Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Baseball Playoff Hunt Heats Up

With the Major League Baseball playoffs quickly approaching, the on-field action has finally taken center stage from performance-enhancing drug scandals and the instant replay debate. There are close races going on, with both wild card and divisional races in full force.
Courtesy of Furman Athletics

With the Major League Baseball playoffs quickly approaching, the on-field action has finally taken center stage from performance-enhancing drug scandals and the instant replay debate. There are close races going on, with both wild card and divisional races in full force.

National League

In the National League, the tightest race is in the Central division, where the Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds are separated by only a few games atop the standings. All three teams still have a couple of series against one another to decide the winner. What makes this scenario so intriguing is that both wildcard spots will almost certainly come from this division.

Of the three teams, the Cardinals have the easiest schedule, facing five teams with a record under .500. And with MVP candidate Yadier Molina behind the dish, the pitching staff is provided with the most complete catcher in the game to work with. Therefore, the Cardinals are my pick to win the Central division.

The National League West and East races are all but over at this point. The Dodgers, leaders of the West division, have gone 34-8 since July 19 and are eagerly awaiting the start of October. The Braves have had a commanding 10-plus game lead ever since winning 12 of their first 13 games at the beginning of the season.

The only race left for these two teams is for the best record and home-field advantage. I think the Braves will finish with the best record in the National League with 98 wins. In their remaining 26 games (as of Sept. 2), the Braves face only one team, the Nationals, with a winning record.

American League

In the American League the race to the playoffs is tighter, with more teams holding onto a chance to play in October.

In the East, I favor the Red Sox to win the division and finish with the best record in the American League with 94 wins. The situation in the AL East mirrors that of the National League Central, with the top few teams contending for a playoff spot. But here there are four teams, not just three, with a shot at getting there.

The Orioles have a stacked lineup and a very solid bullpen. Their main weakness is their lack of a true number-one starter, and I think that is why they will miss the playoffs this year.

The Yankees have had a much better year than most thought was possible. With their entire regular lineup almost back into action, they have been making a late run at the second wild card spot. But like the O’s, their lack of effective starting pitching will make it difficult for them to get to the playoffs.

The final team out of the East still in the mix is the Tampa Bay Rays. At the moment they hold the second wild card spot. With the schedule they have the rest of the year, I think that they will hold that position and get to the one game playoff.

In the Central division, the Detroit Tigers have a very comfortable lead, and I look for them to win the Division title. With the best hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera, and an impressive starting pitching rotation, they have all the makings of a team posed to make a postseason run.

The teams contending for the second wild card spot are the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals, but both lack the firepower on offense and discipline on defense to make a dangerous run in September.

Finally, in the West, the division crown is still up for grabs between the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers. With the Rangers adding starting pitcher Matt Garza and outfielder Alex Rios before the trade deadline and activating pitcher Neftali Feliz from the disabled list, I think the Rangers will win the West in a close finish.

That being said, I don’t think that the A’s will miss the playoffs. They’ll win the first wild card spot and face the Rays in Oakland for the right to play in the ALDS.

Postseason Predictions

The stage is set. Let’s begin with the National League. The Wild Card game will be between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates will host the game, giving them an immediate advantage. It will be a battle of pitchers, with the Pirates edging out the Reds in a close, low scoring contest. I expect third baseman Pedro Alvarez to do the damage for the Pirates at the plate and in the field.

The next round is the NLDS, a best-of-five series. The Pirates will be facing the Braves, and the Dodgers will go up against the Cardinals, with the Braves and Dodgers having home-field advantage. In the series between the Braves and Pirates, I have the Braves winning in four games. Having Mike Minor, Juilio Tehran and Kris Medlin atop the rotation to complement saves-leader Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen, the Braves will shut down the Pirates’ offense. The Dodgers-Cardinals series is going to be a good one. Both teams have a shot to win the Pennant and the World Series. The difference in the series is ace starting pitcher for the Dodgers Clayton Kershaw. Having him start game 1 and if necessary game 5 gives them the advantage. I predict we will in fact get to see him pitch in game 5 as the Series goes the length in favor of the Dodgers.

The NLCS is a best-of-seven series. With the Braves having home-field advantage and the Dodgers not having Kershaw for game 1, the Braves will be set up well. But with the powerful offense that the Dodgers have, I think that they get to the Braves’ pitching staff early and don’t allow the Braves to get closer to Craig Kimbrel. This will be a closely contested series, but I have the Dodgers in six.

In the American League Wild Card game, the Rays travel to Oakland to face the A’s. Having David Price start the game for the Rays gives them the upper hand. Also, I think that the Athletics’ lineup is not as potent as the Rays’. Therefore the Rays will win this game and face the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Boston’s strong lineup and depth in the pitching staff, especially at the beginning and end of ballgames, gives them the upper hand. The Red Sox can easily take the series in four games. In the other ALDS series, the Detroit Tigers will have the home field advantage against the Texas Rangers. With the Tigers leading the Majors in runs, hits, RBIs, and batting average, their offense will be too much for the Rangers’ pitching staff, and they will wins the series in four games.

I believe the ALCS will be between the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox, with the Red Sox having home-field advantage, which will be their only advantage, as both teams seem evenly matched. If Justin Verlander can return to his Cy Young Award form, the Tigers will win the series handily. That being said, I have no doubt that Verlander will match his teammate and All-Star Game starting pitcher Max Scherzer in shutting down the Red Sox offense. The Tigers win the AL Pennant in a thriller of a series in seven games.

The last time the Dodgers were in the World Series was in 1988 (when they beat Oakland in five games), while the Tigers have been twice since 2006. In addition to a lot of playoff experience and home field advantage, the 3-4-5 hitters that the Tigers have outmatch what the Dodgers can put down on the lineup card. Also, the Tigers’ addition of Joaquin Benoit to the closer position gives them a tremendous boost that the they have been lacking for the past couple of years. I think the Tigers have the clear edge, but don’t be surprised if it takes a full seven-game series for the Tigers to take the World Series crown back to Detroit for the first time since 1984.

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