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Just Another Die Hard

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Sox Keys To Victory

(Heres my article from the MINARET)

The AL Champion Boston Red Sox will be playing in their third World Series in the last decade.

Winning this one may be the most difficult of the three.  They are going against the best team in the National League since the April days of the season.  The Cardinals finished with 97 wins and the National League's best record. 

The Cardinals have one of the most well-balanced teams in the league.  It is fitting for these teams to be matched up for the title; they have been the strongest two teams all year.  In order for the Red Sox to win the World Series they will have to play their best ball. 

Here are my three keys to victory for the Red Sox:

1. Start Xavier Bogaerts

The 21-year-old rookie came through huge in the ALCS.  Bogaerts took over for the slumping Will Middlebrooks and ripped three doubles, and three walks on nine plate appearances.    He started in game 5 and it may be the move to put the Sox over the top.  Batting against the tough starting pitching of the Tigers, he looked like a seasoned pro. He battled into deep counts, and managed to draw walks in key situations. He may be young, but he is the hot hand.

Boston should continue playing him and hope it helps it take the series.

2. Bullpen

The entire teams pitching staff has been great but what really stood out to me is their bullpen. They have allowed just three runs in 32.1 innings; they have a stunning 0.84 ERA.

Closer Koji Uehara won the ALCS MVP Award after looking lights out against the Tigers.  If he can continue his dominance it will make the game shorter, which benefits the Sox. 

A deep bullpen puts teams over the top in the last weeks of the season.  Every team would like to see their starting pitchers going 7-8 innings in the playoffs, but easier said than done.  When Jake Peavy pitched game 5, Sox manager John Farrell took him out with 2 outs in the 6th.  Many thought he could've finished that inning, but why risk an inning getting away from you when your bullpen is dominating. 

Having a hot bullpen makes it easier on the entire team.  The starting pitchers feel less pressure knowing they have strength behind them that can finish out the victory.  It also helps the manager, he can have confidence taking out the starter early, which saves their stamina and arm for other games in the series.  Let's not forget what it does for your offense too.  If your pitching is only giving up 2-3 runs a game the offense can play "small ball" and scrape together a few runs to win the game. Or, at any time a player can step up and hit a bomb. It takes one pitch in close games.

Look at the ALCS, the Red Sox offense looked terrible besides 2 swings of the bat.

Take Ortiz's and Victorino's grand slams away and I would probably be righting about the Tigers right now instead.   So Boston, keep it close.

Boston relievers have already managed heavy load, but still seem like they have gas left in the tank. If the team can squeeze out one more excellent series from them, they will likely have a World Series trophy.

3. Ortiz Needs to Play First

Playing in St. Louis means there is no DH in the lineup.  So, do you bench David Ortiz, or play him at first base? 

Clearly Ortiz is not your best option playing first but the Red Sox cannot lose his bat in the lineup.  He only played six games at first this year, but he has not committed an error since 2009.  This will be another decision that will be crucial for Farrell and his team.

I hope this series lives up to its hype.  I believe it will go down to the final pitches, and the last moments to declare a winner.  Both teams are well-balanced with impressive bullpens.  If the Red Sox can control the late innings of the game, like in the ALCS, they will win.

 

League Championship Predictions

cbssports.com

MLB League Championship Predictions

And then they were four.

As we reach the heart of October, the baseball season dwindles down to the last few weeks. 

ALCS

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. 

HEAD-TO-HEAD ADVANTAGES:

PITCHING: EVEN

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. 

OFFENSE: TIGERS

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

NLCS

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. 

L.A in 6.

MJ Speaks Out About Lebron

When Michael Jordan speaks, we listen.

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. 

Jordan took the interview to a controversial level when LeBron James' name was mentioned.  He said he would beat James one-on-one if he played him during his prime.  Then, he says he does not know if he could beat Kobe. 

I don't agree.

 I am not going to argue who is the better player.  The topic of "who the best player in NBA history" always comes up but it's an impossible argument.  Generations change, players change, and the game changes.  Yet, MJ saying he would beat LeBron and not Kobe is not just reckless, it's arrogant. 

LeBron James plays the best defense in the league.  He is stronger, faster, and a better defender than Kobe.  I am not knocking Kobe at all, don't get that confused.  He is one of the purest scorers to play the game, but I can't see him locking down MJ like LeBron would. 

Michael will always be one of my favorite players of all-time, but it seems like he says things just for the reaction.  Almost every few months we hear MJ saying how to guard LeBron, or he can beat him one-on-one. 

Just stop MJ; you are clearly one of the greats, no need to stir things up for the media attention.

 Instead it's time to worry about your Bobcats Mike.

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