI season. Outside of that there is not the punch you expect to see from a 97 win team. They win by playing all-around good baseball. They get the timely hits, and grind out victories. They are a rugged, grimy, but great baseball team. It is the entire persona of the team; hence the teams "playoff beard" look. But, I don't see them manufacturing enough runs to keep up with Detroit. They may have slumped a bit against the A's in the ALDS, but they got the hits when the needed it. (Cabrera's bomb in game 5, Peraltas 3-run shot in 4.)
OVERALL: TIGERS IN 7
The Los Angeles Dodgers look to take down the NL Central Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers are coming into the playoffs the leagues hottest team; Ending the year on a staggering 53-13 run.
Both franchises have won 18 National League pennants. However, the Cardinals have been here far more often than the Dodgers, winning the World Series in 2011 and 2006 and while L.A. hasn't been to an NLCS since 2009 or to a World Series since winning it in 1988. There's no clear favorite in this series, yet it appears the two best teams in the National League are playing.
KEY MATCHUP: Clayton Kershaw vs. Michael Wacha
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers ace, and the best pitcher in the NL, won two games in the NLDS over the Braves. He will most likely pitch games two and six against Cards rookie Michael Wacha. Wacha has pitched his last two starts into the 8th inning giving up no hits. He has allowed just one run and seven hits in 29 innings, which works out to a 0.31 ERA. The Dodgers have yet to face Wacha this season. He was called up on May 30th and only appeared in 15 games this year. We will see if he can match the recent success of other young pitchers in the playoffs. Pirates' Gerrit Cole and the A's Sonny Gray (combined 14 IP, 1 R) showed just how effective a talented pitching prospect could be against a team that has never seen him before.
PLAYER TO WATCH: YASIEL PUIG
Andre Ethier hasn't played the field since Sept. 13 due to a sprained left ankle. He has been used in only pinch-hitting scenarios and hit 3-13 in the NLDS. Hanley Ramirez has been the Dodgers' best hitter whenever he has been healthy enough to be in the lineup this season, with six extra-base hits and going 8-for-16 with a team-best six RBIs. Unfortunately, for the Cardinals, Yasiel Puig is playing just as good. He went 8-17 and showed the world he can live up to the hype. His rocket-arm, ridiculous range in the field, and relentless base running is what I think will put the Dodgers over the hump.
On the backs of Puig and Kershaw winning games 2 and 6, I can't see the Cardinals playoff magic continue.
On a recent interview MJ claims the NBA was much more physical back when he played.He played O.J Mayo one-on-one this summer and "schooled" him.At age 50 MJ took down one of the more athletic players the league has to offer.