Major League Baseball Playoff Preview
The American League has won the past two World Series by embarrassing the National League. Both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox swept their NL opponents in undramatic fashion to become the official champions of baseball. This season the Yankees are favorites to continue the AL dominance. Here is a quick preview of the upcoming MLB playoffs.
Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
The Yankees clinched home field throughout the playoffs with the best record in the American League and will look to capture their first World Series ring since the 2000 season. Their lineup will be their biggest strength as Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui were reactivated from the disabled list late in the season, while Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi make up just part of the most feared lineup in all of baseball. The back injury to starting pitcher Randy Johnson will hurt their depth in the rotation, as the Yankees are very thin on quality starting pitchers. The Bronx Bombers will have to depend on Mike Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang to carry a very shaky starting rotation. Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in the history of postseason baseball, will allow manager Joe Torre to essentially shorten the game to seven innings.
The Yankee’s opponents, the Detroit Tigers, built a double-digit lead in the AL Central by starting the season on a torrid pace. Yet, they struggled down the stretch compiling a 12-16 record in September and losing their last five games of the season, allowing the Twins to capture the division. The Tigers will have to depend on crafty veteran pitcher Kenny Rogers and Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Verlander to carry a very inexperienced team against the playoff-veterans of the Yankees.
Prediction: Yankees in four
Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins
The Twins would be the World Series favorites if they still had rookie phenom Francisco Liriano in the starting rotation, pitching behind ace Johan Santana. With Liriano out for the year, the Twins will have to continue their hot play, which saw them overcome a double-digit deficit against the Tigers. First basemen Justin Morneau should win the MVP this year and closer Joe Nathan is one of the league’s most underrated closers.
The Athletics continue to put great teams on the field, with one of the league’s lowest payrolls. Led by pitcher Barry Zito and the resurrection of Frank Thomas, the Athletics were able to hold off the Angels and capture the AL West Division. The A’s have had terrible luck in the postseason, failing to get out of the first round the past few years. They are one of the best pitching teams in all of the baseball, but will need their bats to come alive as they face the daunting task of having to defeat potential Cy Young winner Johan Santana twice to advance to the American League Championship Series.
Prediction: Twins in five
St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres
The Padres will depend on Jake Peavy and David Wells to carry their team back to the World Series for the first time since 1998. Wells has pitched well since his trade from the Boston Red Sox while Peavy has turned his early season struggles aside. The Padres lack home-run power, which will allow them to play very close, low scoring games. San Diego has one of the best bullpens in all of baseball behind all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. Scott Linebrink has been a solid setup man for Hoffman and Cla Meredith